Home from China, now what?

I’ve been home for about three weeks. It’s been one month since the camp ended and two weeks since my family visited me in China to continue touring. Saying goodbye to my students, whom I lovingly refer to as my kids, was a lot harder than I imagined. It was a different farewell than saying bye to friends from sleep away camp. At camp, we could fill our minds with the possibly false notion that we would see each other again. Living a few states away is nothing, and you’re also in the same time zone.

But with my students, I know that seeing them again is a small chance. They don’t have access to Facebook and the 12-hour time difference makes it difficult to follow their day-to-day activities. As much as I want to stay in touch with my students, it’s hard and requires more effort than liking a status or posting a funny link on their wall about an inside joke we share. I downloaded the messaging app used in China and every few days or so I make note to check in on a few of my students.

Coming home, the time change was more challenging to adjust to going backward than it was going forward. Generally, it’s about a day of adjustment for every hour traveled, which would put me near two weeks to function normally. I caffeinated heavily as the jet lag struggle began. Even now, I don’t sleep through the night each night.

What was it like coming home? What was the reverse culture shock? What were some of the most notable observances?

  • Well, it was definitely comforting to be surrounded by the Spanish of Miami again.
  • It was hard to adjust to being in the majority culture again. I was so used to standing out in Beijing that now I resumed blending into the crowd.
  • Silverware felt heavy in my hand and the food left me feeling full and sick. The Chinese food never left me feeling full, but it left me feeling satisfied. I don’t know if it was because I ate slower due to the chopsticks or if it was the ingredients, but I never had the ugh-I-just-overate feeling.
  • The style! The style in China is completely different. It’s more young and feminine. The necklines and hemlines almost resemble those from the 70s. The necklines are high, showing cleavage isn’t a thing, but the skirts and shorts are short, falling mid thigh. Though the bottoms lack length, it’s nice to see that nearly all the women didn’t show the butt. Going out in Gainesville, it’s guaranteed you will see the curvature of where the butt meets the thigh. It’s trashy.
  • If there was one thing I could take from the Chinese culture and implement into ours, it would be their skincare regimen. I went to a Sephora at one of the malls and was shocked at how little stock they had. It was a multi-leveled mall with at least a hundred stores. But upon further inspection, the stock was predominately skincare: L’Oreal, Clinique, Dr. Brandt and other popular brands. The makeup selection was minimal: benefit, Lancôme and maybe two others.I had noticed that nearly every woman I passed in the streets was barefaced. She didn’t hide under foundation, bronzer, concealer, contouring, eye shadow or fake lashes. She wore her skin proudly.

    Their focus on beauty starts with the skin. Our focus starts with makeup to hide our skin. We want to buy products to hide what we can’t, what we won’t, fix. It helped me understand why Vera Wang doesn’t have a makeup line; the Chinese culture believes in natural beauty. We believe in the paint on our faces.

  • I still continue to graduate from UF with a degree in advertising, minors in business administration and retailing. If there is enough time, a certificate or minor in Spanish. My dream of entering the beauty product industry has not faded, and is only strengthened by my observations of the Chinese Sephora. It pairs nicely with my belief that makeup should not be used as a mask.

I would go back to Tsinghua and do this camp again in a heartbeat. If I can find some way to do that next summer while still managing a (paying) internship, I would. I have no plans to take a significant amount of time off and go back to China, nor do I have plans to become a teacher. However, this has been one of the most rewarding experiences to date, and I strongly encourage you to take the opportunity to teach English in China if it comes your way.

To future potential Beijing/China study abroad participants, feel free to reach out to me (on Facebook or email: beapanther@ufl.edu) with any questions or concerns. If you would like a more detailed account of life abroad, you can also check out my personal blog, appletravels.tumblr.com.

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