Blogs from the Dalian Campus
Thoughts from student interns abroad

International Smiles

BreaWilliams2When in China, do not be afraid to speak out and make friends! There are many times when the people of the Chinese culture may come off as a little rude or standoff-ish. The reality behind that is that they are really shy. They may not speak very good English or may not speak English at all and they may not want to be embarrassed. It will be totally up to you whether conversation happens or not. Once you reach out to them, you wont regret it. Aside from the Chinese students, you will also meet dozens of other international students from all over the world that will be so willing to greet you, introduce you to their friends and even invite you out for fun activities. Many of the international friends that we’ve made don’t speak much English, so many of them will use their native tongue and we will guess around what they want to say. It is amazing how much fun you can have with a group of people who are different from you in almost every way possible. I feel this is a huge door opener for many people from smaller towns which have very low diversity. My hometown is very diverse, therefore diversity is something i am accustomed to. I feel as though being introduced to new cultures and having the opportunity to comprehend their ways of life is one of the most important things you could learn while studying abroad. Within the past month, with all the new people I’ve met, i can almost guarantee many of them i will keep in contact with them far after this chapter of my life is complete. Be willing to try new foods, go new places, make new friends and open up your mind. Life is about adventure. Life is about living your dreams. Make your experience the best that you can and share every bit of knowledge you gain with everyone around you. The key to universal compromise is cultural comprehension. Be prepared to share your smile with the world : ) #JustGoWithIt

 

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One Big Game of Charades

LakishaHernandez3It has already been an entire month here in China. ONE WHOLE MONTH on the other side of the world! The differences between China and America are vast. One of the most helpful classes in realizing this is Philosophy with Karel, who is our mentor/teacher/employer while we are in China. We use this time to explore the thoughts about culture and discuss our experiences and our frustrations. On Wednesdays, a Chinese student comes in and discusses his/her thoughts with us. It is eye-opening hearing the stereotypes and generalizations about America. It is equally eye-opening to discover that our views and ideas about China and even other countries are wrong. Cultural awareness is not something you can just study and become an expert in. It is experience and the dawning the life style of a culture that betters your understanding of the different views of the world.

Not all our time is spent in class. We spend a lot of our time shopping because it is a universal pastime! We have gone to some of the more popular malls like the Roosevelt, the New Mart, and the Galleria! One of the most exciting things we have experienced was being able to understand prices in Chinese when buying something! We frequent the New Mart because it is within walking distance unlike the Roosevelt or Galleria. I say this from experience, not lazy American culture. We have walked from the Roosevelt before and it was an unpleasant journey that lasted almost forty-five minutes. Our goal has been to avoid another experience like that. We have gained a firm understanding of public transit here in China. We have adventured using the subway, the bus, and numerous taxi’s. The latter is the most thrilling, and stressful because traffic procedures are drastically different from the United States. Often, your cab driver will swerve, zip and zoom around pedestrians who don’t have the right of way, or a fear of Jay walking. Slowly, as every day passes we stray further and further from the cross walk finding the path of least resistance. It doesn’t matter where you are, when it comes to traffic you aren’t safe. Not even the sidewalk, which is more of a parking lot than anything.
We are decently busy throughout the week, with classes, homework, and our tutoring jobs, but we still manage to explore and meet new people! We have encountered people from more countries than I can count! Places like Zimbabwe, Korea, France, Nepal, Uzbekistan, and more! It was the most interesting thing interacting with our new friends as they converse in their native tongue, then turn around and talk to us in ours. We all gathered one night for a birthday celebration and a game of charades. I found this ironic because until we have a better understanding of the language, our experience can be described as one big game of charades. The word Chinese would be pulled out of the bucket, and the person would point at a Chinese person in the room. The word man would be drawn out, and then someone would point to a man in the room. But when the word student was drawn out, it was amazing to realize that we all share that one aspect of our lives.  We all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and native tongue, but we all come together as students.
We have learned a lot so far here in China. Every day is a new adventure and every day brings a new excitement, frustration, and realization about the Chinese culture. We plan to continue our learning and adventuring while we are here! We’ve been here one month already! This means we have all of three months left and you can bet your lucky dollar we are going to make the most of it!

