The entire time I was studying abroad in Beijing, our huge group would talk about how we needed to have a reunion after leaving China. The neat thing about study abroad friends – at least in our case – is that they have tendency we tend to show up in the same places again. For our group this has happened in Kalamazoo, New York, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Beijing, and Hong Kong (so far). I posted an event on our study abroad Facebook group last summer and offered to host anybody who was willing to make the trip to K from the east coast.
Sometime mid-September, two people committed and bought tickets to come to K for the weekend before tenth week. We insisted that it was terrible timing, and that they should come in the fall and join a friend from the west coast, but they were set.
Once ninth week rolled around, we were all swamped with class, homework, group projects, work projects, and our SIPs, but we stayed up until 2 am to greet our “pengyous” (Chinese for friends) who had rented a car and driven from Detroit. It was a happy reunion, and despite everything we stayed up until after 4 am catching up with one another. They loved our house, and all of my housemates – even the three who hadnʼt met them – were excited to be a part of the reunion.
On Friday my housemates and I went about our ordinary routines and felt bad leaving our pengyous at home, but I saw them between classes, talking to other people they knew and acting as though they were K kids themselves. They had even bought sweatshirts and kazoos at the bookstore!
That night we went to Hunan Gardens and ordered all our food from the authentic Sichuan menu – in Chinese! We ate all the dishes family style, and introduced one of my housemates to a few foods heʼd never tried before. We got back to campus just in time for Monkapult, the student improv troupe, and got 10 seats together just before Balch theatre filled up.
On Saturday I hosted a screening of the documentary that Becky – who was visiting – and I had made during study abroad. I booked the Recital Hall, and about 20 people came to see our film, including one alum that my housemate met on his study abroad program in Spain. We had technical difficulties at the beginning, and by the time we were about to get started, my late housemate showed up with a surprise guest! A third close friend, who is currently interning at the United Nations, had flown in for about 36 hours, and had arrived from Chicago via train just in time to see the screening of our documentary. Becky and I were in tears by the end, reminiscing about our time in China, but we recovered in time to do a Q&A with the people who had attended. Not only was I proud to share the experience to future Beijing study-abroaders and housemates, I was thrilled to be able to do so in the company of those who had shared in the experience.
After the documentary, which was certainly a highlight, we went back to our house and played games, watched photo slideshows from Beijing, and my fabulous housemate fixed us all stuffed peppers, salad, vegetables from the farmers market, and dessert. Later, we all walked downtown to Bellʼs brewery, which is a Kalamazoo icon, and met up with another big table of K people who were having a study abroad Hungary reunion. Between Bell””””s and then fourthmeal at the Crow””””s Nest, it was the perfect end to one of the best Saturdays all quarter.