Giants the size of cities live in Tibet. They’re hidden, of course, underneath vast, thick blankets of yellow and brown topsoil, sparse shrubbery, and the occasional concrete road, but they’re there—sleeping. Underneath their godlike bedding, they look like mountains to us, so that’s what we call them. Their bodies sprawl for miles, creating long, breathtaking ranges, and at night their gargantuan heads quickly emerge to drink from startling blue glacial rivers in serpentine valleys.
Admittedly, I never actually saw any of these creatures for the ten days I was there, so I could be wrong about what’s actually stirring beneath the Himalayan mountain range. Regardless, it’s a magical place.
Our group, comprised of various IES students from programs all over China, arrived after a two-day train ride, which was an adventure in itself. I made friends with a young Tibetan woman in my compartment. She was interested in learning English, so we taught each other body parts. “Knee,” she’d say, pointing. “Xīgài” I replied, and we carried on until we could name everything, heel to hair.
We arrived first in Lhasa, the capital of the province, where we met our tour guide. He stayed with us for the whole trip, right up until we went to board our return flight to Beijing. He was fantastic. Trip highlights included hiking up to 16,000 feet, seeing massive, ornate Buddha statues in even more intricately designed monasteries, and camping beside a remote Tibetan village in the Himalayas. Aside from the sites, though, the IES mobile learning trip was just that: mobile learning. I learned so much more about Tibetan religion, politics, and culture than I ever expected to—all the while practicing Chinese with one of the IES language teachers who tagged along for the trip. (Some of my favorite photos are below).
Now that it’s September, the fall term has officially started here at 北外. Looking back now, I’ve come a long way since June. I remember my second night here, thinking, what am I doing? Is it too late to back out? The pollution was awful, I didn’t even know how to order food, and 北外 seemed like it had a lot more rules than my home university. I didn’t even need to learn Chinese for my major, and I honestly hadn’t been very successful learning it during my first two semesters in America. At first, I felt a little in over my head. Ultimately, though, all of those fears were short-lived.
Most of the time, I was so caught up in everything happening here that I didn’t miss home at all. The language classes, traveling, and my personal choice to privately teach English kept me at least as busy as I am at Grinnell College. More than that, the semester was a lot of fun. I made close friends with my professors because the class sizes were so small, and the hardest things, like ordering food, making friends, and finding a niche, all got easier within a few weeks.
Since I’m only a summer blogger, this is my last post. However, I’ll be an IES Beijing student throughout the fall semester, too, so if you have any questions about the program or anything, please email me! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I’m from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where I lived almost my whole life before I moved to Iowa to study English, East Asia, and pre-medicine at Grinnell College. I'm a third-year now, and for me that means I'm ready for a change in scenery. When I make the time, I like reading newspaper columns, writing, and hiking when it’s sunny. I love eating warm chocolate muffins with milk. I've never left the states before, so my head is full of what I'm sure are one-dimensional impressions of Beijing. I'm eager for those impressions to become 3D, and I can’t wait to share what I learn living abroad this summer!</span></p>