After two weeks…

Two weeks have past since I started the Public Health program in Beijing and already so much has happened. I expected a greater amount of culture shock but I found that Beijing is similar to Chicago- albeit much larger and much busier. The local food is amazing. I ate at so many resturants my first couple weeks here. I tried dumplings and bao zi and even street food like jianbing.

We have reached the halfway point of the first “quarter” of classes. As someone with no previous knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, the Chinese classes seemed daunting at first. But as the classes went on I found myself understanding more and more, and have even been able to have (very basic) conversations with some locals. I am excited to learn more of the language and be able to communicate better.

My favorite part of the program is the weekly excursion. Our first week here we got to go to the Forbidden City. The architecture was so beautiful and colorful. We learned a lot about the history of the Forbidden City as well. Then, the second excursion we went on was to the Great Wall. It was the one I had been looking forward to the most. We hiked the Simatai section of the Great Wall. After I climbed the wall I had never felt so exhausted and so accomplished at the same time- and then I unashamedly took the cable car down.

I am excited for the rest of the program and I cannot wait to see what new things I get to do and learn.

Long Weekend in Qingdao!

I am currently riding the bullet train on the way back from our long weekend trip in Qingdao! Half way through the program, we get a long weekend where many students choose to travel to cities outside of Beijing. Me and 5 other people decided it would be fun to travel to Qingdao! Qingdao is a coastal city south of Beijing. It takes about 5 hours to get there on the bullet train. We left Beijing on Thursday, July 13th, just 2 hours after finishing our last Chinese final. The train station was extremely crowded and people were certainly not afraid to push and shove to get ahead in line, but we ended up on the train and had a relaxing ride to Qingdao. On the way, I made friends with some elementary school children who were curious about foreigners. I tried to speak to them in Chinese and they tried to respond in English. One kid even pulled out a Chinese Harry Potter novel and started showing it to me. It was quite the bonding experience.

Once we arrived in Qingdao, we immediately noticed a change in the weather. Qingdao was much cooler, less crowded and had better air quality than Beijing, which was refreshing. We got a cab and headed to Holiday Inn. One of the girls I came with had some family friends in Qingdao, so they came to get us from the train station and treated us to dinner, which was nice. One of the family friends was named Daisy and attended college in the US as an international student. She was super nice and willing to show us around Qingdao.

On Friday, we went with Daisy to a park by the ocean called the May Fourth Square (the name is completely unrelated to Star Wars). After that we explored the coastal shops and drove around in a four-person bicycle while yelling “ni hao!” to random people strolling along the coast. We saw so many cute dogs along the way as well. That night we went to the Olympic Sailing center and explored the pier. We even drove bumper cars, which was so much fun.

On Saturday, Daisy took us to a cool German town area of Qingdao. We went to the beach again and took some pictures by a beautiful castle. Then we went to a Beer Museum, which was actually a very interesting experience. Qingdao used to be occupied by the Germans and is known for its beer, particularly “Tsingtao”.

The third day we relaxed a bit at the hotel and went to explore the mall. At night, we went back to the pier, bought some souvenirs, and went on the bumper cars one last time.

Finally, on Monday it was time to leave Qingdao and head back to Beijing. This long weekend trip has been so much fun! It was nice to explore a new city, enjoy the beaches and nice weather and also get a chance to relax before returning to the busy life in Beijing. I would definitely recommend traveling to Qingdao for anyone looking for a place to visit during the long weekend trip!



Moving from Beijing to Hangzhou

On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, we took our final exams for Public Health and Chinese, wrapping up the first part of our trip in Beijing. After our exams were over, our friends in the 8 week programs departed for their long weekend trip while the Wanxiang Fellows stayed in Beijing. During our last couple days in Beijing, my friends and I took the subway to Summer Palace and Pearl Market. We also tried Hot Pot for the first time which was amazing!

Our last day of class with our Chinese professor

On Saturday, we all checked out of our dorms at Peking University and began our trip to Hangzhou. We took the bullet train, which was a great experience. The train traveled approximately 300 km/hour, yet the ride was so smooth that you could barely feel that you were moving. I spent a lot of the train ride watching out the window, looking at the many mountains, small towns, and large cities that we passed through.

Today wraps up our first full day in Hangzhou and it has been amazing. The city is absolutely beautiful and is much different from Beijing. From what I have experienced so far, it has a lot more green scenery and water, and is slightly less crowded. Today, we got a tour of West Lake, The Hu house, a Traditional Chinese Medicine Pharmacy, a Pagoda, and Buddhist temples. It felt as if we fit five days of touring into one, but that’s okay because we are making the most of our time here.

Hu’s Garden

I also enjoyed interacting with the Wanxiang Polytechnic Student Ambassadors. They joined us on our tour today and also hosted a welcome dinner in the evening. I am looking forward to spending more time with them and hopefully creating long-lasting connections and friendships. I will be in Hangzhou for approximately then next two weeks, and then off to Shanghai! Until next time.



