Dalian Campus Interns
Thoughts from student interns abroad

Not So Cliche

Rosemary Driscoll Not So ClicheRecently I played a game with some Chinese students that would help them learn more English and help me to learn some Chinese. There were several pieces of paper with either English or Chinese words written on each piece. If the word or phrase was English  I would explain it to them and if it was Chinese they would explain it to me. The Chinese words they had written down to explain to me included slang words, a popular Chinese TV show, and the name of a popular street food only sold in the winter time (which I tried recently and it’s delicious). As a foreigner I would not have chosen, much less known any of the things they wanted to teach me about. The English words they chose for me to explain to them included things like Taylor Swift, Harvard University, Rock n’ Roll, Gossip Girl, and Sherlock. I tried not to laugh at how cliché the things were that they picked for me to explain. I have to be honest though, if they had asked me to explain Chinese things to them before I knew anything about China I would have picked all of the clichés too: things like Kung Fu and Fortune Cookies.

I learned that people have clichés about Americans just as much as we have clichés about other people and cultures. Being able to live in China has allowed me to learn how much bigger people are than their surface culture. Like every other culture China is unique, beautiful, and much deeper than the clichés that we pin on them.

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Majestic Fur

There are a lot of things a person can do in 2 days. Arriving in a country and having a profound and unique cultural experience is probably not one of them. Last weekend, November the 18th, I traveled to Seoul, South Korea for quick 2 day trip. If you caught my meaning, then you know I didn’t exactly get the chance to become immersed in Korean culture, but instead spent my time there as a bona fide tourist. However, a lack of actual experience and knowledge never stopped anyone from voicing their opinions, and with that said, now it’s my turn. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is absolutely beautiful. The streets are clean and the air is even more so. The Korean language is everywhere, but so is English. If for some reason an American was eternally banned from the US s/he could find her/himself perfectly at home in Seoul.

Enough of that generalization stuff, because now it’s time for a personal experience. I’m guilty to say that my favorite memory from my short time in South Korea is of a place called Blind Alley. Why? Because one word: Raccoons. Yes, you heard correctly. I spent a gross amount of my limited time in Korea stroking the majestic fur of not just a raccoon but also an albino raccoon. In case you weren’t already captivated, I also had the honor of massaging the chin of a capybara and of holding a lil’ pig. All of these amazing things while enjoying the best coffee I’ve ever had and some spectacular chocolate cake… Don’t get me wrong, I loved all of Seoul, but I just thought you needed to hear about the albino raccoon.

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Take Me Home… But Not Really!

Despite China’s constantly altering society and progression, they still do not celebrate the same holidays as Americans. Unfortunately, that means we Destiny Johnson FA17 Take me homedid not get to see hundreds of Chinese children flooding the streets in classic costumes, Trick or Treating. However, since this campus is a branch through Missouri and has many American influences, they choose to celebrate Halloween in their own way. Whether this is in an effort to show the Chinese students the traditions, or to make the American teachers and us interns feel more at home, I’m not sure. Either way, it was a different experience. The Thursday before Halloween, we had a Pumpkin Carving Party. It was nothing like I expected; I got a very small pumpkin, along with a faulty kitchen knife. Needless to say, that killed any possibility of carving anything intricate. I had planned to carve all of the continents, but settled for just doing America. Anyways, we all sat in desks in a large classroom and carved while they had games for entertainment in the front… games such as arm wrestling. People, including myself, were picked at random to compete and win prizes. It was a fun night, followed by an even better one Friday. The school held a costume party, which consumed the entire fourth floor of our building. They used all of the classrooms for different things; some were for games, mazes, scary rooms, face painting, and some with music and food and entertainment. It was by far one of the best Halloween experiences I have ever had. Rosemary and I spent the majority of our night playing things such as spoons, cards, and hand games with our Chinese friends and some of the teachers. We stayed the entire time and I didn’t expect to have so much fun playing simple games for hours.
However in the midst of the games, Rosemary and I decided to go into one of the music and entertainment rooms. We had a seat and had some snacks while an act proceeded to begin at the front of the room. Two men started to flip glass bottles, juggling and tossing around in a very skilled way. But I was more taken aback by the song that was playing while they were doing their act; it was “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver. I don’t think I had ever heard this song before and it made me think of home. I am still not homesick here; I am not ready to come home… but this song hit me in the heart. While I am not ready to come home, I do miss being around what makes home, home. It reminded me of everything that I have been away from and had forgotten about for months. I tried to hold back tears, but not because I was sad. These were just feelings that were suddenly surfacing, that I didn’t even know were there.
This song began to appear everywhere… a few days after the Halloween party, I heard it at the mall. Then, some of us went to the movies this past weekend to see Kingsman 2. I didn’t see the first one, but they wanted to go so I tagged along. The song seemed to be the theme throughout the entire movie, playing at least four different times. The movie also featured settings in America. At the end *spoilers*, when one of the main characters dies, he does so while singing this song. It was very powerful just in the movie itself. That, along with what the song reminds me of, made me extremely emotional. This song brought back thoughts of home that I had completely forgotten about and I now treasure it . Anyways, I am not yet ready to come home. I am still loving my time here, but when I fly home, you can guess what song I’ll be listening to the whole way there.

