After my first day of class I’m finding that I’m no longer so terrified of being here. For so long I just didn’t want to come, all I could think about was how much I would miss home, and miss out on what all my friends would be doing. Especially as many of my friends would graduate this year leaving me to make new friends in the year below. At the time this seemed so daunting: how was I supposed to make friends with people who had already forged groups and were probably quite happy as they were? However, I’ve been reminded how easy I find it to make friends, and so some of that worry has slipped away. Of course I will still miss the friends I’ve spent the last two years with, and my friends back home, and those also on their year abroad, but good friends will always stay with you, so again my worry seems to slip away a little there. And with all these stresses that held me back turning out to be not so stressful, I’m starting to see just how much fun I’m going to have this year.
Today I made a new friend. I forgot how exciting that can be. You also forget how lovely people can be, and just how quickly strangers can become friends. You have so much to talk about. Everything about you is new to them, and they are completely new to you. It’s exciting to hear about other countries and cultures, you learn things you never knew you never knew.
I got to ride on the back of their motor-scooter too, it was so much fun. I never quite understood how exciting it is to feel the wind in your hair as you zoom about the place. However, I won’t be getting one myself. Although they are 2000 yuan to buy and come in various colours, I am all too aware of the possible dangerous consequences of such a vehicle. So even though it was exhilarating, I think I’ll try and stick to the safer forms of transport.
But back to new friends: it’s pretty simple to make a new friend really. You exchange names, add them on WeChat (when it works… Mine is acting up at the moment and it’s rather frustrating) and there you go, you’re chatting away about your life stories’. It really makes you feel less alone to know you’re not the only one who sobbed their eyes out on the first night. Funnily enough most people feel quite similarly when taken to a foreign country on the other side of the world and left to get on with it.
I’ve been very lucky though. I have to say that between the support of my parents, family, friends, and some wonderful people back in the UK who made the first few days so much easier. Knowing people have your back, even when they are thousands of miles away, makes all the difference. I want to thank them all for their help, I really couldn’t have done this without you all. It makes me think of all the people who have had to go to a foreign country and just deal with it all on their own. They are truly strong people.
Class went well today, it wasn’t too challenging, but we have been told we will advance quickly. I’m actually looking forward to it. For a while I think I forgot what it felt like to enjoy studying a language, which I feel awful about, but it’s true. It just became something I did, not because I loved it, but because I didn’t find it too difficult. Coming to Beijing again, I think I’m rediscovering my love of language. In school Chinese was my thing, I was the only one in my year studying it, and I loved every second. However, as I discovered other things I loved, like film, philosophy and classics, and I lost the passion I had so diligently perused for three successful years. Now I am forced to look at it again, and remember all the things I loved so much about learning a language, and what’s more: learning a language in its native country. All the amazing things I had forgotten about, like being able to communicate with 1,197,000,000 more people than I could before, and being able to gain a better understanding of another culture, of many cultures really, I am now remembering more clearly. It was a shame, and I knew that at the time, but other things just felt so much more important. Now I have a chance to focus on language again, on studying Mandarin, and I finally find myself honestly smiling in class and enthused about it all again. Two weeks ago the last thing I wanted was to leave my home country for a year, now I’m so glad I’m here. It sounds cringe, but I think it’s not just my love of language I’m ready to rediscover, but I’m ready to rediscover myself too.
This may just be a high point, it will likely all come crashing down on me at some point. Homesickness will hit, and I’ll spend several hours sobbing, and honestly believing everything is bleaker than it ever has been before. But I’ve gotten over the first hurdle. It’s done. Now I can focus on all the amazing places I get to visit, the people I’ll get to meet, and the many other challenges I have yet to face. The adventure has truly begun, and nothing is better than a good adventure. The best part however, is that I know everyone I care about will be there to support me, as I will support them, through good days and bad, every step of the way.