Back to School: March Edition

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After a super fun packed break, it was time for second semester to start and to get back into the school grind. We all arrived back at school at the end of February and dove head first back into class. Below is a picture from the first day of school, when we had an opening ceremony and all of us wore our formal uniforms. 

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Spring!

After a long and cold winter, we were all ecstatic by Spring’s arrival. The warm days and blue skies were the perfect way to start the new semester. The beautiful weather was in part largely responsible for a boost in our mood. Everyday after lunch instead of going back to the dorms or classrooms to avoid the cold, many NSLI kids now spend time outside by the soccer field, studying, relaxing, and talking under the sun.

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Language Pledge! 

NSLI-Y students, as a collective, decided to start a “language pledge” in our classes. The rules are simple: when inside the classroom, you must speak Chinese. If you speak another language, you have to pay 1 kuai. (And at the end of the year – we will throw a party with all the money in the collection!) At first it was pretty difficult to remember to always speak Chinese, but after a while we were able to make it through the day with barely any English. It was exciting to realize that we were capable of communicating many of our conversations, small talk, jokes, and stories in Chinese. Below featuring Sara, one of the biggest language pledge police, with the money box.

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Language Partners

Jess, one of the most all-star people I know, organized a language partner program. Many NSLI kids wanted to be able to practice Chinese more and make some Beijing 80 friends, so Jess acted on this by finding a handful of Chinese students also interested in this goal. The way the language exchange works is the NSLI student and BJ80 eat lunch together, speaking a mix of English and Chinese, and in the process get to know more about each other. My language partner is named Michael, who is a third year student at BJ80 attending the University of College London next year to study Educational Psychology. Below is a picture of a different language partner I hungout with one day, when we bonded over our love for Harry Potter and Timothée Chalamet!

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Beijing 80 Soccer Tournament

Every year Beijing 80 holds a school wide soccer tournament. I was super excited to participate, because what is cooler than doing a sport you love, in a new place, with new people! Similar to the school wide track meet back in October, this was a chance for me to do something here in China that I’ve grown up loving. Each class had one team. My class – yu yan ban (language class) consisted of a handful of my NSLI friends along with some of my international classmates. Tima (my friend from Kazakhstan who is 15 and already fluent in 4 languages – and knows more about American pop culture and rap music than me) was our captain. That is him on the right.

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We have played 3 games so far, ending the first two in a tie and the last with a 0-1 loss. The pre game rituals were exciting and nostalgic, as I was remembering the countless of times I lined up for games back at home. The game itself was short – two 15 minute halves. Nonetheless it exciting, being able to play one of my favorite sports in such a different environment, but yet, it be so similar. The cheers from the other yu yan ban students could be heard from the sidelines. 

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Below are some of the other international students at BJ80, from Mongolia and Japan.

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Next week playoffs start, with the following week being championships! Below are some more action shots from the games.

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30 Mile Walk

My friends Kristian and Alex came up with an idea to walk a marathon. When I overheard them talking about it I immediately said, I’m in. 

In the place that used to be Beijing’s city wall is currently a subway line. It is a square that goes around the center of the city, hitting many of the popular Beijing destinations. Kristian mapped it out, we would walk to this subway line (6 miles) around the subway line itself (a square path 14 miles in total) and then walk 6 miles back to school. 

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At 6:30 AM a few weeks ago I met up with them at school and we began our walk. We wound up spending the entire day together hitting so many major Beijing spots: Koreatown, Wangfujing, Xidan, Tianamen, Houhai, Nanlouguxiang, Dongzhimen, and more. 14 hours later, 70,000 steps, and 30 miles, we were done.

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This will go down in history as the farthest I have ever walked, and one of my biggest feats. Not only was it incredibly cool to see our steps (and how they broke 70,000) but also the chance to see so much of Beijing in one day was amazing. On top of that, sharing the experience with my great friends, and hours of interesting conversations, all led to a truly unforgettable day. 

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Summer Palace

This past week, yu yuan ban took a field trip to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is a popular tourist attraction consisting of lakes, gardens, and palaces. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Beijing! Built during the Qing Dynasty as an imperial garden, it is known for the beautiful mountains and lakes.

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The Summer Palace was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1998, calling the Summer Palace “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value”.

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It was super fun to share this beautiful place with my classmates and friends. After the trip, all the students had to write an essay about one aspect of the Summer Palace. I chose Yunming Lake, the largest lake, featured in the picture below. This was a good chance for me to practice my writing skills in Chinese.

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More Adventures

Wearing Green on St. Patricks Day!

