金羽庭 (Jin YuTing)
Picture 60 to 70 degree weather, shorts on shorts, and beautiful sunshine everyday. But wait! –it gets better. There’s a gorgeous view of snow-capped mountains right in your backyard, and the bluest sky as far as the eye can see. No pollution, no snow, no homework! That was my life for the past week. I could not have asked for a better travelling experience, or for better travel companions to take it with.
If you ever have to travel, do it with a group of four people. Even though the number four (sĭ) means death in Chinese, travelling-wise, four is a smart number. It’s perfect for finding seating at restaurants, perfect for booking beds at hotels and hostels, and perfect for filling up a cab. Like Goldilocks said, not too small, not too big… it’s the perfect size!
More China traveling tips: I would not recommend taking Sichuan Airlines. Alyssa, Mike, and I had a two-hour delay at the airport, and when we finally got on the airplane, it felt like a rollercoaster. Alyssa almost threw up, and Mike was scared to death. The only good thing was the airplane food was actually quite delicious.
We met up with our friend James (click his name to check out his blog!- it’s hilarious) in Kunming. He gave us a tour of Erhai, a BEAUTIFUL lake right outside of his hotel, and a street of trendy little restaurants and cafes in his neighborhood. Did I mention that he is studying in Kunming next semester – and that he lives in a hotel??? To top it off, he gets to enjoy the beautiful weather for the whole semester! Life is really unfair sometimes.
That night, we got abroad a sleeper train to Dali City. It was my first time on a sleeper train. We got hard sleeper tickets, cause the soft sleeper tickets were sold out. I was expecting to sleep on wooden boards, but the hard sleepers were pretty comfy! There are two sets of bunks in each compartment, and each bunk bed has 3 beds: a lower bunk, middle bunk, and an upper bunk.
Our first official day of vacation started with Dali City, and it was one of the best days of my life. We woke up in the morning and rented bikes and mopeds (electric motorcycles) for the day. Renting bikes for the day only cost $5 per bike! That’s crazy, because renting bikes in NYC are about $30 per HOUR. We biked from 11am ‘til maybe about 6pm. Biking around the city allowed us to cover more ground, and see all of the beautiful sights.
Our next stop was Lijiang. We actually didn’t spend too much time in Lijiang, instead, we headed towards Shangrila and decided to hike for two days at the Tiger Leaping Gorge. It’s basically two gorgeous mountains with a gorge/valley type thing in between them, with a river running through it. Legend has it that at the middle of the gorge, a tiger leaped from a stone on one side of the gorge to the other. The views were spectacular, and we stayed at a guesthouse at the top of the mountain. During the nighttime we went to the rooftop, played some music on James’ speakers, and snuggled up with blankets under the stars. Being a city girl, I’ve never seen so many stars in my life!!! That night, I slept so comfortably with these nice heated sleeping pads that the guesthouse gave us, and awoke to a breathtaking view of the mountains through my window.
To end our trip, we headed back to Kunming, where we were able to meet up with one of our other friends – Brandon. We took a daytrip to the Stone Forest, and had a relaxing day roaming the Green Lake Park. We also decided to check out the nightlife scene in Kunming.
So now i’m back in Beijing, where it is currently freezing and snowing. I miss Yunnan already, and I wish I was still on vacation. However, all our Spring semester students have arrived! They’re actually all in orientation (returning students don’t need to attend orientation) as i’m writing this. So I am very excited to get to know all the new people and for Spring semester to begin!
金羽庭 (Jin YuTing)
WARNING: This post will have a lot of photos!
In the past week and a half, I’ve been to two very big touristy places in Beijing. Our school took us on a day trip to the Great Wall of China, and a few friends and I took a subway to check out the Forbidden City. Both places required a lot of energy, and a lot of walking around. It’s hard to believe that such great structures were man made.
