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Being in Beijing for the past two weeks has been quite an experience! After getting off our 13-hour flight and getting through customs we hopped on the bus and headed to UIBE (University of International Business and Economics) in Beijing. Since it was dark out, it was hard to make out the details of the city, but it was intriguing to see the night light of Beijing with street vendors and tons of motorcyclists weaving through people and traffic. When we arrived at UIBE, we were told our room numbers and were assigned the task of bringing our luggage to our rooms, with help of course. The downside of bringing 50 pound bags is there are no elevators in the dorms. Thank goodness I only live on the second floor.

When I arrived at my room, I was interested to see what the dorm looked like. We were assigned Western style rooms, but typical Chinese dorms fit 5-6 students in one room. When I opened the door I wasn’t too surprised. There are 2 twin beds, 2 wood desks, wooden table and chair set, mini fridge, TV, closets, and a bathroom. I was very surprised when I looked into the bathroom. I stood in the doorway for a good few minutes trying to process what I was looking at. In the bathroom there is a lonely shower head in the corner of the room next to the toilet. It’s very interesting and definitely something I had to get used to because water gets everywhere. One of the first things I paid for in China was a pair of sandals to wear around the dorm since water can get tracked everywhere.

We are part of The Beijing Center (TBC) program which partners with UIBE, and our orientation was a week long. We participated in fun activities and listened to presentations. For the first two days, Chinese roommates and tutors took us to lunch, which was fantastic because even with my many years of Chinese, ordering food is one of the hardest things to do here in Beijing when there are no pictures to point at. After day two, we were on our own for getting food. On the third day, Aly, Sarah, (fellow TBC friends) and I wandered to the restaurant we had had breakfast at the previous day. The hardest thing about being Chinese in Beijing, is that I am not fluent. I get laughed at a lot by Chinese people when I start talking, but it only pushes me to try and get better at speaking Chinese.

To celebrate surviving our first week of classes, later that night a small group of us went to a giant buffet restaurant. You pay a fee, then have access to all the food, beer, meat, fish, drinks, and pastries you want for two hours. The only downside, is that if you are wasteful and leave a lot of food at your table, you lose your 10 kuai deposit. After dinner we went to a karaoke bar. It was so much fun! What is really intriguing to me is that for all the events Chinese people partake in, such as going to clubs, karaoke, and just hanging out, there is not a strong emphasis on alcohol. At the clubs (we went to one named Vic’s), it’s all about dancing. At karaoke, people go to sing their hearts out with no judgement from their peers, and is usually a completely dry event. The culture of drinking in China is completely different than America, and to be honest, I like the nightlife better here in China. Nevertheless, karaoke was so much fun, and I may have overdone the singing since I have a slight sore throat from singing our endless playlist
of Ke$ha, One Republic, T-Swift, JBiebs, and more. No Chinese songs for us, maybe later in the
semester we’ll venture to Chinese music.

That concludes my first 2 weeks in Beijing! I can’t wait for what is to come. Soon we will be leaving for the Chinese New Year. Next Saturday we fly to the Yunnan province where we will spend our entire two-week break celebrating the new year, immersing ourselves in minority cultures, learn dances, try food, hike, and explore. Until then, 再见!

Meili Burns, Spring 2016