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Dalian: Our Home Away From Home

JuliannaBaker2I absolutely hated living out of a suitcase, so saying that I was excited to finally fly to Dalian is an understatement. I walked into the Beijing airport with my over packed suitcases and a smile, but little did I know that I was missing one thing: my cell phone. Panic began to set in as I frantically searched through my backpack, hoping it was somehow in there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Losing my cell phone in general was bad enough, but trying to overcome the language barrier to get help was worse. Luckily, Google Translate works without internet and Bre’A managed to ask someone if she could use their phone to call our tour guide, Angela. Apparently, my phone had slid out of my pocket as I got out of the car earlier that day. Angela found it in the backseat and mailed it to Dalian. We look back and laugh at it now, but I triple check for my phone every time I go somewhere now!

Now that we have moved into the dorms and started classes/tutoring, navigating around China isn’t so bad. Our Chinese friends are such kind, sweet souls. They always make sure we are fed and take us all around the city of Dalian. They don’t even laugh when we attempt to speak Chinese (just kidding, they totally do). Learning a new language has proven to be a challenge, but I always stay motivated because I know it is my job to adapt to China, not China’s job to accommodate me.

I am pretty busy throughout the week with school and work, but we always find time to eat lunch at one of the restaurants near campus. Our favorite restaurant was Xiao Xiao Xiao, but unfortunately it caught on fire a couple of weeks ago, so now we eat at a place called Jackie’s. Everything here tastes so good, it almost makes up for the fact that there are no Taco Bells in Dalian (I’m still working on my bad American habits). We stay pretty close to campus on school nights, but when the weekend comes we go adventuring.

I think our greatest adventure so far was to the beach. I had never seen the ocean before I came to China, so this particular trip was very special for me. I can’t really explain how it felt to finally see something so beautiful after waiting nineteen years, but it’s a feeling I will never forget.

– Julianna Baker

 

 

 

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Because It’s China!

LekishaHernandez2

I’ll begin by informing you that when they say it will be a fourteen-hour flight, it will FEEL like a fourteen-hour flight. I must admit, I had spent plenty of time getting ready for this flight in the weeks before I left. I wanted to be ready, but even with all the time I spent getting ready, I was still not, and never would have been prepared. As every minute passed I was furthering myself from the world I had known, and inching closer to the biggest adventure of my life. Why had I left a state that was in seventy-degree weather for a country in its fifties? Why had I left a life of comfort willingly to step into a life where daily tasks would become complicated? I got asked questions like why go that far, why go to that school why chose this path. BECAUSE IT’S CHINA THAT’S WHY! When a door opens for you no matter how grand, narrow or frightening an opportunity will be, you will not know unless you take the adventure. We are not meant to stay in the same place forever. It was this reason that I was stepping off a plane and onto the streets of Beijing, in CHINA! From the airport, to the van, to the hotel, and then to the outdoor shops we did not let the flight rule our first night in China. After a long, long, LONG travel time we finally took to our hotel and prepared for the tour ahead of us.

The Beijing tour was beyond comparison to any tour I had ever been on. We were able to tour the Summer Palace, The Great Wall at Mutianyu, Tiananamen Square, the Forbidden City, the Confucius Temple, the Temple of Heaven, and the Lama Temple. The tour was only two days, but they were two days full of culture, adventure, pictures, and just a little bit of snow! The most memorable part of the tour was the Great Wall. It was a lot of work to cover the distance from the beginning to the top. Parts of the wall were so steep that I managed to knee myself in the chin on more than one occasion. Every step of the way was worth it when I reached the peak. I stood there, and I knew the difficulty that went into maneuvering, and climbing of the wall. I also knew I would never know the immense pain that this wall has caused. I would never know the hearts of the families who lost a loved one to the building or the use of the Great wall. I stood on the greatest work of many lives, and the last work of some. I knew this, and yet it was only my eyes that understood. Only my eyes could comprehend the beauty. It was then I realized that it wasn’t the size of the wall that made it Great.

 

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1 in 6 Million!

