Last Mistake in China...

Kelly Cunningham
December 10, 2015
"Morning" at Tiananmen

Today (or I guess I should say yesterday because its 6:44am now), we graduated the IES Abroad Beijing program. Dressed in the nicest clothes we brought to China, everyone said their thank yous, shared memories, and took lots of pictures. This entire week has felt completely ordinary--the only exception being everyone talking about how soon we're leaving. Though I've been going through the motions, it still hasn't hit me. 

After the graduation we ate Peking duck with our teachers, tutors, and classmates. I went back to my dorm and finished packing, got a massage with one of my close friends, and then went to dinner at our favorite spot with some other friends. I started to cry a bit after reading a letter my friend wrote me. A random student in the elevator stared at me. We came back to the dorms where almost everyone was hanging out between the kitchen and Ping-Pong room and ate snacks. Our RA brought out a guitar and starting playing "Wonderwall" in the hallway. Eventually some of us went out. I was surprised when all the roommates showed up an hour or so later. Once I got back to the dorms there were more people saying their goodbyes, still singing in the hallway, and starting to tear up. 

My friend, Rosalie, and I had heard about the daily sunrise flag raising ceremony held at Tiananmen Square. And here's where my last mistake comes in. We heard the ceremony began at 5:30am. So we left campus at 5 (there's hardly any traffic in Beijing around this time), managed to get a cab, and got dropped off just a bit down the street. On the way there, I saw Beijing lit up at night while an instrumental version of "El Condor Pasa" played. There were flutes and it was the perfect way to start my last experience in China. 

Once we arrived we found out quickly from one of the vendors that the ceremony didn't actually take place until 7:20. You know, when the sun actually rises. In all the excitement of the evening I had failed to recognize the problem of having a sunrise ceremony take place at 5:30am in December. We walked to the gate anyway and asked the guard who confirmed that, yes, we were indeed very early. He suggested we eat breakfast first and then come back. We walked around the front of the Forbidden City for a while, laughing at our mistake and taking pictures of Mao's portrait in the dark, but eventually decided against staying. Not only because of the two hour wait and the cold, but also because most of the roommates started class at 8am and we had promised to say goodbye. We got in a cab again, no music on the way back. 

As cool as it would have been to see the ceremony, I'm almost sort of glad I didn't. Making mistakes, making the best out of poor planning, and being with good friends through the whole process is one of the most emblematic themes of my time here in Beijing. I've learned so much about China and the Chinese language, but I've also gained insight on myself--the roles I play in groups, my good and bad qualities--.yet most of all, I really came to appreciate how far kindness will get you. So many of the people I've met here have such an amazing ability to care for and about others. Whether it's cheering them up on a bad day, offering advice, or making sure everyone gets home safe, my classmates and the Chinese roommates at IES Abroad have shown kindness in the smallest and biggest of ways. 

I'll stop before I start getting too cliché (also I'm going to start with some of those goodbyes I was talking about), but I've had a great experience studying abroad here in China and I couldn't have done it alone. 

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Kelly Cunningham

<p>My name is Kelly Cunningham and I am a Chinese Studies and English major at DePaul University. I love everything about languages-reading them, writing with them, speaking them, etc. I&#39;m studying abroad to improve my Chinese and learn more about the culture.</p>

2015 Fall
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Chinese Language
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