Traveling to China: An introduction of sorts
Posted by Jonathan Rice
Today marks the beginning of a new journey in my cultural learning, education, and overall level of classy-ness. Well, maybe not the latter, but I can hope..
From August 31st to December 15th, I will be studying abroad in China at Beijing University with the Pitzer in China Program.
I really don’t know what to expect. After meeting with a number of people who have traveled to China before, one thing has become clear:
China is changing. Constantly. Quickly. And you can’t keep up.
It’s to the point where even a guidebook published 6 months ago is obsolete. Part of me says that this is a good thing, that this fact in itself is a new experience. But it also means that there isn’t much in the way of preparation.
On that point, if you do want a great book on China, J. Maarten Troost’s Lost on Planet China is an engaging and hilarious look at the country. Should be required reading for China study abroad. Thanks to Tim Hanson, one of my teachers at Bullis School, for the recommendation.
I was just reading my friend Emily’s study abroad blog, and she started off with a post of lists; lists of what she was looking forward too, nervous about, etc. Therefore, I am going to shamelessly copy that style myself.
Here are three things I’m looking forward to and three things I’m apprehensive about in China:
-The food. I’m absolutely down to try crazy, weird, and exotic things. Oh, and as a good friend of mine pointed out, supposedly the best dumplings I will ever eat.
-The city. Beijing is a rich international city with a huge population. I’ve never lived in such a city (I don’t count Washington, DC), and being in this environment will certainly offer a lot for reflection.
– Learning mandarin. An exquisitely complex language, mandarin is the next world language, much in the way English has been. Although I have a very poor track record with learning language, and I don’t expect to be fluent, I think I can learn a lot from this immersion experience.
Now, for the apprehension:
– The language. Ahh yes, it’s on both lists. Mandarin is also my only form of communication with the Chinese people (and my Chinese roommate), so it’s kind of important to learn. And nerve-wracking. Not to mention that I take two courses of it, and they’re graded.
-The air quality. I’m in Los Angeles most of the year, I’m used to pollution, but China is known for having particularly noxious air.
-Getting denied entry/legal issues. The one thing that has always frightened me about China is their rather, erm, intense legal system. From mobile execution vans to interrogation, I don’t want to do anything that would get me in trouble. As far as getting in, I received a visa no problem (they actually gave me multiple entry, even though I only asked for single), but whether or not you are allowed in is completely up to the immigration officer who reviews your documents. And don’t even get me started on the internet censorship/the great firewall.
There are obviously things I’ve omitted from the lists, but they are a start.
Currently, I’m writing this update from the 12th floor of the DoubleTree at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. I’m here on a layover between DC and Beijing. This is just the first leg of my travel to China. I left Washington, DC yesterday afternoon, arrived in Seattle, stayed in this hotel for the night, and then hop on a plane at 2:15 PM today.
That flight will whisk me off (luckily not alone, my friend Jordan is also on the flight) on an 11 hour journey to Seoul, South Korea. After a one-hour layover in Seoul, we head to Beijing, arriving at around 8:00 PM on August 31st.
So that’s it. I’ve never had too much trouble traveling or settling down in a new place; going to school 3000 miles away from home in California tends to help.
I’m going to try to update this blog as much as possible while I’m in China with pictures, posts, reflections, and more, but due to all blogs being blocked by the Firewall, I don’t know how often that will happen. Be patient, dear reader!
One final note: If you too are studying abroad, want to contact me, have a blog I should read, or anything else, the best way to contact me will be through email. Send them to : jonathan.rice (at) me( dot) com. Please share your stories! (If you are wondering why I spelled out “me” and “at,” it’s so crazy spam bots don’t get me)
If you’d like to send me mail (or stuff! I love getting stuff…), address it to:
c/o Pitzer College in China Office
Shaoyuan, Building 2, Room 109
Peoples Republic of China
If you want to chat, Skype me: jon.f.rice
I believe that covers it in terms of background and introductions! Now, time to check-out and continue to jet-set.