Last Saturday, we climbed the “Mutianyu” section of the Wall. We had to trek up a few sets of intensely steep stairs before we were able to get to the actual Great Wall. But once we did, the view was just breath-taking. The sky looked so blue, and the mountains were incredible. So obviously, this called for a ton of photos to be taken:
We finally got the chance to venture to the heart of Beijing this weekend – to 故宫 (The Forbidden City). The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace during the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. This place used to serve as home to the Emperor and the Chinese government. The Forbidden City is located at the very center of Beijing, and I had no idea it would be so big! It has over 980 buildings inside of it, and is one of the world’s largest preserved ancient wooden structures. We thought we would have to time go here AND to Tiananmen, but exploring this ancient city took the whole day… and we didn’t even get to look everywhere!
The pollution in Beijing has been really intense the past three days, and I think I caught a cold because of it. You might be able to see some of the smog in the photos at 故宫 (Gu Gong) below. We’ve all been wearing face masks to keep ourselves healthy. We’ve been really lucky, since the pollution level up until the past few days has been super low. Despite the pollution, there was still an enormous amount of people exploring the Forbidden City with us.
We only have 9 more days in our January semester! This Intensive Chinese Language Janterm semester is a little over 4 weeks, and I can’t believe it’s almost over. I’ve already been in China for almost a month! After this January semester ends, hopefully our workload will lighten up. I don’t want it to end though, because once we have our Janterm graduation banquet next Monday, it means that a lot of the current students here at CET are going to leave. About a third of the students will be continuing their studies in Kunming, another third of the students will be going to Harbin, some students will be going to Hangzhou, and the rest are returning to the states. For those of you who don’t know, Kunming, Harbin, and Hangzhou are all still in China (China is just so big!). I’ve made a lot of great friends in the past few weeks, and I don’t want to part with them.
Reflecting back on the past month, i’m really happy that I decided to come to China to study. In some ways, growing up in a Chinese household has given me an advantage, but there are still many other things that have given me some “culture shock” or some hardship. For example, apparently I have a “Taiwanese accent” when I speak Chinese. I had no idea that I had a certain kind of Chinese accent. My teacher told me that people think girls who speak in the Taiwanese accent sound cute, and some of the Chinese roommates have told me this as well. But there are also times where some people don’t understand what i’m saying because of it, or jokingly mimic me talk. Sometimes, I also feel that my teachers and some of my fellow students think i’m cheating because I’ve grown up listening to my parents speak Chinese. All I know is, I am learning a lot – I learn new things everyday. And everything that I learn in class is immediately applied to my daily life. My friend 梁剑 (Josh) and I even made up a game where we see who can use the most vocabulary words and grammar structures in a day. My Chinese has improved so much in the past month, I can’t wait to see where it’s at after our Spring term!
金羽庭 (Jin YuTing)
On Monday, we met up with a Holy Cross student – Zhenxi! Zhenxi lives in Beijing, and she’s a Sophomore currently studying at Holy Cross. Since Holy Cross students are on break right now, she was in China for a few days. She took all of us out to eat at Hai Di Lai hotpot… the most delicious hotpot ever. For those of you who don’t know, hotpot is where there’s a huge boiling pot of water and a bunch of raw food that you can order. You place the food into the pot yourself, and watch it cook. It’s a really good group food activity and perfect for the wintertime. At this particular restaurant, they had an amazing sauce station where you can mix yourself a tasty concoction to dip your food into. The waiters and waitresses at this restaurant provided the best service i’ve ever seen at a restaurant. If you were walking to the bathroom, any waiter you passed would greet you. My glass was never empty, it was constantly being refilled! They even gave us complimentary headbands for the girls, and if you wore glasses, they gave you an eyeglass cloth to wipe the fog off your glasses. They also provided little ziploc bags to put our phones into, so that it wouldn’t get dirty from the food, and they placed a seat cover onto our jackets after we hung them on the backs of our chairs. Apparently there’s also a Hai Di Lao in NYC, but it’s supposed to be a lot more expensive in NY.
Holy Cross at HaiDiLao Hotpot! So yummy.
After dinner, Zhenxi took us to one of the many malls in the Xidan district. There were a few blocks of very big malls in this area. This particular mall we went to was very Americanized, and it looked even nicer than most of the malls that i’ve ever been to.
