Back to SummaryBinna Kim - Student Profile
Dirty water. Unsafe food practices. Smog. Communism... Those are the words we typically associate with China. Those are the words that clouded my mind as I boarded the plane to China. Staring out the tiny fog-ridden window, I bid farewell to what I knew as comfortable and convenient. For the next three months, I was going to have to throw myself into the ring of fire and hope I survived. As you could see, I didn’t expect much from China. In fact, I was preparing myself to be deprived of all things nice. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My experience in China was sprinkled with bits and pieces of beauty, love, and life. It’s true that China has dirty water, unsafe food practice, and smog. (China actually is a socialist country, not communist, despite popular belief). But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you just have to open your eyes to the things happening in China.
A trip that really rejuvenated me from the inside out was our Bing Trip to Taishan (Tai Mountains). The administrators told us that there would be minimal hiking involved, so of course all of us packed pretty much everything we ever thought we would need in the wilderness. Surprise, the “light hiking” involved 2 hours up the mountain, 30 minutes down the mountain, and another 45 minutes back up the mountain to our hotel. If that’s light, I don’t know what to call a walk around the Dish. The view from the top of the mountain made every gasp for air so worth it, though. It was amazing to find a piece of nature that withstands the smoggy air and the crowded, bustling life of China’s streets. What I found to be especially beautiful were the small daisies that grew on the side of the rocky cliffs. No one maintains the cliffs, nor do they intentionally plant these delicate little flowers there. But they were full in bloom, and it made me realize just how well Mother Nature takes care of her own.
You can’t help but fall in love with China and its rich culture. From the Great Wall to modern life, there’s a lot of pain, suffering, and restoration in China’s history. Everywhere you go, you see a mix of the old and the new. I was skeptical that I would be able to learn much about China’s history, given their recent push to become modernized. But that’s where my classes really came into play. I took a course on Chinese Media, and this class challenged me to see China differently. Our professor started off the first lecture by asking us to throw out words or phrases we felt summed up the media. “Communist, censorship, restrictive, controlling, etc. etc.” The list was fairly long, and let me tell you, not many of these phrases put China in a good light. However, as the quarter went on, we learned why the media is the way it is today, and why the form has survived throughout time. At the end of the quarter, we closed our last lecture with the same activity. “Complicated” was the only good answer any of us could come up with. China’s history really plays into the lifestyle of today’s people.
Our day-to-day life was fantastic! The cost of living in China is super low, so we lived very comfortably during our time there. You could get a good, hearty breakfast for 1 USD. Where else could you get a deal that awesome?! The cafeteria food at Peking University was also subsidized by the government, so lunch was also around 2 USD maximum. What we loved were the fruit stands that sold pomelo and tangerines. We loved going shopping and bargaining for things. Taxi rides were also very affordable, especially if you were in the outskirts of town. All in all, money was never an issue for any of us. We loved purchasing food off the streets, although we were thoroughly warned by our administrators that those foods may not be the healthiest things to eat. Meat skewers are delicious, though, and very addictive.
China definite taught me to think and reflect a lot, especially in terms of counting my blessings. It was one wild ride, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The friends I made, the food I ate, the places I saw... They all contributed to making my quarter abroad in China amazing. I hope that I gave you a small yet enticing glimpse of what could be your life in China!