University of Calgary

Postcard from Beijing

UToday HomeMay 25, 2012

Katrina Krogstad is participating on a study abroad student exchange with Tsinghua University in Beijing, organized through the Centre for International Students and Study Abroad (CISSA). This is her postcard home.

Why did you choose to study abroad and particularly in that country/region?

Since I have learned French, Spanish, and Portuguese in the last five years and become very passionate about learning new languages, I wanted to learn Chinese. I felt that I was ready for the challenge that would allow me to connect with a great portion of the world’s population.

What are you studying? Why did you choose this type of program/experience?

I am taking a semester abroad to take some beginner Chinese language courses with the department of Chinese Language and Literature. Because I’m doing a multidisciplinary degree in my home university, I have been able to work a variety of language courses into my studies to feed my hunger for languages and cultural understanding. The ability to study in the country of the language I wanted to learn was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

How would you describe the country and people to friends and family back home?

Beijing is quite overwhelming in a lot of ways, but it’s certainly very interesting. There are so many people, bikes, dogs, noises, yelling, and smells, but once you desensitize yourself a bit, it’s not bad. There is so much culture and history in China and so many beautiful and interesting ways they preserve their culture. Although there is a fascination with modernity and technology in China, you come across many old alleys and hutongs where families still live and work.

Tell us about an adventure/journey/trip/experience you have been on.

Qingdao – Lao Shan: During the autumn break, I went with a big group of friends to Qingdao for a weekend. We spent some time on the beach and had big dinners together and toured the Qingdao (Tsingtao) Brewery. But the most memorable thing about that trip was climbing Lao Shan (old mountain.) It was a huge mountain that had been developed with stone staircases all the way up and a gondola that could take you most of the way. As we got closer to the top, there were more and more red ribbons tied to the trees, which we found out were from people making wishes. It was incredible to be in such beautiful nature with the autumn colors all around on a nice warm day, but the best part was the locals we got to meet along the way.

Did you try or learn any new hobbies/sports/interests/food/language?

I tried lots of different food, but I’m vegetarian, so that saved me from eating the really shocking things like chicken feet, scorpions, cockroaches and pig’s blood, many of which you can buy at the Beijing snacks street in Wanfujing. I especially liked the Chinese crepes with egg and chives that they glaze with savory and spicy sauces.

Upon reflection, what do you personally feel this experience has brought to your life and possibly career?

I have learned to be more polite and modest, but also more direct when I need to be. Even though China is very advanced in some ways, it still has a lot of poverty and the way of life is often centered on this need for money. I think this exposure has given me a new understanding and it will make it easier for me in my future travels if I have the chance to go to places like South America or South East Asia, or India. I am now equipped with a decent grasp of another of the world’s major languages. I have also further proved my ability to adapt to new situations. In addition, I have attended Tsinghua University, which is regarded as the most prestigious university in China. All of these assets are highly regarded in the work field and will be a big advantage in getting a job, particularly one that requires proficiency in Chinese, or languages in general.

Tell us about your future plans.

I would like to continue learning languages and travelling, as I think this is one of the most valuable ways to learn about the world I live in.

Would you like to share any words of wisdom?

The only thing I regret about my exchange was not making time to get off campus more often. I think part of it is the city is so big and I didn’t know where to start, but anywhere you go, even if it’s a neighbouring community that you haven’t seen before, will be interesting. Travel when you have the chance to see as many different places as you can.


For more information on this and other study abroad programs. This postcard was supplied by University of Calgary International.