BreaWillliams

Before heading off to China, I didn’t know what to expect. There were so many things going on in my head about things I heard; some positive, some negative. But I did not let that discourage me. I’ve always been an extremely adventurous person, so overall I was more excited than anything. The 14 hour flight may have been the thing I stressed out about the most, but it turned out better than I expected because I was able to sleep most of the time 🙂

Once we finally arrived in Beijing, my adrenaline level was going crazy! The airport was so confusing. We couldn’t find anyone that spoke English and we began to get slightly frustrated. I am from Kansas City, Missouri, a pretty big city in Missouri but of course Beijing is much bigger. As massive and confusing as my hometown airport is, I find it to be much more simple after my experience in the Beijing airport.

The hotel we stayed in was amazing, the breakfast buffet was probably my favorite. The area was very beautiful and there were many things to do. Throughout the week out tour guide took us to many popular tourist attractions such as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven just to name a few. I’d say those were my favorites. My advice would be to get out and do as much as possible whenever you get the chance. Don’t be afraid to explore. #JustGoWithIt 🙂

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Just a Small Town Girl, Living in… China

Two weeks ago I boarded an airplane and flew fourteen hours away from everything I have ever known: my family, my friends, even my language. The moment that we started descending into Beijing and I saw the Great Wall from the sky is the moment that I knew I made the right decision. During our stay in Beijing, we visited the Great Wall at Mutianyu, the Summer Palace, the Olympic Stadiums, Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Lama Temple, and the Confucius Temple. The sights were all breathtaking, but I experienced a change in perspective about halfway through our visit at the Great Wall.  As I complained how painful it was to climb all of the steps, I paused because I realized how much history surrounded me. I realized how much pain the people who built it went through, that I was standing on their bones. Above all, I realized how little I actually knew about this world. My experience had only just begun, and I was already a new person.

We are settled into Dalian now, but I will save the rest of the stories for my next post.

– Julianna

 

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A Train to See North Korea

Saturday, November 5th I awoke very early in the morning to catch a 7 AM bullet train to Dandong, China along with the rest of our group plus our Chinese friend.

Situated on the banks of the Yalu river, Dandong is the largest border city in China and responsible for half of North Korea’s trade.

Upon arrival in Dandong, a large statue of Chairman Mao was present outside of the railway station and further down the street after a few twists and turns sat North Korea just on the other side of the Yalu.

Looking through the thick smog and haze, I looked up and down the river at the nation of North Korea. With mostly farming to the north and just a few buildings to the south I was able to gain a new perspective on this nation.

At the end of the bridge connecting China and North Korea I could make out an amusement park that was not running and looked abandoned as well as a freighter cargo ship that was half way on land.

Seeing North Korea from the Chinese side really gives you a different view of life elsewhere and makes you realize how great you have it in America.

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Fun Moments in China

Adapting to a different culture can lead to some fun, awkward, and rewarding moments. It is hard to predict which one will happen next, but each one is a learning experience.
We have now been in China for three months. In those three months, countless moments of hilarity have passed us by. A favorite story of mine happened early on in our journey, when we still had problems ordering food in Chinese. By now, most of us can order food without too many problems, but when we first arrived, it was a different story.
The story starts off with Justin, Dillon, and I at one of our favorite restaurants here called Xiao Xiao Xiao. We went into the restaurant to sit down, and had a look at the menu. As usual, Justin wanted to order jiaozi, so he pointed to that on the menu and sat back.
His food arrived, and he was very satisfied. Chinese food is wonderful, by the way, and each dish is delightful and fresh. As soon as Justin was finished eating, the restaurant staff brought out another plate of jiaozi. As Justin was full, he tried to use his Chinese skills to say that he was full, and did not need another plate.
Justin began to say, “SWANJOHN. SWANJOHN. SWANJEEN.”
Each time he said it, the lady looked confused, so he began to try it in another tone. Finally, she smiled and grasped on to what Justin was conveying. She took the plate back and brought out the bill, and in that moment, Justin’s nickname was immortalized as “Swanjohn”.
From that experience, we learned many things. The Chinese people are very kindhearted, and are always helpful to us as we adapt to the culture. So many concepts and emotions can be conveyed to others without saying a word. Humanity strives on moments like that, and it is wonderful to see how humans can come together to learn from one another, regardless of differences in culture.

