As an economics major it didn't seem there was any place better suited for me than China-the fastest growing economy in the world. It was really exciting, then, when I found out I could study at Peking University through the Beijing Program of Asian Studies. Not only did I make a lot of good friends I still keep in touch with, but I learned to appreciate a different way of life.
This picture was taken at the Shanghai silk market during the Chinese New Year, shopping with some friends. The market was impressive in a lot of ways-the history, the tradition-but most of all I was impressed by the incredibly large labor force and their unprecedented ability to manufacture and export goods.
From my first experience in China I began to realize how small the world can be. This picture is in the Forbidden City with my roommate at Peking University, Charlie. Charlie wasn't just another unfamiliar face in a new place, though. In fact, he's really good friends with one of my roommates here at Gordon, and I'd met him in New Jersey once before we were randomly assigned as roommates in China. I knew he was going to be in China at the same time, but I didn't think I'd run into him. I mean, really, the chances are about one in 1.4 billion.
You might recognize this monstrous library. It happened to be on TV this August as the Olympic marathon runner raced by it. It's actually one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of China, and it's right on the Peking University campus. I ventured into the library a few times, but I've got to admit it was pretty intimidating. Not only the sheer amount of books, but the number of people that were normally in there.
It was crazy being in Beijing while they were getting ready for the Olympics. There was a lot of traffic and construction everywhere, which kind of took away from the traditional parts of Beijing in some places. It was really cool, though, to see the Bird's Nest and other Olympic facilities as they were being built and prepared. The whole airport terminal we left from had been built solely for the Olympics. After I got back it was surreal to see on TV the places I'd lived in and around.
This is a shot of dorm life in Beijing. Charlie, our friend Max and I spent a lot of time together. We didn't hang out in the dorms or on campus too much, though. Max and I usually went to Korean Friday in Beijing to get sushi. We also spent a lot of time DVD shopping and wandering around the city taking in the culture.
We were just three of 30,000 students attending Peking University, 2,000 of which were housed in the international dorm with us. The school was full of intelligent and diligent students as Peking is known as "the Harvard of China."
This is a place we liked to call "snack street," mostly because that's way easier to say than Wan-fu Jing. It's high in shopping during the day and full of crazy foods during the night (as seen here). I even tried to eat a cockroach here. One experience was definitely enough.
I spent 15 days in Shanghai for the Chinese New Year Festival in February. It pays to have connections as we got to stay with my friend Tracy's aunt and uncle who live in a 30th-floor penthouse in downtown Shanghai. The fireworks went off right outside our window. Not only that, but we could see them going off all around the city for 36 hours straight.
This is also from my time in Shanghai for the New Year Festival. We went to the trendy shopping district area for a day. This part of China was much more Western than we were used to. It was actually a little frustrating to have everything in English in Shanghai because we had gotten so used to the Chinese. This area was much more of an international tourist destination. You could tell they valued having Westerners there, if only for their money.
The preparation of Peking duck-the most famous and most delicious Chinese dish in Beijing. It's known as a Beijing specialty. We had it at lots of different restaurants, but at this particular one Max ate the head of the duck. It's supposed to be a good omen or something, although I think that might be more of a tourist trend than an actual tradition.
Hopefully you recognize this one-I mean, you can see it from space. You can't really tell this from the picture, but it actually snowed the day we were there. You can look at pictures of the Great Wall all you want, but it was a whole different experience having a snowball fight on it.
There aren't many art galleries in Beijing, but this is a pretty famous one: the 798 Art Gallery. It was usually filled with avant-garde people dressed in black. This artist started talking to me because he had a moustache and I had a moustache. I didn't learn too much Chinese while in Beijing because of the difficult tones, but I learned enough to get by and roughly communicate with some of the people.
I was really impressed by everything we went to see: Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and this-the old summer palace-among other things. We really learned a lot about the Chinese culture by getting out and experiencing it-at the request of our professors. I would definitely say I learned a lot while in China, but the majority of it wasn't in the classroom. I was floored by how long everything has been around and how much value the Chinese people place on history and ancestors.
With so many things to see and experience at all of the cultural centers and historic landmarks, it was great to experience them with a group of students from all over the United States. In addition to learning a lot about Chinese culture and having the opportunity to study economics in the fastest growing economy in the world, I met a lot of great people I keep in touch with back here in the states. Quite a few of the 70 students in the program came from schools right in Boston and now give me an excuse to spend more time in the city. It's been great to be able to visit them. I've also come to appreciate the freedom and opportunity I have as a white, liberal arts college student. Zaijian!