My time in China was an immersive, exciting adventure. My classmates and I learned Mandarin Chinese at Beijing Union University. BUU was created around 40 years ago, when several smaller institutions within the city joined forces to create the university. Class was held daily from 8 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., with a few breaks throughout. There was an emphasis on spoken Mandarin, but we also learned some simple characters (pinyin, the written Chinese characters).
“By the end of my trip I felt like a local.”
Afternoons and weekends were filled with outings; some planned through Seton Hill, such as a visit to the Great Wall or the Art District at 798, others were planned on our own, like the Aquarium and the Science and Technology Museum in Shanghai. We took a weekend trip to Shanghai after the second week of classes, only 4.5 hours by bullet train (350 Km/hr. or 217.48 mph). My experiences in Beijing and Shanghai were eye opening, helping me to appreciate some things I might otherwise take for granted, and made me realize many things that could be improved here at home.
Although some of the vegetables and preparation techniques were new, there was not a huge culinary gap between what I was used to eating at home and what I experienced in Beijing. Breakfast was served at 7:30 a.m., usually consisting of black tea, water, white rice, baozi (meat filled breads), assorted traditional pastries, eggs cooked with mushrooms or tomatoes (a personal favorite), tofu, and some form of simple vegetable. Lunch was similar to breakfast, but with less pastries and more meats, such as chicken or beef. Dinner was served at 6 p.m., and was similar to lunch in terms of the types of items you might see. There was variety at every meal; all the food was prepared fresh, and always plenty of it. That’s not to say you were obligated to eat in; there were plenty of street vendors, restaurants, and stores nearby. The best meal we had was after visiting the Forbidden City, traditional Peking Duck with a hoisin sauce, pancakes, cucumber and spring onions. You sort of prepare them like a taco on the paper thin pancakes, but feel free to eat it however you like!
Toward the beginning of my time in China, I was apprehensive; especially with it being my first time, but after a few days I realized that I was just as safe if not safer than when I was walking around town. By the end of my trip, I felt like a local, not only in my comfort level, but also in my abilities to navigate and make purchases at any venue.