I am not a morning person but I woke up at 6:45 am for this…

It’s 8:00 am and I am standing on top of the Great Wall of China.

I’m looking out over the sunlight just beginning to graze over the tops of the trees, and I’m standing strong in the face of the wind that could literally knock me over.  In this moment, every difficulty I’ve faced since coming to Beijing doesn’t exist to me anymore, and I know it’s moments like these that I may never have again, and moments like these that inspired me to study abroad in the first place.  I feel so incredibly grateful to be standing here and for having the opportunity to study in China.

My classmates and I got up at 6:45 to start our climb.  Especially with the wind, it’s colder than you would expect for a September day, and we learned this pretty quickly as we began to hike up the steep trail that would eventually lead to the Great Wall.  We are hiking an unrestored section of the Great Wall, which means two things: 1) there will be no other people there besides us and 2) it is a more difficult and dangerous trek than that of other sections of the Great Wall.  When we finally reach the Great Wall, we continue to climb as the wind gets stronger and stronger, even climbing some sections of the Wall so steep that they almost feel vertical.

At the highest point, I stop and see water in the distance, and even buildings that look like specks, and I think about how people are probably just beginning to wake up down below, or how my friends on the other side of the world are probably finishing eating dinner or studying.  I think about how many people helped build this wall and wonder how many people before me have walked along these stones.  By now, my phone has died from the cold, and I am not able to take any more pictures to show to my friends and family back home; I try to soak everything in, from the invigorated feeling washing over me to the beautiful blue hue of the sky.  It’s moments like these that I want to remember for a long time.

My First Weeks in Beijing – in 2 Minutes!


Now that I have settled into classes and living in Beijing, I wanted to share with you a little of what Beijing looks like from my eyes.  If you would like to see more, check out my video at https://youtu.be/GB9xv5RdOB0

Looking forward to sharing more with you all in the coming weeks!


What Applying to Study Abroad Was Really Like

I cannot believe I am leaving for China in one week!  When I was applying for approval to study abroad through Holy Cross’ Office of Study Abroad last November, my date of departure seemed so far in the distance I could hardly imagine the day I would be boarding my flight.

In April of sophomore year, after having received approval from Holy Cross, I was in close contact with the Office of Study Abroad in order to apply directly to my study abroad program of choice.  I chose to study with CET Academic Programs because of its great reputation among Holy Cross students and staff.  It was especially helpful that Assistant Director of the Office of Study Abroad, Angie Woodmansee, had participated in a study abroad program with CET and served as a great resource in answering any questions I had surrounding how I would spend my time in China.

After receiving acceptance into CET’s fall semester program in early May, it was time to begin taking the necessary steps to prepare for my time in China, including applying for my visa, booking my flight, and developing a packing list.  CET was incredibly helpful in this regard, connecting me with resources that helped me obtain my visa almost effortlessly.  Additionally, they provided suggestions on what to pack, how to get the best deal on a flight, how best to communicate with my family and friends while abroad, etc.

Another crucial aspect in my preparation process has been researching more about Beijing!  Although I had the opportunity to study in Shanghai several years ago, I am no expert on Beijing, so I am trying to learn as much as I can before arriving in order to make the most of my time there.  I have found it really helpful to read blogs and watch Youtube videos about others’ experiences in Beijing.  Reading about historic landmarks in Beijing from guidebooks on China, I compiled a list of about 30 places I would love to visit in Beijing alone!

With one more week here in the United States, I feel in a good position to depart and am thankful for the support I have received in this preparation process.  I cannot wait for what comes next!

From Eating Scorpions to Exploring the Great Wall: My Top 5 Goals While in China!

Hi everyone!

As I prepare to depart for Beijing in two weeks, I have given a lot of thought to how I want to make the most of my time abroad and develop as an individual.  I have set goals for myself including (in no particular order):

  • Try some new street food (maybe a scorpion?)
  • Achieve fluency in Mandarin
  • Connect with HC alums living in Beijing
  • Visit the Great Wall of China, the hutongs, and the Forbidden City

However, one goal I have set for myself which I am focusing most heavily on right now is to live as a traveler rather than as a tourist.

According to Merriam Webster, a tourist is “one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture”, while a traveler is “one that travels: such as one that goes on a trip or journey”.  While there is nothing wrong with being a tourist and site seeing for pleasure, it is really important to me to live as a traveler because I want to live abroad experiencing my own journey, both physical and mental.

I believe that the beauty of study abroad is that I have been given this amazing opportunity to live and study in China for two semesters, and it is imperative that I take full advantage of that.  I think that operating as a tourist in a foreign country can provide a disingenuous view of what that place has to offer.  By living as a traveler and truly investing in immersing myself in the culture and the language of China, I will have a much better understanding of the culture and country, and I will be able to genuinely say I took advantage of everything I could in my time abroad.

Coming soon: look out for my next post on my experience preparing to depart for China!