Nathalie B., China – Chinese in Beijing (English)


ACADEMICS

  1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB? 
    I decided to study abroad in China to supplement my Chinese minor, and the classes that I took at Peking University were language courses. Compared to UCSB, the semester system was harder to keep track of in terms of figuring out what was coming next, but I did appreciate having more time to work on some chapters. Because the program was intensive, classes were rigorous and longer than regular language classes at UCSB.
  2. What was your favorite class abroad? 
    My favorite class abroad was my 汉语课 because my professor was most engaged with the class and often tied in popular culture, Chinese culture, Chinese politics, and Chinese history alongside the curriculum.
  3. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad?  If so, tell us about your experience.
    Because my program was intensive, I did not intern.

HOST INSTITUTION

  1. How would you describe your host institution?
    The campus is bigger than UCSB with about 15,000 undergraduates and 25,000 postgraduates. It definitely took some time figuring out where everything was located. The campus is about 40 minutes from the city center and an hour from the airport depending on traffic.
  2. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?
    There was a club fair a couple of weeks into the semester. It was open to anyone who was interested in joining one of the available clubs. Because of the program, I didn’t have any classes with Chinese students in the university, joining clubs is the best way to meet other students in the university. There is also an opportunity to find a language partner, where a Chinese student will help you with your Chinese, and in return you will help them out with their English.

HOUSING

  1. Describe your housing situation.
    I opted for student housing, because it was simple to obtain, I just needed to include on the application that I wanted student housing. Rent was about 500 a month and I had my own furnished room with a shared living and bathroom with another student. The only downside is that there is no kitchen, however because food in the canteen on campus and anywhere in China is so cheap, eating out was a nice way to be further immersed in the culture. The global village is directly across the street from campus and it only took 10 minutes to walk to class from my dorm.

FOOD

  1. Where did you eat most of your meals?
    I mostly ate at the canteens on campus because the food was delicious and affordable. Some nights if my friends and I were craving something else, we’d go into another neighborhood to eat whatever we were craving (hotpot, Italian, Mexican, etc.).
  1. How much was an average meal?  Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?
    Canteen food is very affordable, anywhere between $1-$5 for an entire meal including fruit or dessert. Eating out could get pricier, but it depends on where you go.
  2. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?
    My friend Lindsay is vegan and we would eat together everyday. I definitely noticed that her options were limited, but still doable. About a month in, we did find restaurants that were either all vegan or carried vegan options, and those were fun to check out.
  3. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.
    My most memorable dining experience abroad was one of the vegan restaurants we checked out. A couple of the girls in my class and I decided to go for brunch. It was one of our first outings together so overall it was a memorable experience and it was nice that everyone was able to eat everything on the menu. The restaurant is also located in one of China’s Hutongs, so it was interesting to see such a modern restaurant situated in a historical neighborhood.
  4. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?
    There are these fried noodles that the canteen does in mala flavor that I will never find anywhere else. Also 冰红茶.


HOST CITY

  1. Describe your host city.
    Beijing is so big, there are still so many parts of the city that I have yet to explore. Although Beijing is definitely not as diverse as California, I was surprised by how diverse it was.
  2. Was it easy to get around?
    Transportation around Beijing was easy to navigate. They have a very nice subway and bus system that is very affordable. They also have many taxis and an Uber equivalent. Be careful with taxi’s though, they are notorious for scamming foreigners.
  1. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?
    I felt relatively safe in Beijing. The only negative experiences I had both happened in one night. I had my phone in my back pocket while I was out and was almost pickpocketed. But when I felt that my phone was being lifted, I yelled. I definitely startled the guy, and grabbed my phone back from out of his hand. From then on I always had a small purse on me and carried my phone in there. The second negative experience happened later that night when I left to go meet a date from a dating app. When I met him, the person in front of me was not the person I had agreed to meet. I had been catfished. I asked him where he got his photos from and he said the internet. I left immediately.
  2. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?
    Seeing as many historical sites as I could was definitely a must. But overall, just going out into the city with friends, trying out new places to eat, and getting to know my classmates made exploring Beijing so much fun. My most memorable experience was hiking and camping on the Great Wall. I went in the fall, so the leaves were shades of red and yellow. It was my second time camping ever, but the tour group provided everything. Being able to see the sunrise on top of a historical site was breathtaking. I also called my Granddad while I was up there and it was nice being able to share a moment like that together.


HOST CULTURE

  1. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.
    A big cultural difference that affected me was how China is becoming a cashless economy. After I arrived, my first couple of days paying for anything was very difficult. Some places would not accept cash at all or they didn’t have change. I was also not able to swipe any of my cards. Most people in China pay through payment apps on their phone (Wechat or Alipay). To have access to these apps you need to have a Chinese bank account. After I opened a Chinese bank account it made traveling within China and paying for everything a lot easier.
  2. How did you handle culture shock?
    I utilized the UCEAP center a lot, I spent time with the other UC students in my program, and I called my friends and family back home often.
  3. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?
    My favorite aspect of my host’s culture was the diversity in Chinese cuisine. Because the country is so large, their own culture is very diverse across the region.


TRAVEL

  1. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.
    Before the program came to an end, a couple of the girls in my program and I decided to visit Shanghai. We took the bullet train and we were there for the weekend. Shanghai was a lot of fun because of how different and new to us it was in comparison to Beijing. Shanghai also has a really unique culture because of all the concessions from the past. I was able to meet up with my old classmate from elementary and middle school, and he took us out for dinner. We also contacted the other UCEAP advisor in Shanghai and were able to meet up with some of the UCEAP Shanghai students for dinner. It was a fun weekend, and it was great to share our different experiences.


REFLECTION

  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?
    My biggest fear was that I was going to have a hard time meeting people aside from the students in the program. Little did I know that Peking University has a very large and diverse population of students from all over the world, I was really fortunate that I not only made really close friends from the program but also made really good friends with people from all over the world.
  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

    First day was the hardest. I had a difficult time getting to the dorms because of the language barrier. Despite Beijing being an international city, it is only in very touristy/foreigner friendly areas where you can expect people to speak more English. Also, the staff that works at the front desk of the Global Village have minimal English language skills. I was very confused and frustrated while trying to get settled in after a long international flight. But after that first day, and after the start of classes, my time there got a lot easier.
  2. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?
    I feel like I can take on any challenge now. I can overcome language barriers and I can overcome culture shock. If I was able to navigate myself in a foreign country, on the first day without cellular service, wifi, or any payment apps, I can figure anything out now.
  3. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?
    Put in the effort to make the most out of this experience. I wouldn’t have had the experience of drinking 2000 RMB tea with young professionals from Hong Kong and talking about the Hong Kong protests with them if I didn’t go out and make the effort to do things during my free time.


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