Experience A New Way Of Life

Brenda Martinez
Global & International Studies Major
Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU), Fall 2017

I traveled to China to study abroad in Beijing, one of the largest cities in the world for a semester all by myself. My study abroad experience had to be one of the hardest challenges I have faced in my years at Western Michigan University. I had to assimilate to a different culture including the way they eat, policies, and currency.

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Waking up in China everyday were new days that presented challenges like eating with chopsticks, overcoming language barriers, and being home sick. Everyday was quite difficult but in Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU),there are many foreigners whom are also learning this new way of assimilation, so I did not feel so alone. During lunch rush hour, one must first find a seat very fast, set up our backpacks and then get our food. Because students got out at noon, their was not much lines but you must be really fast with getting what you wanted. During the afternoon I will head to the coffee shop on campus or venture out of campus. The coffee shop is one of the places that felt like home while meeting international Chinese students.  They wanted to know about each others culture and at that time we had different opinions on our beliefs.

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Something that was new to me was using a VPN to try to get into American sites online. VPN is used for online websites that the government blocks so a VPN can open up these American websites. This made it hard to communicate with my family and friends. I could not log on to my Snapchat,  Facebook, Google, Netflix and YouTube. It was also difficult when I had to switch my phone to a Chinese number because the VPN did not work well at times. One thing I loved were the Chinese apps Wechat, Kangaroo and Ta Bao. Using WeChat, I can call my parents, facetime and pay for items. I never had cash on me. Using Kangaroo I ordered food to be delivered to my dorm for a low cost. Ta Bao was used to order online gifts for $2.00.

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During the weekend I got on the subway and went to tourist sites. I will use my GPS and go with friends or by myself. My favorite area had to be the Great Wall of China. The wall’s construction and viewing the length of the wall was an amazing experience. I could only imagine the history of the wall and what it took to build the wall. My other favorite site was wangfujing.  The food was very different from the States.  There, I tried a scorpion for my first time and I was bargaining for cheaper prices. At first, is was harder to communicate then at the beginning of the semester but later on I was a better bargainer without need any assistance.

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Looking back on my experience I can say I’m very proud of myself for challenging myself in regards traveling and seeing the culture first hand, not just reading about it in a book or viewing it on YouTube. I encourage students to not be afraid and stay open minded in meeting new friends. There is nothing like the United States but this is a reason why one travels to a different country, to experiences a new way of life.

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