It’s my last week in Beijing and I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my time here. After taking Modern China and Popular Culture in China at Wesleyan, I felt I had a pretty good understanding of the country and its people. But being here, I realize just how limiting the classroom can be. In my conversations with Chinese people, which include students, teachers, many taxi drivers, waitresses, and bar owners, I’ve gained some insight on how Chinese people view the United States, as well as their attitude towards their own country.

From what I’ve gathered, the majority of Chinese people like Americans. I was more than a little disturbed after reading about the anti-China sentiments that have been growing in the United States, especially during the midterm elections. Having spent the semester here, it’s obvious that this “us versus them” mentality is more prevalent on the U.S. side. That’s not to say that Chinese people aren’t critical about certain aspects of American government– what I hear most is how in the U.S. nothing ever gets done because of our slow and cumbersome system.

Chinese people’s attitude toward their own government varies. The issue that I wanted to explore the most before coming to China was censorship. Thanks to Wesleyan’s Virtual Private Network (VPN), I was able to access Youtube, Facebook, and other blacked out sites in China. Chinese citizens all know that their media is censored and controlled by the government and therefore view news reports on CCTV with a grain of salt. Some students even turn to Taiwanese and Hong Kong news sites for their current events. Yet, others, usually of an older generation, think that censorship of the media and Internet is a necessary evil to maintain stability in a country of 1.3 billion. Despite the government’s increased efforts, Chinese citizens, especially those who are part of the younger, more tech-savvy generation, are always finding more ways to circumvent the government’s censorship machine. Indeed, a teacher of mine recently confessed to playing Farmville on her Facebook account, and boasted about how strong her harvests had been recently.

I’ve really enjoyed my time in China and I’ll be sad to leave. I want to encourage anyone thinking about going abroad to do it. The clichés people use to describe studying abroad as being an amazing opportunity to meet new people, experience a different culture, expand your horizons– they’re all true.

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