Friday after class, a few classmates and I decided to take a visit to the Beijing Zoo. The Zoo is located conveniently just a 5-to-10-minute walk away from our campus. They had a section of 5-8 exhibits of just pandas! Unfortunately, most of the pandas were sleeping when we visited. There was one panda that was up and about – he kept wobbling around his exhibit. They also had a few red pandas, but because it was so cold out, most of them were hiding. We walked around and found a lot of animals in the park. The zoo was so big, we didn’t even get to all the exhibits. I plan on going back during the Springtime though, when it’ll be a lot warmer out.
Life is so busy studying abroad. When i’m not in class or studying for my daily listening exams, i’m out exploring the city. I’ve picked up a great habit from one of my friends here in the program though. My friend Alyssa has recently gotten me into the habit of finishing up my homework as early as possible, so we can make time to go out and explore Beijing! Let’s hope this habit continues even when I return to Holy Cross in the Fall.
This weekend, we took a trip to the Great Wall of China… so look out for a post for that coming very soon!
金羽庭 (Jin YuTing)
That’s alllllll for now. These pictures basically summed up my first week-week and a half in Beijing
金羽庭 (Jin YuTing)
Happy New Year! (新Xin 年Nian 快Kuai 乐Le!)
It’s hard to believe that I’ve already been in Beijing for over a week already, it’s even harder to believe that I’ve only spoken Chinese for the past 10 days. I literally never leave the classroom because I am constantly living, breathing, and learning Chinese. I’ve downloaded an English-Chinese dictionary app on my phone and I use it to look up words when I don’t know how to say. I always make sure I am carrying this around with me – it’s become an essential tool for communication.
Losing the ability to speak English was very strange at first. It really makes you feel like a child again, because you don’t know how to say a lot of words and because you speak very slowly and carefully. All of us have been through hundreds of stages of frustration – whether it’s from trying to explain something to somebody, or from not understanding what somebody said. Even when we don’t know how to say a word in Chinese, we aren’t allowed to use English. Instead, we have to try to use other Chinese words to explain it. There are times that I hold back from say something because I don’t know how to say it in Chinese.
Although it’s terribly annoying to not be able to communicate your thoughts or feelings, the language pledge is doing wonders to my Chinese speaking skills. One of the best feelings in the world is when you can relate something you learned in class to a real life situation. This may sound kind of nerdy, but me and my classmates get so excited when we use a new phrase or sentence structure when we’re just hanging out around the city. It’s not like a language class in school. Here in Beijing, everything I learn in class is being constantly applied to my daily life.
Did I mention that i’m not taking any classes for any other subject? All of my classes are classes specialized to help me improve my speaking, reading, writing, and understanding Chinese. I have about 4 hours of class a day, and about 2-3 hours of homework/studying every night. After class, i’m free to explore the city. And in one week, i’ve already done a lot of exploring! I’ll update with more photos later, but for now, here’s an instagram of me. For those of you who don’t know, in the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year (Jan. 31st), it’s the year of the horse!
金羽庭 (Jin YuTing)
I’ve safely arrived in Beijing, China! I’m staying at the Beijing Institute of Education, which was about an hour car ride from the airport. My flight was a little over 13 hours long, through Air China. I managed to sneak in a few tiny naps (they weren’t long because I couldn’t stay asleep), watch half of an American film, watch a Chinese film, and read my plane letters. I would definitely recommend anyone who is traveling for a long period of time to get your friends to write you letters. I received tips on studying abroad, poems and quotes of encouragement, and lots of stories about nostalgic memories.
Here is a personal shout-out to all the friends who wrote me a letter to read on the plane: I sincerely appreciated each and everyone of them! They were a pleasure to read. I got a ton of laughs and smiles while reading, and some of them even made me tear up a little bit. It really set the mood for my study abroad embarkment.
Here at BIE, all of us have been placed with a Chinese roommate. Most of the roommates arrived yesterday, but unfortunately, my roommate is currently studying for final exams so she isn’t arriving until January 3rd. Our rooms are really nice – they are slightly bigger than my room in Carlin this past semester!
