Sunday, December 13

临行之前的看法 : Thoughts upon Leaving China

In a little less than one hour I will be checking out of the hotel, in 3 I will be heading off to Beijing International Airport and in 6 hours and 20 minutes my plane will be taking off.

China has been an interesting experience. I spent most of my time in Harbin complaining about the food at the cafeteria, the unkempt-ness of the city, the ignorance of the people, the lack of real Chinese culture and the coldness of the weather. But upon arriving in Beijing, I feel like I've been exposed to the kind of China I've been longing for: clean streets, large buildings, relatively friendly people, with a touch of Westernization.

As I said earlier, Harbin was a let down and I plan on making a pact with myself to never go back to that city, but Beijing has given made me more excited about the prospect of coming back here and I'm glad that I got to end my study abroad experience this way.

Now, just 24 hours and I will be in Newark airport praying my parents don't forget to pick me up.

Beijing's Second Impression

When my plane landed in Beijing it was smoggy and cloudy and gray. I thought it had been raining but it was just the humidity of the city mixed with severe pollution, topped with my disappointment. Now, however, it might be the anxiousness of sitting in Beijing International Airport 24 hours from now or the clarity that you get from studying for a semester in China and coming to the realization that both you and your cab driver understand each other, but while I'm in Beijing I'm liking it more and more.

I was not happy while I was in Harbin but I have no regrets about studying abroad there I have tried not to let that influence my entire impression of China. But, upon leaving Harbin, I thought that I would not be able to live here at any point in my life. But so far, a light is beginning to shine again on that possibility, though only in Beijing (and Shanghai). At the very least, I will try to come back here if I have the chance.

When I get back to the US I know I will have lots of people asking me what I thought of my time abroad and I still haven't decided if I will lie about whether I liked it more not, but coming to Beijing and having this time to contemplate being in China has allowed me to begin to pick out the good moments of this experience.

Tuesday, December 8

Classes are Over!

After 15 weeks of whining, moaning, fighting through what seemed like an army's worth of Chinese students/random old people digging through garbage cans for bottles, and baring temperatures up to -20 degrees Fahrenheit (or should I say down to, it just doesn't seem to have the same ring), I am done with classes.

There is something satisfying in be able to say that I'm done with classes, but I was really hoping more for a sense of closure and the feeling that the end is near. But in all honesty, I don't see what at this point should be an extremely bright light at the end of the tunnel. So for now I'll just lower my head and push through the last barrier, 2 finals tomorrow, 1 final Thursday, and 1 final Friday.

It's also hard to imagine myself a week from now waking up 7000 miles away from this place. And that is a little unfortunate because it's thoughts like that that have gotten me through this semester.

Hopefully, upon completing my finals, I can get, and should get, the kind of closure about the program really being over that I can't get through posting on a blog. For now I'll just revel in this temporary joy.

Saturday, December 5

9 Days and Counting...

After finishing my last full week of classes I figure it is time to begin reflecting on my semester her at CET Harbin.

Academically, I am satisfied with the program and I feel like the rigor of the classes, without any overwhelming sense of stress or anxiety, along with the benefits of studying standard Mandarin in Northeast China has gotten my Chinese to a level that it would not have been able to reach by studying in the States alone. I think it's also important to keep in mind that upon coming here I had a good Chinese language foundation thanks to Georgetown having a good Chinese department as well as relatively good study skills and personal motivation and those were also factors in my improvement.

Administratively, the program is lacking and I am currently working on a letter to send to CET headquarters in DC. The resident director, Li Laoshi, and that guy that was always in her office and for some reason was on CET payroll, Xuan Laoshi, and the resident advisor, Connie, are all nice people. Unfortunately, they are also utterly ineffective, unreachable and opaque in terms of what it is that they do, if it is the case that they are doing anything. Basically, I think that there needs to be a trimming down of resident staff, more responsibility on them to plan more cultural events for us, and for them to be a visible, transparently-operating, knowledgeable contact who not only lets us reach out to them but makes an effort to reach out to us.

In terms of Harbin, this is a terrible city. Whoever did the city planning must have been on crack, the infrastructure is in terrible condition, and for a place called the "ice city" there is not one plow in the city. They just let it snow, let people walk all over it and pack it down, wait a day or two for it to completely freeze over, then hit it with a shovel and scratch at the ground til they get it up and throw it into a truck so they can ship all of the frozen snow out of the city. And then the process happens again the next time it snows. And it snows a lot here. And I think this instance is a good analogy for not just how Harbin handles things, but how China handles things. They let the problem exist and watch the situation compress under the stress of a billion people until they have to deal with it and then scrape away at it and cart it out of the city, only for it to be followed by another issue.

As far as the end of the semester, I have "classes" on Monday and Tuesday but they are more review sessions and are kind of half-assed so that is not an issues. Then two finals Wednesday, one Thursday (incidentally my 20th birthday), and one on Friday (Jarrett's, a Georgetown classmate here in Harbin, 21st Birthday). Then Saturday is graduation/train to Beijing, chill on Sunday, then a Monday evening, Beijing time, flight to Chicago, followed by a Monday evening, freedom/eastern standard time, flight to Newark.

Lots to look forward to, as in looking forward to getting out of this place.


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