Three, Two, One.Beijing, Summer 2013

I spent the last three weeks in three different time zones, in three homes—two of which I called my own—and one country.

I started out at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa; a place no one knows about unless they’ve spent some considerable time looking at small liberal arts schools. It’s located in the land of remnant prairie fields and agriculture, and it’s a special place. After spring semester finals I went back in time two hours by taking a plane to Oregon, where I grew up. For ten short days I had lunch dates and sleepovers and car rides and nights out with old friends. It was… a lot. On the one hand, it was exciting to see so many familiar faces in a week and a half instead of piecemeal over the whole summer. On the other, it made for a whirlwind trip home. Rewind three more hours from Pacific Time and I’m in Honolulu, Hawai’i, where I’m writing from now. One of my best friends from college lives here, and I was lucky enough to visit her before embarking on my trip to China.

Unlike maybe some of the other summer bloggers, my time abroad won’t end in August. I’ll be a student at Beijing Foreign Studies University in the language intensive program for back-to-back terms (from summer to fall, June to December).

To be honest, I have no idea what to expect for the next six months. I’ve never left the United States before. I only know a few things about Chinese culture, history, and politics, and not nearly enough about the language, even though I’ve been studying it for a year. I’ve been trying to find the words to describe my feelings about the whole thing for weeks. I guess it’s kind of like graduation. You work long and hard towards it, studying for forever, going through all the necessary motions, keeping a mental countdown until the big day arrives. Then suddenly the wait is over. You celebrate what you’ve accomplished, and you spend some time wondering what will come next. You probably know your itinerary, but really you have no idea what’s going to happen. The world is about to get a lot bigger. Things are about to get a little harder, if you’ll let them. You think about it a little too much, and the days leading up grow cottony with anticipation and summer heat.

All that will be over soon, though. In a few days, time will fast-forward (appropriately enough) and I’ll touch down in Beijing. I’ll forget about all my complicated expectations, and I’ll be swept up by orientation, and meeting new people, and speaking a new language and a million other things I can’t foresee. So, here I go.

Three, two, one.

三二一。

 

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