April: The Beginning of the End

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April, similar to March, has been a very lively and enjoyable month. Our position here (in regards to leaving China in a few weeks) has caused a positive shift in our attitudes, mindsets, and daily lives. The inevitable countdown towards our departure has resulted in the feeling of time passing by more quickly. This in turn causes everything we do to feel a bit more exciting, more special, and more intense.

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School Events

In school, the grind has continued. We have begun taking practice HSK tests – with the real one less than two weeks away. This is the same test I took in the winter, but this time I’m taking the test at a higher level. After passing HSK 4, everyone in my class is now working to pass HSK 5. 

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Through increased speaking opportunities in our classes ranging from presentations on: racial and gender stereotypes in Chinese movies, dilemmas single parents face,  and the mascot from the Barcelona Olympics, I have noticed drastic gains in my speaking and listening skills. I remember 8 months ago, when I struggled to introduce myself and respond to simple questions, and now am able to discuss issues that are both relevant, practical, and fascinating. 

Elective Class

All students at BJ80 have an elective class on Thursday afternoons. My class is called Cultural Exchange, and the student make up is half Chinese students and half Americans. The goal of the class is to practice speaking, cultural exchange, and to ultimately make new friends. So far this has been a super rewarding class. The students are all very friendly and fun to talk to. Speaking a mix of Chinese and English, we have begun to get to know each other and bond over similar interests. Whether it was when everyone was signing Bohemian Rhapsody together or when one of the student’s was playing  one of our favorite Chinese songs on the guitar, it’s exciting to create these new relationships. This past week we focused on food in America and China. We decided to have a debate about food, both to practice speaking skills and because it would be fun. The first debate was in Chinese and about rice vs. noodles (Team Rice) and the second was in English, about pizza vs. burgers (Pizza!). After the debates, which we engaging because of how passionate we all were about our choices, we shared Chinese and American snacks.

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Below is a picture with one of the Chinese students in our elective class, who next year will be attending University of Rochester. (And who speaks Spanish!!)

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Concerts

Jess and Sarah, both musical stars, are involved in various bands and orchestras at BJ80. They both had performances this past month. It was really fun watching them, along with some of the other BJ80 kids I know, perform. Sarah and Jess sang in English, Italian, and Chinese, all flawlessly.

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Listening to the music made me nostalgic  for CAPA, and the many many concerts I went to due to having two siblings who were instrumental majors. 

Friends from Boston!

Beijing 80 has an exchange program with a high school in Boston, and every year students from both schools visit/study at the corresponding school. The students sat in on a class, were able to see what our lives are like, and exchange stories of our interest in China, Chinese classes, and experience at BJ80. Due to the extended amount of time us NSLI kids spend in class or with each other, and our somewhat limited exposure to different people, it’s always refreshing to meet new people.

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Graduation

Last week during school all students in the international department wore our formal uniforms and took a photo together. After, all the students who were graduating took photos in our caps and gowns. Many of the “gao san” (third year students, equivalent to high school senior) students in the international department are attending universities in the states or in the UK this fall. Below is a picture of Alex, Mia, and I with Li Laoshi, one of our favorite teachers.

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Below is a picture of my friend Michael, a BJ80 student who will be attending University College London in the fall.

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Beijing Adventures

Outside of school, trying to make the most of my time left, I have continued on the journey of Beijing explorations. Below are some of the highlights.

Beihai 

Beihai Park is one of the most well known (and beautiful!) parks in Beijing. Built in the 11th century, it was previously an imperial garden. It contains numerous historically important structures, palaces, and temples. On one beautiful Saturday my friends and I went and enjoyed being out in the nice weather and surrounded by nature.

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Nanlouguxiang

Nanlouguxiang, one of Beijing’s most famous food streets lined with traditional shops and snacks and goods, is a super fun place to go. There are so many delicious foods to try, and always something new. A popular tourist sight, it was exciting to hear a mix of languages being spoken between the people on the crowded street. (Hearing English, because it’s such a rare occurrence, is always noteworthy to us.)

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Chinese Ethnic Cultural Park 

Located across the street from the Olympic Stadium, this museum is unique in that it features displays of the daily life and architecture of China’s 56 ethnic groups. Here is a quick blurb about the Cultural Park:

“The museum covers approximately 50 hectares and so far comprises 44 ethnic villages and 200 ethnic buildings. There are 800 staff members comprising various Chinese ethnic groups. All buildings are constructed to a ratio of 1:1. At the museum, several ethnic groups grow traditional crops such as paddy rice or buckwheat, and each day Tibetan lamas from the Tar Monastery of Qinghai chant Buddhist sutras. The museum has also collected approximately 100,000 cultural relics, and exhibits items representing the daily life of China’s ethnic groups.”