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An Ant on Top of an Ant Hill

I am just going to go ahead and Lay this out here.. China was and is a complete culture shock. From the smells of the street food (or bodily functions), to the views that my eyeballs have never seen before or could even imagine in my life. When I first arrived in Dalian, I immediately thought of New York.. but on steroids. I know your thinking in your mind right now, how in the world can New York in itself be on steroids? Well, its very possible and it does in fact exist. What is even crazier is I thought that China wasn’t even a touch of what other cultures are like. I recently took a trip to Thailand and Vietnam, and culture shock could not even describe my experience. It is so amazing to me that sometimes we feel so big in this world because, yes, the United States is a fairly larger country, but we are a tiny ant compared to this big world we live in. Our culture is just a pure existence of this world.
I am going to start by telling you that Asian culture is not the same.. it is not even a genre for how everyone lives because every country lives completely differently in their own atmosphere. I got to spend three days in Thailand, and believe me when I tell you that I was NOT prepared for Thailand when I arrived. I mean I had this predisposition of what Thailand would be like but I was wrong in so many ways. Of course we were told what it would be like, or things to expect.. but it was the complete opposite of what it was actually like. Thailand is a monarchy, and that definitely showed in their culture, which to me, was very cool to see because we only read about those things in textbooks in America. The people always smiled, and they were all very active in the night life. One minor side was that Thailand was very dirty and you could tell that they were a poor society, but it never seemed to stop the people from smiling and loving their life everyday.
After spending three days in Thailand, we left to depart for Vietnam. The only way I could really describe Vietnam was kind of like being in “The Twilight Zone” because I really just had no idea what was going on. You have to keep in mind that I have now experienced two completely different cultures already, with two different languages and two different lifestyles. So, coming into Vietnam was like just a mesh of a whole new culture with what I have already previously experienced. When we arrived, everything was so pretty, and bright, but yet barren. It was almost like there was no one around, yet you could see people. When we arrived at the beach it was almost like a dream. we walked there, and along the road, the parking lots were empty, there were houses boarded up, and the beach was completely empty. Picture white loose sand, connecting into bright blue water that gets darker and darker the farther you look out.. and it was EMPTY. We literally had the beach all to ourselves. It was just amazing. We did figure out that there were many things boarded up because they recently had a typhoon. But the people, just like in Thailand were so happy.

Meghan Ledford FA17 Ant

Meghan Ledford FA17 Ant2
As I flew back to China.. it felt like I was home, when I really wasn’t going to my real home. It feels now like a normal way of life. Smells do not stick out any longer, the people feel like my people, and the streets feel like the corner right around my home. Just a few months back I would have never thought this. It amazes me that I am such a small person in this big world, and I can be on the other side of the planet and still live a normal life. Traveling had really helped me grow into the person that I am now. I definitely do feel grateful for things that I have back in the United States. But, I also wish that some people in the United States could live the way that Chinese people live everyday. Even though they do not seem to have much, they are so happy. They really value their friendships, and even just a stranger on the street. I feel like a tiny ant on top of this gigantic ant hill looking down on all the different ways of life. The crazy thing is, I have only experienced three vastly small cultures out of the hundred of thousands of cultures there are to explore in this world, and I cannot wait to dive in and learn not only more about myself, but more about what our world has to offer.