Same Stars, Different Constellations

Today was my second to last day of classes in Beijing before leaving for Hangzhou and to be honest, I’m sad I’m leaving. I’ve really settled down over this past month. I know Peking University’s campus well enough to remember shortcuts to my Chinese class, and have even hopped on the metro by myself to go to the malls two stops south! This past week, I’ve gotten into the habit of getting a cold bottle of drinkable yoghurt (which I will miss dearly) and sitting outside to have a quiet moment. I don’t know what the air quality is right now, but it’s not too hot out and there’s a nice breeze that stirs up occasionally. I like moments where I get a sense of how big the world around me is, and how small I am in comparison. Conversely, it also makes me realize (over and over again) that me ending up on these steps in Beijing right now is still pretty important to me. Never, not even when I applied to this program, could I have predicted moments like this one. I was given an amazing opportunity for both personal and academic growth, and I ran with it. Now I can’t imagine not being here, on these steps outside my residential building. It’s a full moon tonight, and I can make out the Little Dipper (I think it’s the Little one). I wonder if non-Western countries have different constellations for the same stars, and if so what they are. Surely the entire world didn’t look at those stars and collectively say “Yup, that’s a ladle! And that over there’s a bigger ladle!”. I’ll have to come up with some constellations of my own one day.

A Typical Day in Beijing

It has been exactly one week since I’ve arrived in Beijing, and it honestly feels like I have been here for so much longer. Unlike many people in this program, I haven’t had much trouble with jet lag, but that just might be because I had a horrible sleep schedule back home to begin with. I have already met many new people and finished unpacking in my dorm, so I am feeling quite settled in Beijing. The heat was honestly the biggest surprise for me. I knew it would be very warm just from researching the average temperatures, but it feels much more intense when combined with the crowded streets and air pollution. However, it does cool down during the evenings, which makes a great time to go out and explore.

A typical day for me begins with waking up around 8 am and getting ready for the day. I grab a snack for breakfast and head out of the dorm around 8:40. To get to class, we cross a bridge that goes across the busy main street separating our dorms from main campus. We show our ID to the guards at the gate and enter campus. From there it is about a 10-minute walk to the building where the Chinese language classes are held. Chinese class is definitely challenging, since we are learning a lot more material in a shorter period of time. However, the classes are smaller (most classes have 6-8 students) and the teachers are very friendly. Chinese class is from 9am to 12pm, and after that we have an hour for lunch before our next class at 1pm. For lunch there are many dining halls around campus, but most days I just go to the closest one across the street from Chinese class. The dining halls tend to be very crowded around this time. Navigating through the crowds of people and finding open tables was difficult at first, but now I have gotten used to it. Plus, the food is really good, and they also serve fresh fruit. I usually have a couple slices of watermelon to go with my meal every day. After lunch, I head to my afternoon Public Health class, which is a three-hour lecture style class taught by Chinese professors. Class ends around 3:30 or 4pm. Around this time it is generally too hot out to do anything outside, so I usually head to the gym, a café to study, or just my dorm. For dinner, there are many great restaurants to choose from within walking distance to the dorm. My current favorite is a bao zi restaurant, where I usually get the pork and vegetable bao zi. Another great option is to head to EC Mall, which is 2 train stops away and has many great restaurants, including a KFC. After dinner, I usually finish up some homework, watch some Netflix, and get ready for the next day!

Typical dining hall meal

From a bakery right by the dorms

Thai pineapple rice and milk tea at EC Mall

Woah, We’re Halfway There

I have been in China for three weeks now and I am realizing that this is the halfway point of my six-week program… it is going by faster than I expected! A lot has happened since I left the United States, starting with the plane ride itself. It was almost surreal to watch our landing in the Beijing Airport and look at my surroundings for the first time. I’m not sure what I expected to see, but I was surprised all the same. My first couple nights in Beijing were a whirlwind of trying new foods and talking to new people and trying to figure my way around campus (I did get lost quite a few times). But since then, I have settled in to my classes (Chinese 1 and Global Health) and I have been to Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, and my favorite… The Great Wall. Below are some of my favorite pictures from each excursion.

Tiananmen Square

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing, mountain, outdoor and nature

Erica, Kathy, Cassie, Meg, and I at The Great Wall

The Great Wall is arguably the most impressive things I have ever seen in my life, which would make sense considering it is one of the seven “Wonders of the World.” It way exceeded my expectations both in beautiful views and in the difficulty of climbing the wall itself. I knew we would be doing a fair amount of climbing but I was amazed by how high up the wall took us and even found myself slightly nervous about the height, although it was well worth it.

Additionally, my friends and I have explored other places in Beijing such as Wudaokou, which is a popular area with lots of shopping centers, restaurants, and clubs. Although my classes have been a lot of work, it has been cool to see myself go from only knowing how to say “hello” and “thank you” in Chinese to forming basic sentences and I am looking forward to learning more both inside and outside the classroom in the weeks to come.

A New Adventure!

Hi! My name is Esha, and I am a rising sophomore currently at O’Hare airport about to leave for Beijing, China! I am going to be in the Public Health program at Peking University. I am both nervous and excited at the same time. I have never traveled outside of North America, let alone stayed in a foreign country by myself for eight weeks, so this will certainly be an interesting experience.

