Beijing Normal University, China
How it Started
I chose to go to Beijing Normal University (BNU), because I wanted to get better at speaking Chinese. I felt that being immersed in a country that spoke Chinese would be one of the best ways for me to learn it. I was right, becauseI went from not knowing how to say the word "homework" in Chinese to being able to hold a conversation by the end of my semester in Beijing.
The accommodations at BNU were superb. There are three dorms (called "Student Apartotels") that international students can choose to live in. I lived in Student Apartotel No. 3, which had maids who came in every day to clean our rooms. I personally really appreciated this aspect of my accommodation. I would practice my Chinese with them, and they were very nice about it. On the first floor of my building, there was a McDonald's for those of us who had a late night craving for some Western food for a change. There was also a massage shop on the basement floor that was my favorite place to go after a hard workout in the gym. It was less than ten dollars for an hour of traditional Chinese massage. I had my own bedroom, and I shared a living space and a bathroom with my Korean suitemate. The rooms came with a refrigerator, a couch, a television with mostly Chinese shows, a bed with sheets and a water heater, among other things.
There were a few trips that BNU prepared for their exchange students during my stay, and one of the trips was to the Great Wall. A lot of my friends were going, and it was free, so I decided to go. There were nine huge buses full of students that traveled to the Great Wall that day, so it was a great opportunity to be able to meet other students from all over the world eager to learn about the Chinese culture and language. It was a beautiful day. The sky was blue and the mountain air was fresh and crisp. We could not have asked for a better day to take a trip to the Great Wall. It was an amazing experience to be able to walk along the path of such a historic monument that dates back for thousands of years.
My favorite thing about my study abroad experience in Beijing was the everyday life that I had there. I loved being a part of the city. I loved interacting with the people of Beijing, practicing the new Chinese words that I learned that day. I loved being a regular at restaurants where the servers recognized me and asked me how to say words in English. I loved working out in a gym along side other Chinese people listening to American pop music. I loved drinking tea and conversing with a Chinese cashier at an on-campus grocery store. I loved going to coffee shops with other exchange students and studying Chinese with them. It was an amazing experience being immersed in a city so rich in culture and hospitality.