I (heart) Beijing

I’ve been living as a foreign student in Beijing for almost 4 years now. While I can’t say that my whole experience have been happy, I can definitely say that some of the most important events of my life have happen while I’ve been here. I feel like a complete mature woman now after so many experiences. Every time there’s new people coming, and people leaving or dying, there’s always people who comes back; it’s just an amazing dynamic that I don’t think it can happen in every country. Today’s post will be about my very first experiences in this country.

The beginning
I was 21 years old when I came to China for the first time, but I can say that my vision of the world outside my home was very limited. The whole journey to China was an adventure, everything was new and interesting. I came with only one friend of the same age and we couldn’t speak any Chinese. Our first impression of Beijing was being stuck at the airport for 3 hours (after 2 days of traveling by plane) because nobody was waiting for us. Even though we had our destination address we weren’t sure about how to get there. If you have been to an airport in China, you know the illegal taxi drivers can definitely drive you crazy with their offers. For some reason we imagined that it was better to make a call and wait for someone to come to pick us up. One of the many taxi drivers offer to “lend” us his mobile phone for USD $2. At that time we thought it was a good deal, but we soon realized that he actually ripped us off.

When finally someone came to pick us up, we thought that everything would be better, but reality was very far from that. The first real thing that depressed me was the weather, it was very polluted, there was no sun even though it was August and supposedly summer. I come from a very hot sunny country, so coming to Beijing where there are no beaches and not even sun was a little bit depressing. Now after 4 years I’m so used it that I found myself surprised that last night we could clearly see the full moon. You might think this is a joke, but one of my friends suggested that it was just a “fake” moon.

Arriving to our final destination
Our final destination was Beijing International Studies University (BISU), that’s the 2nd Foreign Languages Institute of Beijing, my school. Compared to other Chinese Universities, my campus was rather small, but I fell in love with it since the first day and I wouldn’t change it for anything in this world. I hated that my room was on the 6th floor (without elevators or escalators) and that we had to share showers with other girls and that there were no traditional toilets but squats, that there were no fridges but hot water machines, that even though my building was for foreigners there was not even one English signal, and that none of the Chinese employees could speak any English. 3 and a half years after nothing has changed, but I realized that I love the fact that my school is very small so I know almost every body, I’m used to public showers now, they are extremely clean and I love gossiping with my girl friends while in the shower. I’m used to squats now since that’s common in the whole country. I moved to the 2nd floor so I don’t care about elevators and my room is very warm which is a real privilege in Chinese winters. I bought my own fridge and use the hot water machines every day. I love that I have an amazing view of almost everything that happens in my school, I can see the 2 sides of my building, to the lobby, the tennis court just in front of it and most important my class building. I thank every day the fact that no employees speak any English because my Chinese level improves by the day. I’m learning 24 hours a day and that’s my goal. And what I love the most about my school and that I thank every single day of my life, is the opportunity to meet the most amazing people in the world: my friends. I have a bunch of friends, we all come from different cultural background, we all speak different languages and sometimes our differences can make it very difficult to communicate, but at the end we have something in common, we are family here, we love and support each other and we are together in good and bad moments. Some have left, some have died, but we are all still together.

My Chinese name
When applying for a Chinese visa and scholarship, they asked me for a Chinese name. I seriously thought it was a joke, but when registering at school the asked again and just then I learned that I was supposed to pick a Chinese name. There are many different ways to pick a Chinese name (I can write about it next time), in my case they chose to find characters that would sound like my native name: Yindra. So my teacher came up with something like: Yin Da. I seriously hated the sound and I hated even more when I knew that was actually a man’s name, because “Yin” means silver and “Da” big, so it gives the idea of big fortune which is a masculine concept in China. Right now I’m still not loving it, but I found a better way to deal with it, I just say I don’t have a Chinese Name and people actually believe me.

I hope you enjoy this first part of my almost 4 years journey in China and wait for some more.
Do you have any similar experience in China or any other country as foreign student?

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