Over the last three years, I have spent four months living abroad in Beijing. As time passes, my memories of China blur and my feelings about past experiences change. I find it so challenging to re-experience the anxiety I felt when I first traveled to China for a school study program or to recall the excitement I felt pulling an all-nighter with co-workers before my first deadline. The people I have met in Beijing, the problems I have encountered, and the adventures I have pursued have had an enormous impact on who I am today. Living on my own in Beijing for these last two years has forced me to mature and instilled in me a greater sense of confidence.Photography provides a medium for me to relive my experiences in China. Glancing at old photographs I am greeted by the smiles of my landlord, students, co-workers, and friends. I can look back upon an evening I spent out to dinner with Wang Fan, the man I lived with this summer, or a day in Shanghai with classmates from PA, exploring the World Expo. Even things I wish I could forget stick out in my mind. I see pictures of my first landlord and remember how she tried to cheat me, assuming that I was a rich American who could afford a steep increase in rent. The photo of me and a classmate in front of a Chinese bank bring me back to a terrifying day in July, when an ATM machine swallowed my banking card, which provided access to all the money necessary for me and several classmates’ living and travel expenses for the next two weeks.
As I glaze over albums which have come to represent months of living abroad I recount the people and the places that have come to characterize my experiences abroad. Photography gives me the opportunity to re-evaluate who I am and who I have become. It takes me back in time and forces me to remember life-changing experiences. Fifty years from now I doubt I will remember much from my time in China, but the moments captured in time by every photograph will be a constant reminder of the life I lived.