If you had told one year ago that I would find myself in China I actually would have believed you. If you had told me that I would be able to visit ancient palaces and walk on the Great Wall, I would have been a bit more skeptical. Had you told me I would have the chance to tour factories and meet with business owners in Beijing, I wouldn’t have been convinced. And if you had said that I would be given the opportunity to teach at Tsinghua University and get to meet students from all across the globe, I would have said you were crazy. But here I am, sitting in a dorm room in Beijing, trying to boil all of the experiences of the past week down into one coherent story. In the Span of 9 days I have visited the Forbidden City, climbed the Great Wall, toured Beijing Hyundai Motor Company, meet with a retired government official, and taught English to a classroom full of Chinese students.
I have eaten squid on a stick, negotiated with street vendors, and learned to bike through seas of people, scooters, and cars. I have experienced what it is like to be in the minority, and to be surrounded by a foreign language. I have discovered that there is so much more to true communication beyond language itself. And most importantly, I have already met volunteers, teachers, and students I know I will never forget. I have met people from the UK, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and of course… China.
It is the Chinese students that I truly want to get to know better. Just because I am here to teach them, does not mean that the knowledge only flows one way. I want to experience the culture and learn the language and the best way to do that is with the help of my students. I learned some Chinese today from Adair, whose real Chinese name is Liang Feng. He helped teach me some key phrases during the survival Chinese course held for the foreign teachers after camp. He wants to help me learn tomorrow too! And one of my students invited me to watch a World Cup game tonight. Katie, one of the Tsinghua volunteers I work with in the classroom, is the 2nd youngest student in the entire university. She is 15, studying electrical engineering, and she speaks better English than I do. So do Carson and Alice, the other Chinese volunteers I work with. Alice is from Shanghai, and Carson is from Hong Kong. All three of them are amazing students and I am lucky to get the chance to work with them. I am excited to get to know all 50 students in my class, and get to know the other foreign teachers and volunteers better.
I have only been here for a week, but it seems like a month. However, I am convinced that the next three weeks are going to fly by, and I plan on experiencing everything that I can. Whether that means going to the 798 Art District in the city, haggling for goods at the silk market, or just getting to know my Chinese students outside of the classroom, I am ready for whatever Beijing throws at me next!