Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beijing - China 2011 Language Fellow: Navigating a New Environment

After a full month living in Beijing, I have come to the conclusion that there’s no better classroom than that of the world. Studying abroad has placed a lot of things into perspective. For instance, I have come to appreciate many of the advantages of living in America that I have always taken for granted. On the other hand, I have also been able to better understand some aspects of American life that could definitely be improved. These are things I could have only learned from being in a foreign country and separated from my creature comforts. All in all, my perspective has forever changed for the better by studying abroad.

Since my last blog, I have had many exciting experiences. Beijing is a humongous city of 20 million. There is no comparison with Washington DC, which is a relatively small metropolitan area. The result is, after a month in Beijing exploring any and every interesting place, I still feel as if I’ve only scratched the surface of true Beijing culture. At the same time, I have seen so many diverse and interesting places within Beijing that it’s hard to believe they are all in the same city. By making friends with locals from every walk of life, my roommate and I have seen many sides of Beijing. I strongly encourage anybody traveling in a foreign country to make as many friends as possible because they will then show you the places you would never find in a tourist book or by exploring on your own.

Since arriving, we have seen ancient, historical Beijing with a Chinese friend, the foreign and cosmopolitan Beijing with exchange students from all over the world, modern Beijing with young Beijing-ers, and this weekend I’ll be going to Mongolia to experience an all-together different aspect of China; that of the Chinese minorities. There I will be attending a traditional Mongolian wedding, which I will be sure to blog about in my final blog entry.

On another note, it has been a surreal experience to watch the debt crisis unfold in America from abroad. This has probably been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my time in China. Having never left home for an extended period of time before, I’ve never thought about how the rest of the world might view some of the everyday experiences of America. However, now I better understand how the actions of our government and political leaders can directly affect perceptions of America abroad. This is an especially important lesson to learn as an International Affairs student and as a State Department Fellow. It is a lesson that I am sure to carry with me for life, and will help to better inform any decisions I take as a diplomat and cultural representative for my country. I hope to continue learning valuable lessons in my final two weeks in Beijing, and to share them on this blog. Until next time then, 朋友.

Kalisha Holmes

BA International Affairs, 2012

Sigur Center 2011 Asian Language Fellow

Peking University, Beijing, China

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