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A Stroll Through Dalian

October 7th, 2016. It’s a beautiful day temperature wise. The skies are a bit overcast, but regardless, the Chinese are out and about. From pre-dawn until late evening, long after the sun has set, the streets and parks will be crawling with locals. I board the usual bus along with the company of many eyes; my fellow passengers are staring. Is my shirt inside out? Is there something in my teeth? Oh, wait, no. I’m just American and a blond one at that.

A while later, I get off at my first destination of the day: A park. I don’t know which as I can’t read the sign, but I’ve passed it many times and have been wanting to check it out. As I walk towards the entrance, I’m offered a paper but politely refuse. It’s likely an advertisement, and I wouldn’t be able to read it anyway. A few dozen feet into the park, I hear music and see the first group of older Chinese dancing. It’s amazing the talent you see here out in the open. To my right, a man plays saxophone on a bench and children run after each other through the trees. A few people have headphones in and are speed walking the paths that crisscross the area.

I continue further in and see another dancing group followed by two more as well as a singer. A group of people gather around an ensemble as they honk out some song I’ve never heard. As I walk on, I’m accompanied by the eerie feeling of eyes on me. Not resentful, angry eyes, but curious ones questioning why the young westerner has ventured in here. I ignore most but smile at the occasional child who’s eyes follow me and mouths whisper “American”to their mothers. I find another clearing filled with performers and decide to stay and watch for a while. I sit on a bench to observe, but quickly, I become the thing with watching to the others, non-dancers. I catch a few people attempting to take subtle photos of me from across the clearing. I smile and wave at them which sends them into a panic of blushed cheeks and waves before they scurry off. I resume watching the performers, admiring the skill that these normal citizens possess. Chinese like to master their hobbies. Before long, my attention is broken by the first brave ones. They always do it the same way: Shyly looking at me holding up their camera or phone, and for the advanced ones, saying “photo?” We snap a picture or two, and then it’s their friends turn. We repeat the process, and they leave with the usual “thank you,” or, “you are so beautiful,” and I’m left alone again.

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The Mid Autumn Day Festival

Each year during the fall, many Asian countries celebrate the Mid Autumn Day Festival with their friends and family. This harvest festival is one celebrated during the full moon. Traditions include eating lots of yummy food with friends and family, watching the moon, and eating moon cakes.
Moon cakes are delicious pastries filled with all kinds of things, from the very popular red bean paste, to fruits and nuts, to savory things such as eggs.

To celebrate the Festival, we were invited to join a group of people to share music and stories. At this gathering, I was taught how to make moon cakes, and it’s actually quite simple! We had two kinds of dough, one firm, the other soft. We simply rolled a ball from each dough, squished the firm ball flat, and then wrapped it around the softer ball. After that, we placed it in the moon cake press which gave it a pretty design. Then, you simply let it set for a while, and eat it! I quite enjoy the moon cakes even though some of the other interns aren’t fans, and I’ll be quite sad when this festival rolls around next year and I won’t get to enjoy any.

At the gathering, we were also told stories about where the Festival originates from. They say that long ago, there was a great archer and his beautiful wife. They lived together very happily until one day, 9 suns rose into the sky. It was much to hot, so the archer shot down 8 of the suns, leaving only one to shine down. An immortal spirit saw what the archer had done and was very impressed. She gave the archer an elixir to drink to make him immortal too. Not wanting to leave his beautiful wife, the archer hid away the elixir, content to live out his mortal life by her side. One man knew about the magical drink and wanted it for himself, so one day, when the archer was out hunting, the man came and demanded that the archers wife give him the elixir. Not wanting to allow the man to have it, the wife drank it and floated into the sky where she now resides in the moon. The archer began to mourn the loss of his wife and honored the moon whenever he could with food and other gifts. The other villagers were sympathetic and therefore joined the archer in his honoring, leading to the Moon Festival.

One of the best parts about being in another country is enjoying the local festivities. You learn so much about their culture and traditions and get to try all sorts of new foods. We all enjoyed our first holiday here and can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester holds for us.

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