If we were to do a documentary video on A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…a 20-year-old American male university student chasing a college degree in China, here’s what we’d see through that camera lens:
Having landed in Beijing about three days ago, his jet lag has slowly ebbed. He begins to feel the 14-hour-flight wasn’t really as bad as some would imagine. So far, things have been great but he’s had to do a bit of adjustment, as expected when one travels half-way across the world to a seemingly strange but fascinating country. He was prepared and ready for certain things. He wasn’t for some. In any case, peeking though the 8mm video camera, here’s what we see.
He’s unable to drink tap water. He feels the chemicals to treat the water plus the elements leaching from the old pipes of the city make drinking water—straight from the tap—will cause some health concerns. Instead, when he’s thirsty, he buys bottled water or boils his water. He’s learned that if beverages are not bottled or served as a hot drink—like tea or coffee—it’s best to be cautious.
He can’t always flush the toilet paper. In his dorm, the sewage system can’t handle toilet paper. When done with ‘your business.’ you just throw your toilet paper into the trash bin. Often in public places, there is no toilet paper. Never leave home without your own toilet paper.
He discovers the Chinese public toilet. Outside the dorm, he does not have easy access to a western-type toilet. There are some in Beijing, but they’re not common. He describes the Chinese public toilet as being a urinal that seemed like it was built-in or bolted flat onto the floor. You have to squat over it when you ‘do your thing’ and throw the toilet paper into the trash bin.
He checks the air quality everyday at the U.S. Embassy. There’s an installed pollution device with a running index from 0-500, 500 being the worst quality air. Last year, Beijing reported hitting the 500 mark! Our university student says that when it strikes a certain point, he stays in his dorm and goes out only when he must.
Paying $5 for a delicious meal is a perk. For that price, he gets a plate of about a dozen delicious-looking fried dumplings along with a few beers. There’s no tipping in China, which means he saves another 15-20% compared to meals back home. He buys his breakfast and dinner each day, but with these low prices, it’s not a problem.
He meets up with a pretty girl and takes her to a Pizza Hut a couple of blocks away. Going to Pizza Hut in Beijing is considered a good date.
When he comes out of the university gates, he’s taking hislife in his own hands. Traffic lights in Beijing don’t do much to stop the traffic. . Motorcycles, cars, vans, bicycles and just about anything with wheels think they all have the right of way. It’s one big circus. Gridlock and traffic jams are everyday events in Beijing. And, it’s not just the outside traffic: the same thing happens in supermarket aisles.
Close up to a computer. An error message pops out when he tries to log on to Google, Facebook or YouTube. But of course, everyone knows how to get around it, so he’s able to keep track of friends and family back in the US.
He looks straight at the camera and says (talking head style) : “What’s important is that it’s a great adventure for me and I’m loving it all. No negatives here, just some cultural nuances that’ll take a bit of time to get used to.”
What’s a day in your life look like when compared to one abroad? If you’ve already lived abroad, tell us about interesting experiences you have had while being in a different country.
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