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Tianamen

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Easter!

On Easter, a few of my friends and I attended Easter Mass at a church in Wangfujing called St. Joseph’s Cathedral. 

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Meeting with State Department Rep!

This past week the State Department NSLI-Y Program Officer visited China and Beijing 80. Stacy and I had the opportunity to give him a tour of the neighborhood our school is in, ask him questions about his experience working for the state department, and give feedback on our NSLI-Y experience.

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FOOD

One thing I really like about living in Beijing is the sheer amount of amazing food to be found, tasted, and enjoyed.

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Xinjiang Food

Xinjiang is a territory in northwest China. “The ancient Silk Road trade route linking China and the Middle East passed through Xinjiang, a legacy that can be seen in the traditional open-air bazaars of its oasis cities, Hotan and Kashgar. Xinjiang cuisine reflects the cooking styles of many ethnic groups of the Xinjiang region, and refers particularly to Uyghur cuisine. Signature ingredients include roasted mutton, kebabs, roasted fish, and rice. Because of the Muslim population, the food is predominantly halal.” (Wikapedia)

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And of course… I love international restaurants. Below are some of the good ones I’ve been to this past month.

New Zealand Food! 

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French Food

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Hong Kong Food

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Tacos!

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Japanese Food

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And another favorite- whenever we stumble upon an international market we always get super excited and splurge in the (pretty pricey) food from the states.

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T25 !

Everyday at 5 when school gets out, we have two hours of free time to leave campus before mandatory self study time begins at 7. Normally, my friends and I go to the gym. As we have less and less time here, we have begun using our free time to go to new restaurants and areas, in place of the gym. Thus I’ve begun waking up early (5:30 AM) to get a workout in before school. We also often workout after our study time ends (9:00 PM). Everyday I do a T25 (25 minute high intensity workout). Not only is it a great workout, but it reminds me so much of home (because my sister and my dad got me hooked on them.) I have so many vivid memories of T25: doing a cardio workout with my sister in our living room while my mom is in the kitchen making her coffee, working out with my dad in our basement learning the different workout moves, or waking up early senior year to do T25 before school. I’ve recently embarked on a “25 Days of T25” challenge, and today is day 22. Sharing these workouts with my friends here has been super cool – also, they’re very ideal for our super intense schedule. Whenever you have 12 hours of Chinese a day, a 25 minute workout is perfect!

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4 Weeks Left

A few weeks ago, the students who were selected for 2019-2020 NSLI Beijing Academic Year were announced. A group chat was formed and we began talking to the new students, both excited for them to experience Beijing 80 next year, and sad realizing this was another mile marker of the program slowly coming to an end. We created a google doc for the new NSLI kids to ask us any questions they have about this program. I remember vividly a year ago at this time, the roles were reversed! I was the one asking questions to the current NSLI students, trying to get a feel for China, and for what I had in store the following year. And yet here we are now, one year later, on the other end of the spectrum. Full circle. 

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It’s always in moments like this, whether it be anniversaries or specific moment or time of year, that I reflect on my experiences. Using the google doc as a gage for time – I was able to transport myself a year back. Remembering when I was just beginning to prepare for my move to China, for this completely new life. Hard to wrap my head around how 12 months later, a relatively short time, my life has changed so drastically and I have experienced so much. In those twelve months I decided where I was going to college, where I would spend the next few years of my life living and learning and growing, graduated high school with my classmates who I’ve been going to school with since 6th grade, said goodbye to my family for 9 months, moved across the world. And learned Chinese. 

As my time left here gets shorter and shorter, I’ve already begun thinking about and planning when i’ll return. The idea of continuing my study of Chinese is thrilling, and I’m hungry for more opportunities like this one to explore and discover. I hope to be back soon, (next summer!) and I know the next time I’m here, I will appreciate it even more. The longer I spend here, the more comfortable I am, and the more I want to experience. As my language skills continue improving, so does my experience as a whole.

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Incredibly crazy to think about how May is a mere few days away, and I’ll be back home in about four weeks. I’m not quite ready to leave, to leave this life behind. I feel that there is so much left to be done. Places to be explored, areas to be visited, dumplings to be eaten, words to be learned, food to be tried, conversations to be had, and memories to be made. But as time often goes, when you want it to last the longest it seems to fly by the quickest. The bittersweet passage of time during April has resonated deeply with me, and I’ve deeply felt this past month the concept of how this is the “beginning of the end.” 

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