New surroundings bring back memories of Beijing
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by my new environment: a new campus, a new climate, new food, new classes, new friends. At times like this, my thoughts turn to home. So this is what homesickness feels like.
Sure, the weather in North Carolina is beautiful, and so is the campus of Wake Forest: luscious green grass – soft and ideal for lying on – and old brick buildings surrounded by magnolia trees full of fragrant white flowers. At night, I look up at an endless sea of stars, twinkling brighter than I have ever seen in Beijing.
But I must admit, I do miss the towering office buildings and endless cranes that fill the Beijing skyline. The food on campus is good, even though (like with everything else) it’s very expensive in comparison to good ol’ Chinese food. And by Chinese food I don’t mean fortune cookies, fried wontons, sweet and sour pork or the other strange concoctions that pass for Chinese food here. The things I miss are Peking duck and dim sum, Sichuan food and rou chuan’r. I miss being able to buy food off little bicycle carts on the street – jian bing and little styrofoam boxes with rice and delicious veggies, candied fruit and roasted yams. I suppose it’s just more to look forward to on my visit home this December.
My classes are interesting and the professors are friendly, but I can’t help but miss my old teachers and classmates at the Western Academy of Beijing. The other day I was writing an e-mail to my teachers to update them on how things were, when a sudden rush of memories flooded back to me, and I felt a longing to be home.
Social life here at Wake Forest is so different from Beijing. For one, it’s hard to rival WAB for diversity in nationalities. I have also jumped from a class size of 54 to over a thousand. Even though some state universities can have tens of thousands of students, it still feels like a big enough change for me. It’s nice though, in the sense that I can still meet new people every day.
I’ve been to a few fraternity parties, where we listen to music from the ‘80’s and play games like pong (which involves being in teams of two and throwing ping pong balls into the opponents’ beverages). This is all fun, but after a while I begin to think of wandering the loud, thumping streets of Sanlitun, or floating on Houhai holding sparklers, eating cotton candy and watching candles float past atop paper boats.
Back in Beijing I used to speak Chinglish (a mixture of Chinese and English) around my parents and friends, slipping phrases like wo buzhidao (“I don’t know”), weishenme (“why?”) and shenme shang (“what’s up!”) into an English sentence. I haven’t quite broken out of this habit here, with the result that the conversation falters for a moment as my new friends give me looks of incomprehension. I know I should make more of an effort to break the habit and become a full-fledged English speaker, but another part of me doesn’t want to let go of this little piece of home.
Every day I’m reminded of things back in Beijing, my family and pets above all. My new life in the US is amazing, and it is certainly a thrill being on my own, but sometimes when I’m left with too much time, I think of home. I am thankful for the Internet, through which I’m able to keep in touch with friends and family via Skype and Facebook. Otherwise, I don’t know how I would cope with this case of Beijing withdrawal.
After having lived in Beijing for ten years, Alex Crossman started her freshman year in Wake Forest University in North Carolina in the fall of 2007. Between keeping up with her classes and her new life in the States, Alex misses eating chuan’r back in Beijing.