I've been back in the United States for almost three weeks now, and in a strange way it feels like nothing has changed back home other than myself. There's construction on the highway and my family moved a new couch into the living room, but otherwise nothing seems that new. I've been happy to experience all the things I missed about America, but other things have made me notice what I already miss about being in Beijing. Here are the top five things I missed about America and the top five things I miss about Beijing
Top Five Things I Missed About America:
1. People- I missed my friends and family more than I can express in words while I was studying abroad. It's hard not having your best friend a phone call away or your little sister just down the hall. I knew I was going to miss them while studying abroad, but I never noticed how much of my life involved them until they weren't there. Sure, we skyped and texted, but between time zones and our busy schedules it was hard to feel like I wasn't missing out at times.
2. Soap!- In China, most public bathrooms don't have soap. Only the one in our dorm reguarly had some and my habit of reaching for the soap dispenser hadn't died out while I was in China. In addition, not having to carry around toliet paper is another American-bathroom plus.
3. The El- This is a Chicago-specific one, but I really missed riding the El while I was in China. I was never a fan of subways (I feel like a mole being underground and popping up in a different spot of the city), but the majority of public trains in Chicago are elevated and run in line with buildings. Being directionally challeged, seeing where I was going helped my sense of direction the way subway maps never could.
4. Grocery Stores- I forgot how quickly grocery shopping goes when I can read everything on the label, understand promotions, and the organization of the store. It was fun adventuring and trying new foods without expectations, but with my allergies and other dietary restrictions, I can say I missed having control over what I eat.
5. Space- The hardest thing for me about living in Beijing was the lack of space. Everything is crowded and its hard to go anywhere without being around at least a few other people. Even though Chicago is a big city, it's completely possible to walk down a residental street and be alone. Having my own room, car, and just in general a little more privacy, are among the things I felt that were lacking about my life in Beijing.
Top Five Things I Miss about China
1. People- In addition to my fabulous roommate ( I MISS HER SO MUCH), I became close with so many other roommates, my tutor, and the families I taught English to. Their parting gifts and notes were among some of the sweetest I've ever recieved in my life, and I know I want to go back to China even if it's just visiting. The friends I made through IES Abroad are another group I'll never forget, but fortunately a lot of the close friends I made go to Northwestern so I'll be able to see them once school starts up again.
2. Food- I loved Chinese food. Yes I missed American things like ice cream and cheese (that's about it though), but real Chinese food is something I don't know how to find in the United States. I bought a book the other day on how to cook Chinese food so we'll see how that turns out.
3. Food Stands- I know I just said I miss food in China and that I missed grocery shopping in America, but I count this as a seperate thing. There aren't as many places in the United States where one can buy just a bubble tea, frozen yogurt treat, or a snack-sized entree dishes. Sure, there's fast food, but those places also sell full meals and rarely fresh fruit. Eating was an important social event in China and not being able to Daobao or grab something from Seven Fruit is something I miss about China.
4. Cross-Country Transportation- I disliked taking the subway, but when it comes to options for traveling across the country, China has got it figured out. Buses, trains, high speed trains and of course, airplanes make it possible to get from one end of the country to another and back in a relatively easy manner. Most cities public transportation is pretty easy to figure out and can take almost anywhere. In America, without a car it's hard to get around, even in some of the larger cities.
5. Speaking Chinese!- I've caught myself a couple times now saying "mei wen ti" instead of "no problem" and telling my friends that traffic is so "ma fan". They give me a confused look and I have to go back and explain what I meant in English. I don't have many other friends who speak Chinese, so until I find a new langauge partner at school, but WeChatting my roommate will have to cut it.
I learned a lot while studying abroad and I still am. Adjusting to living back home has taught me a lot about the differences and similarites between the two countries, but it's also shown me some surprising things about myself and the roles I play with my friends and family. I said that nothing seemed to have change much back home, but I know that I have and in a way that changes everything.
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<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'm studying abroad to improve my Chinese and learn more about the culture.</p>