Crowded spaces, animated dialogues, and a new smell at every corner; in short, this is how I would describe China. While the constant commotion and absence of organization can be overwhelming at times, living and interning in Beijing last summer truly provided an experience unparalleled to anything I have ever done in my life.
Life in China is influenced by a culture that values work and family immensely. Weekdays are marked by 9+ hours of work for the majority of adults while the
Free time, almost exclusively on the weekends for me, was spent on some of Beijing’s popular tourist sites. More often than not though, I found myself in Sanlitun, an area in central Beijing that has a distinct foreign imprint of culturally diverse restaurants, bars, and clubs. Nights there frequently started at one of the bars which were littered with a mixture of college students back from America for summer break and others traveling or interning abroad, like myself. After an hour or so of socializing, the transition is made, usually by way of a rickshaw, to one of the local clubs where it is not uncommon to have a globally famous DJ performing. The night concludes by catching a taxi home or negotiating a ride from a local resident that is trying to earn some cash on the side (think unregulated Uber drivers). The nights are fast paced and full of enthusiastic interactions between locals and foreigners, leading to a clashing of cultures that creates a surprisingly successful dynamic.
While my time in Beijing was limited to only a summer, the city provided temples and palaces that left me in awe, stomach aches from food that I will not miss, and most of all, friends and coworkers that I will never forget. The chaos that ensues while living in Beijing forced me to develop a tolerance for a city that is constantly in motion. This motion, however chaotic it may be, is full of a culture rich with opportunity that I am glad to say I was a part of.