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Four Ways I Spent Fall in a Foreign Country
Four Ways I Spent Fall in a Foreign Country

Maya S. is currently a junior at SYA China. She comes to SYA from Choate Rosemary Hall (CT) and is a blogger for our Campus Reporter Program. View more of Maya's work throughout her year abroad here.

1. Halloween

People in China don't normally celebrate Halloween, but that didn't stop students at SYA. At bilingual club, SYA kids prepared local students for the upcoming holiday by recreating a classic Halloween tradition: the toilet-paper mummies. In only minutes, the once pristine hallway turned into a blur of white as we helped entangle Chinese students in toilet paper. Rest assured, the Chinese students certainly enjoyed being (temporarily) mummified. Aside from that, many of my classmates and teachers dressed up on Halloween. Costumes ranged from animals to masks to surprisingly accurate imitations of our bead-enthusiast teacher, Li Laoshi. In the end, both students and faculty alike were elated to resurrect the spirit of Halloween while abroad in Beijing.

2. Changing of the Seasons

One tip I recently learned here is that layering is essential to surviving winter, especially since most homes don't receive heating until November 13th. Yet, it seemed like only yesterday I was trying to cool myself from the sweltering heat.

Though, the cold had some unexpected benefits, too, like rescuing the river fish! Before winter began, man-made rivers near residential buildings were drained, leaving hundreds of helpless guppies flopping on dry cement. As unusual as it seemed at first, everyone in the neighborhood soon gathered to save the fish from the freezing cold. I am proud to say that mine have still survived to this day. But, in all seriousness, the winter weather isn't all bad as long as you know how to stay warm - or learn to embrace the chill. I'm just glad I can finally wrap myself in cozy sweaters, scarves, and socks again.

3. Hot Pot with my Host Family

In America, Pumpkin Spiced Lattes mark the beginning of fall. In Beijing, it's the delicious hot pot! While I've certainly seen hot pot at many restaurants before, I've never actually eaten it until I came to Beijing. Every week, my host family prepares this meal by boiling a large bowl of soup alongside a plate of fresh meats and vegetables that are cooked fondue-style. Before we can actually eat, there's a great anticipation that takes over my host family and I as we wait for the broth to cook our ingredients. The wait, however long it may be, is definitely worth it. In fact, I think it makes the meal taste all the better. Personally, my favorite hot pot ingredient is fish tofu.

4. Falling into a Rhythm

Although school has been busy around this time of year, I've enjoyed talking to my Chinese teachers about life, analyzing Beijing's soil environment in APES, and meditating in history class. Outside of school, foods I've never seen in my entire life are becoming staple snacks: Street-side crêpes instead of morning omelets, sour yogurt instead of milk cartons, and red bean buns instead of plain bagels. I can still find fragments of autumn beauty in trees that turned into glowing shades of orange. Like the turning leaves, everything seems to be falling into place.

Can you picture yourself in a new country next fall?

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