16 Jun, 2017
10 : 00
With summer vacation just around the corner, it’s a time of transition in Beijing and at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing as well. Some families bid us farewell as they move back to their home countries, while others just beginning their China experience arrive to take their places.
At the Yew Chung International School of Beijing, we take great care to ensure our children are able to fully adapt to and eventually embrace the local culture, namely through Chinese language and China Studiesprogrammes. However, for those adults who don’t have the luxury of a Yew Chung International School of Beijing education, the city can be a challenging place to adapt to, especially if you speak zero Mandarin! However, we promise that if you manage to get out and explore, it will be well worth the effort.
To make this transition process easier, we spoke with Primary Curriculum Co-ordinator Jennifer Mills, who’s just finished her fourth year in Beijing. As she departs China for new opportunities, we asked her to draw on her breadth of experience to offer some sage advice for newly arriving families:
What was the biggest challenge you faced when you first moved here (and how can newbies overcome it)?
The biggest challenge for newcomers is being lost. Beijing is such a big city. Most Chinese people you meet are very helpful and want to assist foreigners, but not speaking Mandarin was a real challenge. Learning useful phrases in Mandarin as well as taking pictures of where I wanted to go with the address and map in Chinese really helped me navigate the city. Having Google translate on my phone got me out of a lot of tight spots!
What has been your favourite part of living in Beijing (and how can new arrivals get involved)?
Wow, where do I start? Shopping has to be high on the list. My favourites are the Antique Market, The Pearl Market, and the Market behind the Pearl Market. If you know the right shops in this market you can get some amazing items for a great price! I’m not a fan of shopping malls generally, but Solana is my favourite.
After a tiring day of purchasing, I like to unwind in one of the many nice restaurants that run beside the river overlooking Chaoyang Park. There are many shops that cater to Western tastes there if you need a break from Chinese food.
What is something you wish you’d taken advantage of while living here that you never got the chance to (and how can new arrivals not make the same mistake)?
A lot of my time here was spent culturally exploring the city and the surrounding areas. In winter when the air is bad I had to cancel many planned activities, which was very disappointing. My advice to everyone who comes to Beijing is to drop whatever is planned when there is good weather and head to the hills surrounding Beijing to drink in the beauty of nature. If the weather was too unforgiving, I often went to the Flower Market at Liangmaqiao. Wandering around there always lifted my spirits!
Any final pearls of wisdom on how to live life to the fullest in Beijing?
As with any place, the greater you interface with it the more you learn about it. At first, heading out was daunting; being in a city as big as Beijing with no Mandarin is a real challenge! However, the more I explored, the more confident I became.
I recommend finding like-minded people who are open minded and willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone so that you maximise your pleasure while here. Hike the mountains, see the sights, sit and people watch, shop in markets, and eat the food, even if you think you won’t enjoy it! If your budget allows, travel as far and wide as you can. My most memorable places visited include Kashgar, Guilin and Yangshuo, and Inner Mongolia.
China is a fascinating country in every respect and I have learnt so much because I truly feel I embraced all my opportunities here. Be sure you do the same!
Read more recent YCIS Beijing School News by clicking here!