The importance of experiencing “real Beijing”
(or at least what is outside of Wudaokou….)
On numerous times I have heard fellow classmates tell me that they are heading home soon and in their whole time here they haven’t done anything except for activities based in Wudaokou.
Alarm bells go off in my head! I think to myself…. your about to leave a country that has thousands of years of history without experiencing one single cultural or historical site? Wow!
Many people don’t seem to realise what an opportunity they have when they come to Beijing to experience something that will be unlike anything else they can experience in the world.
I understand that walking around the Forbidden City, seeing the Great Wall or visiting a temple may not be of interest to many people but I find it so disappointing to hear that they haven’t tried to experience or understand a few things about Chinese culture during their time in Beijing.
Learning a language is not just about listening, speaking, reading and writing, it’s about understanding the culture, the history, the people and the country. You can only gain that from venturing out, talking to people, listening, smelling, watching….
It wasn’t until later in life that I realised what the value of travel meant and what it can do for you in your career or life journey. When you have seen sights or had unique experiences around the world it puts you on a different level; you can engage with others in deep conversations, you understand different cultures better, you have a better appreciation and understanding of your own self, the list goes on.
I still look quite young and in my job I am often dealing with very experienced, well-travelled and much older business men and women. To be honest the conversation is always similar, they think I am some young girl who doesn’t have much to bring to the table. Once I start talking about my experiences in China, what I’ve seen and where I have been, suddenly their view of me changes. They can’t wait to hear more and suddenly I am now viewed in a different light.
Lately I’ve even had the Professor of a local university contact me as he heard that I have had many experiences in China and wants to hear my thoughts to assist with facilitating an upcoming conference on the Gold Coast about the China Dream.
Now could I have earned this experience from spending my month in Wudaokou? Definitely not.
As great as it is, Wudaokou is not the “real” Beijing, it is a relatively new city, full of international students, science parks and residential accommodation. The “real” Beijing can be found down in the Hutongs, around the laneways, inside temples, cultural and historical sites. Once you start to explore it really is amazing what is in this city.
As such, I want to encourage everyone who comes to Wudaokou to study to make a promise to themselves (and me and the CSA team) to at least try and experience a few things outside of Wudaokou. Perhaps it could be a promise to yourself to try one new thing a week, one new thing a month, whatever it is, you may not realise the value of it now, but trust me there will be a time when you can look back and think wow! There really is something for everyone here; you just need to step outside and do it!