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Colleen staring into the abyss in Beijing after her apartment fiasco

Imagine this: you arrive in China after a sleepless fourteen-hour flight, wait for an hour to go through customs, pick up your luggage from baggage claim, and take a 45-minute cab ride to the apartment you're renting for the summer only to open the door to a small, moldy, and bug-infested place that is nothing like it seemed in the pictures online. What do you do?

This nightmare was the situation I found myself in at the beginning of this summer when I arrived in Beijing for my internship. Prior to arrival, I was excited to experience local life in Beijing and live with some of the others interns at my company, but I had no idea the whirlwind of a first week that I was in for. The apartment we had rented was uninhabitable, which meant that I needed to figure out other accommodations...and fast! But, after hotel-hopping my first few days and working with our company-employed agent, it still seemed as though everything we were finding was either too expensive or wouldn't accept anything less than a six-month lease.

Needless to say, I was kind of freaking out. I'd been to Beijing before and had contacts in the city, but trying to sort out housing while being essentially homeless in a foreign country was terrifying. So, about two days into this fiasco, I decided to reach out to one of my Chinese professors from Dartmouth. Though she was in Hanover for the summer (and though I hadn't spoken with her for a few months), I figured she might have some ideas that I had yet to think of. Well, within 48-hours, my incredible professor found an available room in the same apartment complex that the Dartmouth study abroad students were staying at for the summer, worked to petition the director of international student affairs to let me (a non-enrolled student) live on campus, and managed to finagle a way for me to move in the next day.

If I'm being completely honest, I cried when I received news that I had housing for the summer. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Professor Mowry had called and/or emailed three other professors at Dartmouth and Beijing Normal University, all of whom went out of their way to help find me a place to stay. In the matter of a week, I went from arriving in China with an apartment lined up, to essentially being homeless and hotel-hopping in Beijing, to comfortably moved into an apartment that is mere seconds from a group of wonderful Dartmouth students. What. A. Whirlwind!

If I've learned anything from this experience, it is that Dartmouth professors are some of the most kind-hearted people on the planet. I had not spoken with Professor Mowry for a few terms, yet she was willing to go out of her way to help me when I needed it most. I had never met Professor Xing (the Dartmouth professor leading the study abroad in Beijing this summer), yet he was the one who petitioned the international student affairs director to allow me to stay at Beijing Normal University. What's more, he even invited me to join him and the other Dartmouth students for their Peking Duck dinner, which was one of the best meals I've had thus far in Beijing!

As I reflect on the craziness of the past month in China, I can't help but wonder if my initial housing disaster was a blessing in disguise. Had my apartment not been mold and bug-infested, I would not have met the Dartmouth students on the study abroad nor been reminded of the strength of the Dartmouth network, both at home and abroad.

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