The thing about living in Beijing and Mainland China in general is that you reside behind the Great Fire Wall: a cute name given to the Chinese government’s dedication to limit Western influences on the Internet and control what information is available to their citizens. Although I assume this is unintentional, it also does have the side effect of making communication with people stateside more difficult, as does the thirteen hour time difference.
When I moved from my hometown to Tulane, it was easy keeping in touch with old friends; if I wanted to talk, I would simply text, Snapchat, Facebook message, or use a multitude of other means. In China, I have found it to be completely different as most Western communication apps are banned and, therefore, require a VPN. VPNs are surprisingly efficient, however, they do drain your monthly data, so I had to use mine sparingly. Thus, many forms of communication fell by the wayside. As I mentioned, being thirteen hours ahead of most of my friends did prove problematic as it left early mornings and late nights as the ideal times for communication. Classes took the majority early mornings and many nights were instead spent out in the city than on the BFSU campus at a computer communicating with friends.
Despite this lack of communication, I found that the friendships I made before my time abroad have remained strong; people are quite understanding of the limiting powers of the Great Fire Wall. I have also found that I don’t need my phone and constant notifications, the ability to search (factually accurate) Internet, and always be in contact with friends as much as I have expected. In fact, I found I don’t really care for a phone besides the ability to carry music with me at all times.