May: The Final Chapter


After nine crazy months of adventures and explorations, I am finally back home. Back in the states, back in Pittsburgh! I’m writing this blog post in the comfort of my living room, with my family sitting on the couches around me, sharing about their days, chatting about the small things that while I was away I missed completely. Although a bit late, this blog post is dedicated to my final month in China, and it is an attempt to sum up what this experience meant to me.

Beijing Explorations


With not a lot of time left, we all made it a personal goal to try and see as much of the city as possible before it was time to go. Here are some of the highlights. (Below each picture is a brief explanation of the place mentioned!)


Temple of Heaven: “The Temple of Heaven is an imperial complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest.” (Wikipedia)


Miyun Longyun Mountain, some beautiful mountains on the outskirts of the city. Located near the Great Wall, this is a place city people often go to be surrounded by nature.




Old Summer Palace: “Located only a few hundred meters from the existing Summer Palace, these ruins used to be a grand palace and park built under the Qing emperors in the 18th century, but was later destroyed by French and British troops during the Second Opium War (1860-1862).” (Tripdvisor)


Temple of the Sun Park


Super cute Beijing Roasted Duck restaurant I went to with my host family.

Adventures with Friends


One of the best parts of the month of May was sharing all the adventures with my friends. Knowing at the end of the month we would return to the states and all return to our respective cities and states, we were determined to make the most of our time left together.







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Host Family Goodbye

My last weekend with my host family was a very special way to end the year. Between delicious food, good conversations, and quality time together, we were able to reflect over the past nine months. We recounted when I first arrived, how I struggled to speak simple sentences, and now, we were having full length in-depth conversations. I thanked them for the way they opened their home and hearts to me. I even gave them some Pittsburgh gear, so they can rep the 412 all the way from Beijing. 🙂 





Graduation (Part 2!)

At the end of May, we were lucky enough to be part of Beijing 80’s graduation. We stood alongside our peers, classmates, and friends, whom were graduating from BJ80 High School. Many of them are attending universities in USA or the UK, or perhaps in their home countries such as Korea or China. It was interesting to be graduating for the second time, in such a different environment than I ever would have imagined. Between the speeches and video montage and diplomas, I felt how special it was to be part of this day. 





The Final Goodbye!

So after nine months, it was time to go! Overwhelmed with both an excitement to be reunited with our families/ be back in the states, we also all felt a supreme sense of sadness to be leaving behind this life. The amount we have each grown is unbelievable, and it is so large in part due to the role BJ80 played in our lives. 


First Day of School


Last Day of School



With some of our language teachers.


Mia and I, in front of the international department building (where we had class everyday)


In front of my dorm! This picture was taken after I had successfully (to some people’s surprise, the hours leading up to this were quite stressful) finished packing.

Packing everything up, trying to fit my life into two checked bags and a carry on, was both a physical and mental challenge. Not only was it kind of impossible in the literal sense (the 50 lb weight limit and all of my stuff … was not quite working out) but in the figurative sense … I felt so sad by this notion of packing up, moving out, and heading home. When my dorm was empty and my bags were in the hallway, it felt so weird, so empty, so … final. 

We had one last lunch in the cafeteria and after had to head to the North Gate of the school to get on our bus to the airport. Many of our friends came to send us off, give us a final goodbye. Many thanks were exchanged, laughs shared, and tears shed.




Pretty soon the time had come though, for us to board the bus. Sitting there, looking out the window we saw the waves and smiles of our teachers, classmates, roommates, and friends. For the past nine months these people had become such a central part of our lives, and now it was time to say a final goodbye. As the bus pulled away, I was trying to process what this “final goodbye” really meant. It felt surreal to try and understand that this was my final day here, no more zixis in the dorm, no more bibimbap for lunch in the cafeteria, no more stretching with Tima and Zhong Charlie in PE class, no more sitting by the pond watching the koi fish, no more meetings in ziroom’s basement, no more runs to Family Dumpling, no more malatong outings, no more banana and PB breakfasts in Mia’s room, no more practice HSK tests, no more quick trips to the chaoshi to buy spicy bread, no more sprinting back from Donghuqu to make it by the 7:00 curfew, no more nights in Alex’s room listening to Bon Iver, no more T25s in the common room, no more tingxies in Smiley’s class, no more sunbathing on the yellow mat listening to jin gui’s spotify, no more art classes with the laoshi non stop yelling 抓紧时间! No more moments together. No more Beijing 80, no more China. Although this was overwhelming, too difficult to process, and kind of heart breaking, I knew that  my time here would be something I would always carry with me. 谢谢八十中,你们给我这个难忘的经历。




After a near 15 hour flight to Dallas, bad weather, a delayed transfer, lost luggage, a missing bus, and many technical difficulties, we arrived at our hotel in D.C. around 3:30 AM running on next to zero hours of sleep. The next morning (still suffering from jet lag) we had a full day of meetings, presentations to the state department, and a final goodbye dinner barbecue.





And May 31st was here before we knew it. Time to fly home, to say our last goodbyes to each other. Between tears, through hugs and a fumbling of words, I looked at my friends who over the past nine months had been there with me every step of the way, experienced all of the program’s insanely unique situations, who had pushed me to be my best self, supported me, cheered me on, and became so important in my heart. The kind of friends, you never ever forget. But as we often said, this wasn’t goodbye, but rather, 再见

(再见 means goodbye in Chinese, but it directly translates to “see again”. Cute way to remind ourselves, this would not be the last time we are together.)


Friday, May 31st, 6:38 PM. Home.

At this time my plane landed in the Pittsburgh International Airport. I was finally home. No better way to end this experience than being reunited with my family, in the same place where a year ago we said our goodbyes before I embarked on this journey. I feel so blessed to have such wonderful people there supporting me, eager to hear about my travels, and just overall excited to have me back. Var(lotta) love for the fam! 🙂


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