I still remember vividly exactly 21 weeks ago, when I first received the offer from Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) to study intensive mandarin Chinese for 12 Weeks course. And I would ask myself again and again if I would be able to survive the most populous city and known to be one of the most air polluted city too, considering that I have asthma (recurring periods of wheezing in bad air and environment) and I did not know anyone else except for (2) office colleagues in Beijing that I have only communicated with via email who has helped me to advise about places to live and would help me to settle in.
However, I took the biggest courage after reading a few student blogs and videos of their experiences in BLCU, spoke to a few friends and family, and considered the experiences of friends who have studied and lived in Beijing. I was reminded of my goals and the dreams that I had to achieve. I have always wondered what would have been if I could live and study Mandarin in the city that the main language is from! And I just said to myself, why not it's just 3 months! LET'S GO!!
What I read on the blogs and videos that we would have to study 4-6 hours a day, depending on which classes we took. And continuously study and practice on our own. Do the homework, try to write the new words on a flash cards and keep practicing conversations with classmates and people around. While people kept saying outside BLCU don't expect anyone to speak English (that's the point anyway right). I knew that this environment would help me tremendously to try and force myself to make conversations and search for words that I did not know how to say or read upon situations like, taking the bus/train, telling the taxi driver where to go, buying things at grocery store, and most importantly ordering food! And I will tell you how I managed to survive the 12 weeks experience in Beijing...
The first week or so when I arrived I depended a lot on my Chinese friend Ying Ying, she greeted my family and I and welcomed us to the city.. helped me to look for my accommodations and registered at the University. She was the one who wrote my Chinese name 丽莎 (Lì shā) on the registrations
paper. And called the house agents for me. Brought me to places that I would need to know (Grocery store, laundry place and searched for good halal places to eat). I don't know how am I ever gonna be able to thank this lady for making me settling in this city so much easier. Considering she had to negotiate and search for the places in Mandarin that I had no idea how to - I would have been so lost! And she kept being my personal dictionary whenever I get into a little trouble negotiating or understanding she's my life saviour, really!
And then there's these amazing classmates of mine in A5 class who would study, eat, travel and explore the city together!! That made everything so exciting, and we always had each other to motivate and cheer each other up (especially on our WeChat group with their crazy GIF emoticons). The WeChat is so popular and useful in China especially, I wish my friends in KL would use it too! And I was so blessed to have met these people that I now call friends, to have experienced this journey together. We would cheer each other up whenever the skies are grey (literally grey because they were polluted) on average they were only 3 or maybe 4 clear days to enjoy and when it is we would take advantage to explore the city better! It was so important to have positive friends around in any circumstances that you want to be successful in anything!
They were so many other classes that I could have gotten into, I was very lucky to have met these people that enjoys taking selfies as much as I do, and we would have lunch together after classes and study at the Harney's Cafe too. Once again, I learned so much more for being in an international setting and surprisingly half of the class were Koreans so I managed to learn a few important words in Korean too (now am thinking I should learn the language too haha!) That helped me to learn a lot more about myself and others understanding my culture and religion too. Since I would ask them to go to Halal restaurants to try with me! And they did :)) (will be in the #MyFoodHunt Beijing post)
(Picture above) The Beihai Park on the first clear day after 4 days hazardous polluted days, so we decided to get out and clear our lungs with the supposedly clear air and explore the city! PURE HAPPINESS! On any other polluted day, most of the days we would spend it in the class, cafes and restaurants. Our lives would still proceed as any other Beijingers would, just that we would try to stay indoors more. We are obviously foreigners who needed time to get use to this daily phenomenon. haha! After few weeks, it still does not get easier but we had to adapt and accept it anyway.
I was also happy to have another Chinese friend that would practice Mandarin with me, my language partner (Yu Ban 语伴), Zhou Lan or I call her Lan Jie (Lan big sister) for being so helpful to improve my grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. Which helped me to realise that trying to speak is not so hard when I try and putting in extra effort to look up the words in the dictionary even though we would be looking at each other when we fail to communicate properly and laugh it out! haha Nonetheless this friendship gave me so much confidence to speak since she does not speak English at all. So, the deal was that every 2 hour meet up 1hour would be for me teaching her english and I would have to know what it is in Mandarin and the other hour would be focusing on how to make daily conversations.
On a fairly clear day, inter-class competitions of tug the war and the jumping ropes. It is the University's way to get us out of classes and have a team building which we already did anyway! With our typical peace Asian pose without a miss. Peace!
And I have to thank these two lovely darlings of mine that would be with me almost everyday of the journey together, Ola and Sujin Unnie (sister in korean). We would meet in class, go for coffee break, study together, shopping, travel together (Xian post that I promise to write next) and would be on each other's back no matter what happens! I am blessed to have them to constantly be of support on our crazy WeChat group. No one else understood me the way they did, and would laugh at my stupid jokes or entertain my ideas of places to go and eat. haha! And they were the ones that gave me a little security if anything happened, I know that I had friends in Beijing who would help me (back to me being paranoid if in case I had an asthma attack considering that I lived alone and 40mins walk to and another 40 mins on foot to go home). Thus, having them to be of support helps a lot! Other than my mother and father who are constantly online on whatsapp and my good friends Wani, Salma, Victoria and Tania who would be there for me too whenever I need a little boost!!
All in all, you only need supportive and positive family and friends who would believe in things you want to achieve. Which they constantly reminded me of my goals and dreams that I only managed to realise it.....
My certificate from Beijing Language and Culture University that I completed 12 weeks intensive mandarin course- Elementary level. Congratulations to my classmates who made it to the 20 weeks course. And to many more levels in the future. May we set forth to better things in the future InsyaAllah. I will post more later!
May peace be upon all of you. Zai Jian 再见
One and only MsOrangeLisa