My sleeping schedule has been really off this week. Falling asleep hasn’t been a problem, the real issue is waking up at 6:30am every morning. No matter what time i’ve been going to bed – 2am, 10pm, 1am, or whatever, I find my body automatically waking up at 6:30am and unable to fall back asleep. So needless to say, i’m pretty tired and could use some more sleep! This may be due to the Jetlag, since we are 13 hours ahead of US time.
The first two days here, we had a student orientation where we were given a tiny bit of time to adjust to our new homes, learn more information about the program, and take a language placement exam. Our language placement exam consisted of an Listening section, a Reading section, a Writing section, and an Oral. I got placed into the B level class (A is the lowest level, D is the highest level).
Today was our first day of classes, and our language pledge began promptly at 8:25am. Basically, the language pledge means that we all vow not to speak or listen to English, therefore we have to talk to our teachers and to each other solely in CHINESE, 24/7. The struggle has been real, because our vocabulary is limited! Sometimes, it’s taken us 5x as long to say something so simple as “Do you want to go check out the supermarket?” or “Is your wifi working?” It’s a strange experience, but I believe my Chinese will significantly improve after this! I think the biggest struggle will be memorizing everyone’s names… in Chinese. Here are just some photos from the past few days!:
Coming here has made me very appreciative of our internet connection. The wireless has been very spotty, I had to reconnect so many times while Skyping with my dad last night! I just realized that they provided us with an Ethernet cable though, so hopefully my internet connection will be good enough for me to try to add some videos that i’ve taken.
If anyone has any questions, comments, suggestions on places that I should see in China, etc., just let me know! You can either comment on this blog post, or i’ve made an anonymous ask box that you can contact me at here: http://jinning.tumblr.com/ask. I’ll be checking the ask box during the duration of my trip, so feel free to ask away at any time!
再见 Zàijiàn (goodbye),
“I’m in love with cities i’ve never been to and people i’ve never met.”
-John Green, Paper Towns
I cannot wait to fall in love with the city of Beijing and make some new friends along the way. Going to new places and experiencing new things is going to be a real adventure. It’ll be a journey that I want to remember forever, and a story that i’ll want to share with others. That’s why i’m starting this blog. After five months in Beijing, China, this blog will be filled with posts, photos, vlogs, short Mandarin Chinese lessons, and many, many stories!
If you haven’t read my blogger introduction page yet, my name is Sophia Jin and my Chinese name is 金羽庭 (Jin YuTing). My #1 goal for studying in China is to come back fluent in the language of Mandarin Chinese. I depart from NYC in less than ONE WEEK. As the first half of my Junior year at HC came to an end, I found myself saying too many goodbyes and snuggled against many warm embraces during finals week. Goodbyes are always hard, and it’s sad that fall 2013 was my last semester with some people. However, I’m confident that I will make an effort to keep in contact with those friendships that I treasure the most, and that those friends will attempt to stay in contact with me as well. Keeping this in mind is helping me realize that this is really happening. I’m really going to live in another country for almost half a year.
This week, I opened up a checking account at Bank of America, online shopped for a new camera, and began the dreaded chore of packing. Bank of America has a partnership with a bank in China that will allow me to withdraw money without paying transaction fees – which is important because i’ve heard that literally everything in China is paid for in cash. A new camera is for taking snapshots of everything I see so that my readers (that’s you!) can get a little taste of China from the comfort of your room. And when I say that I began packing… that means I have two large luggage bags opened in my room, and one of them currently has 3 shirts in it.
So for my friends and family that want to stay in contact with me during my trip: I just downloaded Viber and Whats App, i’ll be able to Skype (although be wary that the time difference is 13 hours), and my e-mail is always open! I also got a proxy code that will hopefully allow me to access Facebook while I am abroad as well. I promise my future blog posts will be shorter and have more pictures. My thoughts were that people usually have a larger attention span for a 1st blog post, so it was okay for this one to be longer. Stay tuned for more!
Sophia Jin '15