I have heard many great study abroad stories from friends and knew it was definitely something I wanted to try while in college. Since I have been taking Chinese in high school and took it my freshman year and Northwestern, I really wanted to travel to China and experience the country and culture for myself. Public health is something I have always been interested in, so this IPD Public Health in China program is the perfect opportunity for me. I am looking forward to meeting new people, learning about public health and traditional Chinese medicine, and exploring Beijing. This program also has many exciting excursions planned, such as the trip to the Forbidden City and Great Wall. I plan on taking many pictures to share back home!

Although there are a lot of new experiences and unknowns ahead of me on this trip, one thing I know for sure is that I will miss my family and friends back in Chicago. Despite this, I know all the unique experiences and adventures will keep me more than busy for the next eight weeks. Right now I am just excited for this adventure to begin!

Observing a Changing Beijing

I’ve been in Beijing now for two weeks, and it’s been an interesting experience navigating throughout the city and taking classes. I came in without having any Chinese knowledge and so could not even say a complete sentence. After taking three hours of classes every week, it feels exciting to put words together and throw them out there in conversations even though they still come out incomprehensible. When I first arrived, I would immediately reach for a bilingual person near me to speak on my behalf. I’ve been pushing myself to spend more time on my own as well so that I’ll only have the Chinese I’ve learned and body language to rely on.

Peking University campus at sunrise

Being used to city life, I’m used to seeing the juxtaposition of old and new. In Beijing, you can almost see the new being constructed over the city at a rapid pace. It’s no wonder that people who have grown up in Beijing tell me that there’s no other city in the world that has changed at this high speed in this millennium. My time in Beijing has become a quest to chase the old and also observe and absorb the new. Innovation and modernization jumps out at me wherever I go- ridesharing apps allow people to use bikes freely throughout the city, payments at food stalls are made through apps, and animated graphics are projected onto subway window screens.

People bustling through a hutong (famous Beijing downtown alleyway) that has been transformed into a commercial spot for stores.

Seeking out the parts of Beijing that are imbued with its traditional identity- even if their physical entities are disappearing- takes more initiative. There’s a Beijing that’s developing by the second that can quickly swallow up any visitor: streets lined up with endless food options, colorful and finely-carved pagodas, and people dressed in unique styles. There’s also another story to Beijing made up of countless stories that can only be found from engaging with people here long enough for them to reveal their Beijing. I’ve also been able to find those stories by walking around different neighborhoods and looking out for the details in each scene I pass through.

New Adventures

Hello! My name is Amy. I am a junior in Weinberg majoring in economics, minoring in global health studies and getting the integrated marketing certificate. My family is from Hangzhou, China, and I was born and raised there until my family moved to Minnesota after I completed third grade. This is my 4th time visiting China after I had moved. I am currently visiting my grandparents in Hangzhou for a week before I head off to Beijing for the Public Health Program. This summer will be a different experience for me, because I will no longer be with my family and will have to learn how to get around in a new city. I feel comfortable communicating with locals and am used to getting around places. However, I hope to improve my reading and writing skills and learn more about Chinese poems and idioms. Additionally, my dad used to work at a hospital in Hangzhou that offered traditional Chinese medicinal practices. I am very interested in learning about the Chinese healthcare system and current problems/trends. I cannot wait to go pick herbs, learn about acupuncture, cupping, and go on excursions to learn more about my own culture!

A famous tourist spot in Hangzhou (QingHeFang)

I intentionally chose to take the bullet train from Hangzhou to Beijing just so I can look out the window and see the change in landscape as the train travels from southern to northern China. Fun fact: the bullet train travels at around 300km per hour!

Tianjin Train Station


Settled and Thriving

Hi! My name is Esther Han and I’m a rising Medill junior currently in the Media & IMC program at Beijing’s Peking University. This is my first time studying abroad, and I’m excited to be here.

A week’s already passed in China and I can confidently say that I’m thriving in this new, foreign land. Can’t say that our daily three-hour Chinese class in the morning is necessarily fun, but the jianbing a few of us eat for breakfast makes up for it. It’s so good and so soft and so cheap!!

Don’t forget to try jianbing before class!

There’s a mall (EC Mall) near campus and an underground supermarket (Carrefour) next to it so my wallet’s been thinning out pretty quickly. Lots to see, lots to eat, lots to buy—little time to be bored.

I was in Seoul for a week before coming to Beijing so jet-lag wasn’t a problem. But I know it took other students at least three to four days, or more, to adjust to the time difference. The key is to sleep! A lot!

Weather’s been a bit unusual because of the rain. For a girl who only brought shorts and forgot an umbrella, it wasn’t the greatest experience in wet, cool weather. I would suggest bringing one or two long-sleeve, thin shirts and a pair of jeans just in case. Oh, and don’t forget to pack an umbrella/raincoat! But if you do, no worries. Umbrellas are cheap here and when it’s raining, you can find them pretty much anywhere you go.

Having fun in this weather by taking photos

Overall I’m very happy to be here and excited for all the adventures to come! There’s still so much to explore and experience, to learn and enjoy. And most importantly, so much more to EAT!