End of Exchange Year at PKU

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Last class lunch!

My year studying abroad at Peking University has finally come to an end. The last couple months have mostly been full of studying and finishing all the assignments for my classes. In total, I had to write 4 papers, take 3 exams, go on a field trip, and do 2 presentations, as well as take the HSK (Chinese proficiency) exam. It’s been a lot of work, but at least the topics have been interesting & it’s given me the opportunity to meet with professors, work with my group mates, and write extensive academic papers in Chinese. All in all, I think the semester ended pretty successfully. In between all the work, here have been lots of fun moments too, as everyone has been making the most of the remaining time still on exchange.

Renewable Energy Fieldtrip

For my “China’s Energy & Environmental Challenges” class, we had a mandatory day-long fieldtrip to visit a few different renewable energy facilities around Beijing. The day was very interesting all in all, and it was cool to see the things we’d be learning about in class in a real world setting. We left from PKU at 8 am, and first went to see a WTE (waste-to-energy) power plant in Mentougou, which converts 1/8th of Beijing’s trash into electricity in a zero-waste process. Next we went to a solar farm in Yanqing District, passing by sections of the Great Wall on the way, and getting scorched in the bright sunlight on our tour. After that, our last stop was a wind farm out in the countryside near Zhangjiakou, with huge 100m diameter wind turbines and beautiful lakeside scenery. We were also supposed to visit a PHES (pumped hydro-storage) facility, but didn’t have enough time. Overall, it was a long, but interesting and enjoyable day seeing how China is meeting its energy needs and investing in cleaner sources of power.

Lectures & Company Visits

Aside from normal class lectures, we had a special guest lecture from the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai in our US-China Trade Relations class, which was a nice opportunity to hear the US perspective on the current trade issues between the 2 countries, such as the 301c case, ‘Made in China 2025’, technology transfers, and China’s WTO status. Additionally, I attended a ThinkINChina lecture hosted at a cafe in Wudaokou on China’s role in the Middle East, with a Turkish professor from Shanghai University and the director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. It was an interesting discussion, with some mingling & snacking afterwards. Also, I went with PKU’s Western Students Union on a visit to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing’s Financial District (金融大街), where we learned about how the bank is set up, projects it’s financing, and what differentiates it from other multi-lateral development banks. I found it very interesting, since it relates to what I hope to do in the future, as well as China’s Belt & Road Initiative.

 Beijing Bucket List

As far as the Beijing sights go, I think I’ve just about seen everything of interest. Recently, I finally visited the Panjiayuan (潘家园) antique market, which was way bigger than I imagined, with many interesting, but typical things for sale. While I didn’t buy anything, it was interesting to look around all the open air stalls. I also had a friend from the US in town, so we met up to visit the Summer Palace (颐和园). Although it was rainy, it was nice to see it again, and I was reminded of how nice it is there. Another day, I went to the Old Summer Palace (圆明园) for a leisurely stroll around the lakes. It was surprisingly peaceful there; I just sat by the lakes relaxing and taking in the sun for a while. The area is huge, and I almost felt like I was at the West Lake in Hangzhou. Not so much on my “bucket list”, but by convenience, I’ve also spent a few afternoons at Beida’s Weiming Hu (未名湖), just relaxing and enjoying the nice weather and sometimes-blue skies.

My friend and I also went to see the famous Red Brick Art Museum, housing an exhibit by Olafur Eliasson called “The Unspeakable Openness of Things”. The museum itself was really cool, with unique brick architecture and beautiful gardens and cafes worth relaxing at, and the exhibits themselves were interesting and creative. The artist used light, huge spaces, and even water in the displays. This had been one place I really wanted to visit, so I was glad to finally have the chance.

Friends, World Cup & Beijing things

Probably the most fun times recently have just been hanging out with friends and checking out cool spots around the city. The 2018 World Cup has also officially begun, and since the games are almost always in the evening & night, the Beijing bars are all hosting watching parties for the soccer fans. It’s very festive. Personally had so much fun at the Pyro watch parties, cheering for the France-Argentina & Uruguay-Portugal games.

Additionally, some of my friends hosted a dinner party “steak night”, which was a delicious time, as I haven’t had real steak basically since coming to China. We also celebrated a birthday at a cool Italian negroni bar in the hutongs called Nina, went to the opening of the CHEERS wine terrace in Chaoyang, new clubs like Infrarouge & West and the re-opening of Elements club, and have had some sad going-away parties for the friends who have already gone home, as well as many late-night trips to the dumpling shop.

One weekend, my friend & I went to the Beijing Burger Festival, hosted in Galaxy Soho by the Beijinger magazine. All the famous burger restaurants and bars from around the city set up booths, with great deals for sliders, burgers, barbecue, and plenty of drinks & live music. It was cool to see so many sides of the city in one place, and I appreciated all the delicious food.

Now that the semester’s over, I feel both really relieved and unexpectedly sad. I’m relieved to be done with all my classes and requirements, and although I have been looking forward to finishing the program, I can’t help but feel like I’ll miss this year and my life in Beijing at PKU. I’ve honestly learned so much this year, and have made so many incredible memories with wonderful new friends. Looking back on my year at PKU, I know I’ve accomplished a big goal of mine, with so many adventures along the way. For that, I will always be thankful for this experience. 北大,再见!

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