Why is it that we don’t fully appreciate what we have until its about to leave us? My last days in Beijing were certainly ones for the books! I made last outings with my friends from my program, spent some last time with my host family and just took in the city one last time. I went back to several places that I went to at the beginning of the semester, and not only do the places look totally different now that spring has sprung, but I’m not the same nervous overwhelmed girl that I was when I saw them the first time. I can sorta kinda speak Chinese. I have an idea of where I’m going and what’s going on.
I also stayed an additional five days in Beijing after the end of my program which was a great choice. Some friends stayed around before they left for a trip to Tibet, so I hung out with them and then had a final full day by myself, which was absolutely the perfect amount of time to process saying goodbye to the city and my semester. One night, seven of us rented a little battery boat and just randomly went around one of the lakes in Beijing that is surrounded by walking paths and little restaurants with rooftop areas. I had also been there at the beginning of the semester and watched people ice skate on the lake that we were now boating in, watching the sun go down in every shade of orange and pink. On my last day, I walked across Tiananmen Square and thought about all of the things that have happened in China just in recent history. I ate last plates of noodles and dumplings. It was awesome. By the end of the day I was a little more ready to head home and be with people again, which I’m thankful for. I’m going to Colorado in a week to start my summer job, so I wanted to do the best I could for myself to ease through reverse culture shock in such a short amount of time, and staying extra time in Beijing was definitely the best thing I did.
The hardest part of leaving is always saying goodbye to friends you have made. IES Beijing was 60 students from all over the country (and the world) from all different schools. I’ve realized how much of my life I’ve spent around people who are very similar to me, and how awesome it was to meet so many different people. I may have learned more from my classmates than just about anything else that I did. The last night of the program was surreal, just like all goodbye nights are. We had graduation, dinner, then China Night (performances) and then we all went to the Cafe, an on campus hang out. “Sweet Caroline” was sung. Birthdays were celebrated. Laughter was shared for one last time. There was then the 1:30 exodus of a considerably smaller group to a Chinese fast food restaurant, and one final cab ride back to my homestay. Beijing is so serene late at night. Goodbyes are hard. They always are. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -Winnie the Pooh