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Sticking Out but Fitting in

I have always tried my hardest to fit in and make myself blend with the crowds around me. Unfortunately, curly hair, white skin, and an American accent make blending in a thing of the past in my new home. Standing out is a scary enough prospect within the states, but being thrown half way around the world and speaking very little of the native tongue brings scary to a whole new level. Despite all the barriers, distance, and the fact that I stick out like a wolf amongst sheep, this experience has been shockingly warm and welcoming. All the locals leap at an opportunity to so much as speak to me, even if their vocabulary only consists of “hello” and “bye bye”, they still seem overjoyed by the experience. Even those who speak no English are willing to go out of their way to try and communicate. From random greetings in the streets, to being pulled aside for a picture with total strangers, the community here seems genuinely happy to have us around. I can’t say I have had a bad experience yet, even struggling to order dinner from an all Chinese menu is met with laughs, smiles and occasionally pulls someone from their table to become a translator. In the first month, this experience has expanded my boundaries, taken me on eye-opening adventures, and taught me what it truly means to fit in. It took a fourteen-hour flight, culture shock, and a language barrier to make me realize that home doesn’t have to be where I blend in most. Here I am, half-way across the world and sticking out more than I ever will in my life, yet I have never felt more at home.

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I take Destiny Johnson FA17 Obliviona lot of time here to step back and reflect on my reality. I cannot grasp how different things are than I expected. To say the least, my expectations were greatly overcame and obliterated. China, and more specifically Dalian, is so much more than I ever imagined it could be. It is so easy to say that and not be able to portray this experience for others back home. It is something that most words are unable to create. I can not believe how wrong I was about my thoughts of coming to China.
I am someone who gets homesick on an average basis… I enjoy my family and friends; home holds a very large, warm spot in my heart. No matter how amazing the place is that I am, it can never compare to home. I was afraid that China would come with a large amount of culture shock and a plentiful, normal amount of homesickness. However, something very different has came with this experience here… I have fallen in love with Dalian. I have produced a whole new trait of independence, in which I am happy with myself and experiencing new things. I have established a love and curiosity for learning new cultures and indulging in it. Although I do not prefer chopsticks, I respect, admire, and enjoy living in other aspects of the culture here.
I truly wish that every American could have the opportunity to travel abroad and experience other cultures. Not only that, but to truly understand and learn about them. It has changed who I am as a person and I have started to cherish the ways of the people here, rather than judge the differences and believe that my culture is superior. While I am proud to be an American here, as it is a more important factor now than when in America, I do not let it get in the way of my raw experience here. There is one particular moment that I have recently experienced and it is something I have never felt before. All of us interns attended the Freshman Welcome Ceremony this past Saturday and it included all of the new MSU students, as well as the staff here. The introduction was underway, and they announced that they would play the Chinese National Anthem, as well as the American National Anthem. This surprised me, but i did not expect what was about to happen. They played the Chinese Anthem first and all of the students sang along to the moving, powerful piece. I felt inferior, as I felt like I should know the words, too. Then, the music stopped and there was a moment of silence. The music to the American National Anthem started and I have never felt more proud to be an American. It is something special to be in another country and hear your nation’s proudest anthem. I was brought to tears and have never felt so moved. It is not something that I normally feel when I hear this song, as I hear it often in America and it is a routine part of events. I will never forget the emotions from that day and how proud I was to be who I am, while also appreciating being in a new place that I love.
An important note that I wanted to make in this blog is that everything is never as it seems. No place can be known until it is experienced first hand. I truly urge anyone that is hesitant to travel or commit to long distance opportunities, whether it be for school or work, to do it. I was scared before I came, but I will never thank myself enough for being brave enough to accept this amazing offer to come here. Every single day I think about how grateful I am to be here. I can write blogs and share pictures as often as I want, but no one will be able to understand the true depth behind this experience without experiencing it themselves. I was truly oblivious as to what this trip would hold in store for me.

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Magic and Wonder

Sage Clunn FA17 Magic and WonderThe greatest tragedy of our age is that the days of magic and wonder have been replaced with science and reasoning. Traveling across the entire world, something that once might have been a nearly impossible feat, is now achievable in one day. Here I sit, typing this, a world away from the place I was born.

Soaring tens of thousands of feet above the ground at hundreds of miles per hour, I sat motionless and utterly unaware of the world below me. We flew on the fringe of where our earth met the heavens. We experienced something that our ancestors never had the chance to, something they could only have dreamt about. I wonder if it is any less of a dream for us. Are we beings that truly feel the gravity of this world and our actions within it, or are we simply numb spectators who look only to be entertained by this corporeal existence? I fear that I am the latter, because it took me less than an hour to become bored and turn to electronic entertainment.

In Dalian, Xinghai Square is one of my favorite places. More specifically, the literal ledge between civilization and the sea. In one direction, I can look unto the vastness of the ocean, and in the other, the mountains mingling with the skyscrapers. As I watched the sun set through the crimson sky, it dumbfounded me when I realized it was about to rise at the home I’d left behind… Once night falls the bridge over the ocean lights up with vivid colors. It illuminates the ocean between it and the land. I can see as far as the bridge, but past it is nothing. Utter darkness.

