by Kristy T.
It was on November 19th, the day of my birthday, that I found out I was accepted into the China Maymester study abroad program. I’m never going to forget the feeling of extreme excitement and also the feeling of pure nervousness. After the initial excitement wore off, a ton of questions started to form. “How can I pay for this?”, “Who else is going?”, “Will I get along with people on the trip?”. It was honestly terrifying jumping into the pure unknown for the first time of my life.
Fast forward to eight months later, and it is now my last week in China. Over the semester of preparation for Beijing I constantly heard that it was going to be a life changing experience, and even though I believed it, I didn’t know to the extent that it would affect my life. After a month of using “squaty potties”, dealing with not being fluent in the language, and adjusting to an overall new environment, I feel like a completely different person. I learned how to be more patient and adaptable and most importantly, I became a lot more appreciative and grateful for everything that I have been blessed with.
During the past months I have made relationships that I know will last a lifetime. All of the people that I’ve met during this trip has given me a new perspective on so many different things and have influenced me in so many ways, and helped me become a better person. They taught me how to live, learn, persevere, and to see the world in a new light. They gave me so many memories and almost instantly became like a family to me, making Beijing feel like a home away from home.
I’m going to make the most of these last few days and take everything in before I have to get on the plane with all of the amazing friends I’ve made. Overall, I can honestly say that finding out that I was accepted into the program, was the best birthday present I could’ve ever received. So thank you to all of the friends I made during the trip, you will always be my Beijing family. I’ll miss all of you!
by Kastina Fishback
For a long period in my life, The Great Wall was the only thing that popped into my head when I thought of China. I have always read about it in world history books, but I never even once fathomed myself ever actually being there. Look at me now! I, Kastina Fishback, can actually say I climbed to the highest point of THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA and was able to watch the beautiful morning sun rise over it. How many people do you know who can say this?
When we first arrived at The Great Wall, I had no idea what to expect. I knew we would be staying overnight at a small village that was not technologically advanced at all, so I was pretty nervous. But just simply laying eyes on The Great Wall took away all of that apprehensiveness. I was in complete awe. I couldn’t help but wonder how normal people were able to build something as incredible as this without the modern technology we have today. It was breathtaking.
The hike up to the tallest point on The Great Wall of China was definitely one of the hardest things I have physically done in my life. There were many points where I wanted to give up because I was out of breath and in pain. However, I knew that I would never be presented with this opportunity ever again in my life, so I had to take advantage of it. I had some very deep talks with myself while going up that mountain because my body was telling me to stop and take the easy way back down. There is no word to describe the feeling I got when I finally made it to the top. I spent the night in a village that put me completely out of my comfort zone, woke up at 3:00 A.M., embarked on an hour and thirty minute hike uphill, had a nasty fall blood and scratches, and was still able to stand on one of the most historical sites in the world. I’m a pretty amazing person if you ask me.
by Christian Jose Lucero
Going off my last blog post “The Power of Meeting People” – I am very interested in hearing what people think about America and American people. This is a common question I ask people I meet in Beijing and I am enlightened by the different responses I get from good to bad.
Personally, being a Latino student/minority, I feel a social pressure attending a predominantly white institution. This has lead to feeling that my actions represent my whole race when I am the only Hispanic student in the class. This is not a welcoming feeling.
This has shaped my perception about American culture and American people both good and bad. Today I said hello to Ning Zhao. She is an adult female born in Beijing, and it was interesting to hear what she had to say about American people/culture.
Notes Conversation with Ning Zhao:
American people are very prideful, when doing business they say we understand your situations, values, and beliefs but we think our way is the best.
Chinese people they are really big on relationships. They do their best to try to find something in common with you like having the same last name (Han/Gonzales), or part of the same province even if not same town still connect. Then they have more reason to help you. But if you are a stranger, no benefits to helping you, why should they. No incentives. This is why Wechat is popular because now people can connect a lot easier and make connections this brings tons of benefits, part of same wechat group.
U.S. people are very individualistic, don’t take in to consideration about a lot of things. For example, if we do business we just focus on business, not all the possible factors of what can happen because of our business. Chinese take in to consideration a lot of factors.
Ning Zhao, is very impressed with how American people treat each other (we treat each other good because we are human beings). She went to Walmart and her boss asked her to buy a baby filter as a favor, that he got one previously at the Walmart in San Fransciso, but she was in Pennsylvania. She went to customer service at Walmart and ask if they had the baby filter, the employee looked it up online to see if they had it and they didn’t but she called the corporation they say they didn’t either. Then she asked Ning Zhao where we heard they had the baby filter she said the Walmart from San Fransciso and the employee also called their Walmart department in SF. She said everyone in line behind her was patient no one was in a rush. She was amazed by the costumer service and people because if they were in China this type of caring and patience for the customer would never happen.
In conclusion, you have a responsibility to disprove stereotypes, and change people’s perspective on the meaning of being American, why is our culture important, and how can we change to make more foreigners feel welcome by us. Are we too prideful? Are we too individualistic?
by Thais Moore
Dr. Leonard Moore invited Enver Daniels, Chief State Law Advisor of South Africa to speak to the Maymester students on Wednesday. Daniels’ position is the American equivalent to a U.S. Attorney General. Daniels was instrumental in helping to write the new South African Constitution of 1994 when the new democratic government began, after apartheid ended.
