As my friends at Wabash returned to our campus for another semester of liberal arts education, I realized that I’ve been in Beijing for a little bit less than a month now. I still clearly remember the excitement I felt when I was taking a taxi from the Beijing Capital International Airport to my Chaoyang apartment. Since my host, Khurram Tahir’01, was travelling at that time, I was completely on my own for the first 10 days. I have to admit that I was a little bit nervous knowing that I will have to face language and cultural barriers without any form of organized assistance. However, I thought that there is a unique value to this challenging experience. “If I can make it here within the next few weeks, I will be able to make it anywhere” I thought during the cab ride.

It turned out that with the help of Beijing friends I made during my first few days here, I was soon on my way to pursuing my January and February goals. Because my study abroad program at Fudan University doesn’t start until March, I wanted to primarily learn as much Mandarin as possible within those two months, acquire a better understanding of the Chinese culture, get to know Beijing, and prepare for the part-time BD Medical Shanghai internship.

I’ve been taking Mandarin classes for over three weeks now. Thanks to my very good teachers, I am already able to communicate a little bit in Chinese. This has been very helpful to my survival here, from everyday grocery shopping to trying to strike up very simple conversations with the wedding guests. It also helped me during my exploration of Beijing. As the capital of China and home to 12 million inhabitants, Beijing offers quite a lot, almost anything can be found here. On Sunday, for example, I attended afternoon mass in English at one of the Beijing Catholic churches. So far, my experience here has been very positive. I’m looking forward to spending one more month in Beijing. This weekend I will be finishing up my Dill Grant application, which I really hope will allow me to study Mandarin in China in the summer prior to my return on the campus.