Just as I had convinced myself it could be fun to hang around Chapel Hill, maybe test my skills as a waitress, an email from the J-school appeared in my inbox. It was a reminder for an upcoming deadline to apply to an internship in China. I had been passing by a flier for the program in Carroll for a few weeks, but hadn’t really given it much thought. I studied abroad the semester before, and while I was itching to travel again, I wasn’t confident my budget could handle another trip so soon. Plus, China is FAR. I had been once before the summer after my freshman year of high school on a music trip put together by my band director, with my mom as a chaperone. The thought of going back at 21, alone, was definitely intimidating. But I felt compelled to apply; why not, right? It could be an adventure.
Fast forward a month and I was scurrying to get my visa approved, buy plane tickets and try and figure out where I was going to live after arriving in Beijing. Before I knew it, I was on a 23-hour trek to China, by myself. It was the first of a series of tests I would be put through this summer, each of which shaped me into a stronger, more independent and confident person.
Nine to five
The office environment at work was hard to get used to. It is extremely quiet, which is unusual for a newsroom. Communication happens mostly over QQ, an instant messenger program. I would get assignments sent to me on QQ, and as I met more co-workers, chatted with them throughout the day on it. But at first, I could not get over the silence. I was on a different floor than the other UNC intern, and it took some adjusting to spend eight hours in a quiet cubicle. However, people slowly started introducing themselves, and by the end, there were so many people in the office I was sad to say goodbye to.
In times like these, I found myself really relying on my faith. Beijing is a safe city, so luckily I didn’t have to fear pickpockets or worse, but that does not take away the pit that forms in your stomach when you are alone, in a huge city, unable to communicate with anyone around you. In these circumstances especially I would say a quick prayer or plug in my headphones and play Hillsong and remind myself that I just needed to stay calm and remember God was looking out for me, and wouldn’t put me in a situation I wasn’t strong enough to handle.
Speaking of faith, one of the coolest experiences of the summer was going to a HUGE Christian church my last weekend in Beijing. I’m sad it took me so long to find it, but extremely grateful I got to go even once. Churches are limited in China, and by no means a common sight. I was very surprised to see a big red cross outside the church I visited, funnily enough in what’s known as the “Silicon Valley” district of Beijing. It was packed, with at least 400 people, if not more, gathered inside. There was a mix of expats and locals in attendance, and for the most part, it was like a service I would attend at home, just with slightly different humor and cultural references mixed into the sermon. I was so happy to hear my favorite worship song played, and amazed to feel the community and grace of God in such a foreign place.