Colonialism and the apartheid history are personal for Daniels and therefore his role in drafting the new state constitution was vital. During apartheid he and his family were forceably removed from their homes and neighborhoods into what is known as a township–in the more rural parts of the city. Whites did not want to live near the Blacks (those of pure African decent) nor the Coloureds (those of mixed races), and so they would come through with bulldozers and flatten entire neighborhoods forcing people off the land. In many of the townships, that still exist today, water supply and toilets are communal, shared by 12 or so families.
Property values where Whites took over, on shorelines and mountainous regions, are now soaring. Daniels explained how Whites illegally gained control of the land, and then set up laws to keep blacks from regaining the territory. Many of the students and staff raised many questions.
Daniels currently works with all branches of government in South Africa and is a long time member of the African National Congress (ANC).
Blacks and Coloureds were required to carry passports at all times. This apartheid regulation was an internal passport system that restricted Blacks and Coloureds from leaving the township; whenever they left the township, they had to have this in hand. If asked to show a passport, and one did not have it with them, that individual would be arrested and sometimes never seen again. Our tour guide Melisizwe Lugulwona explained to us that in mornings on the way to work, thousands of people from the townships stood in lines to show their passes before getting on buses and trains to commute to work. Lines could take up to 3 hours or more. This process was repeated on the return home. This phenomenon marked the beginning of the deterioration of the family. Mothers and fathers who were headed to work had to leave home at 3 and 4am to get to work by 7am, and not return home until 8pm or later. Children were therefore at home alone and raising themselves. Parents had no time to prepare breakfast, dinner, help with homework, do housework, or raise a family.
by Thais Moore
This place is absolutely breathtaking and at the same time horridly depressing. The mountains, the coast, the landscape and greenery, including the people all make up some of God’s best creations. Unfortunately, though, apartheid’s mark is still evident. On Tuesday, the students and staff broke up into groups and did volunteer work at day cares, schools, community centers, and churches. Our group visited a township. I’m literally speechless. I seriously can’t describe it. Yes, I’ve seen pictures before, but to step into someone’s home within the township was quite different.
Everywhere we go, officials, store keepers, university staff, guest lecturers, waitresses are telling us to be very aware of your surroundings–that we can get mugged or robbed or stabbed at any point. As beautiful as the neighborhoods are, one cannot see any of the homes. ALL the homes are surrounded by high brick walls or medal bars, and most have either very sharp spikes at the top or electric wires. I have yet to see a front yard!
Tomorrow, the students and staff will travel out to Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Here we are below at the train station on our way to Simon’s Town.
by Neil Tanner
As I reflect on my journey in Beijing, I am thankful for many things. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from another culture that is very different from the one I was raised with, but it’s great to see that some things are the same wherever you go in the world. I believe its important to try to understand those who perceptually differ from us so that we can understand the root of our differences while seeing how we see eye to eye. It’s also great to see things done a different way so that we can expand and diversify our thought process for making future decisions. As we learned about the different social problems occurring in China, we could draw similarities to experiences from America and use that knowledge to come up with solutions never thought of before. We also could use the research of what current entrepreneurs are doing to solve problems to give us a different perspective on how to solve problems and hopefully use that influence to solve problems in America.
I appreciated the patience, modesty, and hospitality that I received in China. Too often in America, we become very impatient with those who cannot speak English. This was my first time being in a non-English speaking country so now I have a better idea of what the other side feels like. Chinese citizens were very patient with me and my classmates while trying to order food at restaurants get directions on the subway, or trying to start a conversation with a stranger. This barrier has also made me more confident in my ability to survive in diverse situations with the confidence that I can still communicate enough to survive in another country.
The modesty of Chinese civilians could be seen on a everyday basis. Americans often over indulge in everything, which happened to be the opposite in China. Many of the civilians we met came from humble beginnings and appreciated what they had so much more than the average American. We often take what we want, while they took what they needed. Even the meals were modest in comparison to American meals, smaller in proportion but diverse in selection. I was very shocked with the open arms that I felt from the Chinese, as they were often more willing to get to know us, than we to them! The want to learn from others is a very valuable thing that we take for granted every day. Hopefully I can take what I learned during my tenure in Beijing in apply to my everyday life in America.
by Melguisedec Nuno
This was the first day of true exploration of China. We ate at a Duck Roast restaurant where I tried new foods and I realized that I need to learn the art of using chopsticks. Because of my inability to use chopsticks I ate very little, but I still enjoyed the food.
After our lunch we went to the Beijing Urban Planning Museum where I saw that although Beijing is one of the largest cities in the world, it has plans to keep growing and modernize itself in the process. It was amazing to see such a large city still hunger for growth. I know that within the next 20 years Beijing will change dramatically.
Tiananmen Square kept up with the theme at the airport, I was a little person who was a part of a grand piece of art. The area was wide open and had thousands of people walking past, each with their own concerns, their own life. The world we live in is bigger than we think it is, and each person makes up a part of it.
I had great respect for the dedication it took to build the square, the forbidden temple and the rest of Beijing as well. All created by people, thousands of years ago, just like me.
Later that week I went to one of the Hutongs, Nanluoguxiang and I felt as though I was in feudal china. A land ruled by the mandate of heaven, a place mysterious to the common westerner. I ate on top of a roof top and witnessed the sun set on a temple placed on a hill. Beauty, pure beauty. I felt a tickling comfort and I loved it.
It was only the first week and I had the best time of my life.