It’s both terrifying and humbling to realize that no matter how much I think I know, and how much I learn, I will never truly understand this world or my place in it. Knowledge isn’t quantified by how much you know, knowledge is an awareness of how much you don’t know.

Science and reasoning will only ever allow us to see so far. Those who rely entirely upon those two things will be blind towards the larger world, and ultimately deprived of the things that bring value to our short existences… Magic and wonder.

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I don’t really consider myself to be an athletic person, but I know what it feels like to stretch before or after a workout. At first your muscles are kind of tight, it’s difficult, and kind of uncomfortable. Being in a new country and experiencing a new culture is like stretching from the inside out. Even though it doesn’t seem natural at first the more you push yourself the more it benefits you.

Despite the occasional embarrassing and confusing moments (like when you try to ask a waitress what you thought was a simple question and before you know it there are five people that don’t speak English standing around you trying to figure out what you’re asking and how to respond) being in China has been amazing so far! It’s going to mean having a whole new perspective on life by the time this semester is over. After all, four months is a long time to stretch.

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Four Days of Fun

JuliannaBaker4We came back to reality today as the four day Tomb-Sweeping Holiday ended. Every year on the 15th day from the Spring Equinox, the Chinese honor their ancestors by (literally) sweeping their tombs, offering food, and burning replicated luxuries such as money or designer bags. It’s a big deal here, and in the surrounding countries as well. We took the time off of school to travel around Dalian and really get a feel for the city we are living in.

On Friday, we went to Labor Park to try out Eurobake, the American restaurant that ALL of the interns rave about. (Okay, so if you’re an intern and you’re reading this…it’s true. Their food is amazing). Labor Park itself is absolutely gorgeous; it has the huge soccer ball and a little carnival area. We didn’t get to see much because we arrived too late, but we do plan on returning soon.

On Saturday, we went to Olympic Square and walked around the Olympic 66 Mall. It wasn’t the best mall we’ve been to, but it did have a skating rink! Fun fact: nearly every big mall/business has a grocery store in it. I think it’s really interesting.

On Sunday, we rode a bus all the way to the Dalian Forest Zoo. We had quite a bit of difficulty trying to find the entrance, but it was worth the trouble. It is HUGE! We were there for three hours and didn’t even see half of the animals. There are some big differences between the Dalian Zoo and the zoos back in America. I was mostly shocked by how close we were to the animals. I am pretty sure the giraffes, zebras, tigers, and the bears could have all jumped out of their exhibits. While I feared for my safety, it was so amazing seeing them up close. Another big difference is the abundance of animals. All of the zoos I have been to have only had one or two of each animal, whereas the zoo here had up to twenty or thirty.

On Monday, we went to Xinghai Square and watched the sunset on the beach. When the sun went down, it was freezing so we walked over the Castle Hotel and looked around. It was beautiful, and we even got to see a bride and groom taking their wedding photos! This was definitely my favorite adventure of the weekend.

On Tuesday we did a little shopping and prepared to get back into the school routine. I really enjoyed the time we had to explore, and I can’t wait for the 10 day break coming up at the end of this month!

Until next time,



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In a World of Pure Imagination

JuliannaBaker3Not much has happened this week besides school and work. It is so fun to work with the Chinese students and watch them learn and correct their grammar mistakes before you tell them to. They are always so willing to learn, and it has actually made me reflect on my own grammar skills. I will tell them to change something and they will say, “Why?” I never realized that I didn’t learn the ‘whys’ of the English language and being a tutor has prompted me to do so. It’s amazing being surround by bilingual students because even though I’m supposed to be the teacher, I’m learning too.

Yesterday morning we woke up to people chanting outside our dorm. We were really confused and a little cranky (it was Saturday morning!!) so we went to investigate. Apparently they hardcore prep for their soccer games here. They were playing team games and even decorated the streets. Although we were woken up early, it was pretty cool to watch.

Last night we went to a Brazilian BBQ place with the international students. Let me tell you, there aren’t many buffets here in China, but this place was AMAZING. There were all sorts of fruits, desserts, seafood, meats, soups, ice cream… my mouth is watering just thinking about it. You know that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when they walk into that room and everything is edible? That’s what it felt like. I am definitely going back before we leave.

I won’t be doing anymore adventuring this weekend due to some type of cold that I’ve come down with, but I have high hopes for next week!

– Julianna


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