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I had the chance to meet up with a fellow Quaker – he will be attending UPenn in the fall! Originally from Beijing, he moved to New Zealand for high school. It was super fun to get to meet someone else going to Penn, share my adventures in China, and hear his story. We were able to bond over our shared experience of speaking Chinese/English, and also excitingly discuss our plans for the Fall. It is somewhat surreal to think in a few short months, I will finally be starting college.

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Below is a photo of my host sister and her friends, all of whom are in Beijing 80’s traditional instrument orchestra and are wonderful musicians. This past weekend they were over my house and I had the chance to hear them perform. The instruments, from left to right, are the Guzheng, Pipa, and Erhu.

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Eating Dominos! In China!

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Me, after translating one of my favorite phrases, “Let’s get this bread” into Chinese. With the help of my friends to correct my grammar and word choice, we wrote it on the board in class and declared it our motto. It was fun explaining to all of our Chinese teacher’s what it meant.

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Classic flick below including Alex and Alex, me, and one of our favorite teachers.. LIU ZHUREN! (Featuring Yaya’s drawings of us on the board)

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Also so fun — I received a care package! Full of some of my favorite snacks and letters from people from home. All of them were so thoughtful and fun, hearing my friends and family member’s voices in their words and getting to see what is going on in their lives. Some of my favorite ones were the ones from my little cousins – alongside with the drawings and paintings they sent. Love you guys!! Can’t wait to see you soon 🙂

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10 Weeks Left

In the middle of March we hit a monumental mark: 10 weeks left. As a group we reflected on how we felt about this. Most of us were sharing similar feelings, a mixture of excitement and sadness. For sure I’m happy that soon I will be back. I have missed my family a lot, nine months is longer than I’ve ever gone without seeing them. I miss my friends, my neighborhood, my city, and my home. It will be nice to wakeup in my bed, be able to eat healthy food, design my own schedule, and be able to communicate with everyone without having to work for it. So yes, going home will be super fun. (Pic below is the day I left for China! Surreal to think that was 7 months ago)

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But at the same time, it is really crazy to think that in ten mere weeks I will be back in the states. Over the span of the past 7 months, Beijing has become my home. I’ve developed a life here than goes deeper than a vacation or trip. I find happiness in my routine, in the familiarity of Wangjing neighborhood, in how this place feels like a home. I’ve fallen in love with the city, and being able to go a new place every weekend, having the power of new adventures and explorations at my fingertips. I enjoy spending time with my friends and sharing in this experience that is so unique. When thinking about going home, I already feel the sadness of leaving. Not only leaving Beijing 80 and China, but leaving this life too. 

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The life we have, of studying Chinese 10 hours a day and living with host families on the weekend, that at times was so very difficult, is also incredibly special. Never again will I be in an environment so focused on language learning, with friends who are all passionate and motivated and excited to be on this journey with me. Being here, even though the grind is hard and studying Chinese is hard, is so fun. It is somewhat of a break from reality, almost as if we put our real lives on hold for a year and moved to China for 9 months. 

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As the end of the program draws nearer, I am intent on making the most of my time left. Instead of dwelling on the fact that I’m leaving, I focus on making each day one to remember. Every weekend I make a point to go somewhere new and discover a different area, while during the week I find joy in the little things. Whether it be laying under the sun after lunch listening to Jack Johnson, getting a great HIIT workout in with Mia, Alex, and Yaya at the gym, hitting up my FAV restaurant Family Dumpling, hanging out after zixi in the common room, playing soccer during gym with my friends from Brazil, France, & Korea, or even just walking around Beijing 80’s campus and looking at the Koi fish in the pond, each day feels really special. 

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This was something my mom always emphasized growing up, the importance of finding happiness and peace in little moments. Here, I’ve come to better understand how to do that, and how beneficial it really is. Without a doubt, I know in the future I will always remember all the amazing places I went during my time here; from visiting the Terra-cotta Warriors in Xi’an, to overlooking Shanghai from the tallest skyscraper in the city to walking across the Great Wall. But perhaps even more memorable, are the smaller moments from my life at Beijing 80. The community we have formed here, the friendships I’ve made, the things we have learned, and the life we have created, will never be forgotten. So in the meantime, over the next two months, its my mission to make each day a good one. Or, as all of our teachers here love to say,  抓紧时间

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3 thoughts on “Back to School: March Edition

  1. Gigi, what an awesome experience this has been for you. I completely understand the bittersweet feelings you’re having as you near the end of the program. We all miss you and can’t wait to see you! The kids will be so happy to see you with their letters and gifts. They have asked several times if you’ve received their things yet. I’ll share this post with them! Miss you!❤️

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  2. so nice to read all of this. The pics are wonderful and the insights equally impressive. We can’t wait though for the end of May to have you back home with us!

    Like

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