China Study Abroad

My first impression of China was how dangerous it is to drive around here. People are very impatient and are always honking their horns to one another. People here drive very carelessly and there are so many pedestrians that are J-walking; which is something you don’t see in America. People in America off course do J-walk, but they can get a ticket from it. Here in china it’s just very overpopulated and there is no room. I was surprised on the biking system they use here in China. Basically, how it works is you can rent a bike for a low cost and then drop it off anywhere. Usually these bikes are all over Beijing. I have had trouble adapting to the culture here it’s just very different to the American culture. I have noticed that people here love to eat hot food, hot tea, hot everything. The water is contaminated so we cannot drink the tap water only bottled waters. Although people are very friendly here I never imagined it would be this difficult to communicate with Chinese people. Most people here do not speak English and cannot understand what we’re trying to say. The way we communicate is through google translator, but sometimes we don’t have wifi and this prevents us from using it. China has a lot cultural places we visited like the great wall, summer palace, and the Forbidden City. I have enjoyed learning the history behind these amazing places. My favorite place we have visited has been the Great Wall. I never imagined in my lifetime I would be able to visit one of the seven wonders of the world. I feel very privileged and lucky to have the opportunity to be here with my classmates and be experiencing this. Overall, this has been an amazing experience I extremely recommend this trip. The food was not my favorite, but everything else was great. I have learned so much on this trip especially how spoiled we are in America. I learned to value my life in the United States and how lucky I am to be living in developed country. I will miss China, but I am very excited to go back to Texas.

Categories: 2017 Trip

My first impression of China was that it was a wild place with no rhyme or reason. Leaving the airport and driving to the hotel was quite an experience. No body seemed to follow any sort of traffic laws, people looked completely straight while crossing intersections, bikers and scooter riders just weaved dangerously in front of buses, and amazingly no one seemed phased by the hundred or so near accidents I witnessed within 15 minutes of driving in Beijing. Beijing was highly crowded and packed, with a lot of people walking and biking around. I quickly learned that unlike Europe, no body in Beijing seemed to speak a word of English. The only way we were able to communicate is by using Google Translate and  and by pointing.

I assumed that people were going to be very rude and very hesitant to help and serve us. I thought that people would hate us because we were the annoying foreigners that were nothing but a pain to them; however, I was pleasantly surprised and never have been so happy to be so wrong. The people in China were amazing (well most of them). Almost everyone was so helpful and so friendly. They really tried their best to communicate and were very patient with us butchering simple phrases in Chinese, such as when we were pronouncing the word for beer slightly wrong, and ended up accidentally asking if they had any baby dragons. The air pollution was no where near what I was expecting because there was a massive conference, the Belton Road conference, and the government had shut down all the factories. After the conference was over, the factories were switched on and the pollution came back, but thankfully nothing horrible. After playing football with the locals we did struggle to breath and were taking short, cough filled breaths.

The food in china was packed with flavors and spices. Although loving every bite, my stomach was constantly upset. Everything was really cheap and the USD was really strong against the Yuan. The locals were very friendly and every time we went somewhere, we were the most popular attraction. The locals and other tourists from other parts of china constantly lined up to take pictures and selfies with us. This happened every single day. Often, we would spot people try and sneakily take pictures of us but we would gesture them to come take a proper picture with us to which they would happily do so. China was a beautiful country filled with lots of culture and lots of food. There were many different districts in Beijing, and some areas were very run down and poor and some were amazingly built up and wealthy. I have been all over the world but am struggling to find a city to compare Beijing to. Xi’an, the ancient capitol of China was very different. The moslem street was packed with nightlife. People everywhere shouting trying to sell their food which was spectacular. From lamb carved off the bone and straight on the grill to things we had no idea what it was, we tried as much as we could. We then went shopping and bartered with the locals who tried to rip us off (and probably did) but we felt like we got a good deal which is what is important.

Overall this trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. China was completely different than the US, yet it was very similar. You still have big business popping up, locals going about their business, friends going out together for a bite to eat and a couple of drinks, and friends and family enjoying life together. The culture is very different and it is something that is hard to describe, but you can only understand by experiencing it yourself. I loved China and I cannot wait to go back.

Categories: 2017 Trip

First Impression:

I knew as soon as I stepped out of the Airport that I would love this city. I was 7,200 miles from home, but it felt as if I’d never left. Beijing combines the urban sprawl and color of my home city Houston with the political and economic importance of Washington D.C. I immediately opened up google maps to get an understanding of my location relative to the city, and was pleased to find that Houston and Beijing had similarities down to the core infrastructure. Each city has a central administrative area surrounded by 3 or 4 rings of highways, that allow for quick transportation despite having millions of inhabitants.

We arrived early at our hotel, allowing me some free time to roam around my new neighborhood. As I walked alone through the side streets and alleys of Beijing, I must admit I had a hint of doubt at the back of my mind. “What are you doing?” I thought to myself, “you aren’t welcome here, nobody will help when you get lost.” However, my doubts were vanquished as quickly as they had formed; I couldn’t turn a corner without getting a smile and a “Ni Hao”. Although I knew it immediately, the next few days helped cement the realization that these were some of the friendliest people I had met on any of my travels around the world. I know I am in for a wonderful next couple of weeks.

 

What I learned about China:

Oh man, I learned too much to try to squeeze it into a half-page of blog, but I’ll do my best. China has long been a major force in the world, and will continue to be for at least centuries to come. Although they lagged behind economically between the 1600s and 1900s, they are rapidly gaining and are poised to overtake the western world within the next few decades (if even). In 1979, China was nearly in last place in terms of GDP; 40 years later they are now second only to the U.S. and are projected to pass us in less than 5 years.

Some of the factors that affect their rapid growth are their immense population, State-Owned Enterprise’s (SOE) pooling of resources, and their cultural mindset of working together rather than for their own personal gain. However, these aspects are not purely positive; for instance, their large population to the west of major economic hubs means that as they expand their infrastructure there will be a marginal decrease in benefit, their SOE’s sometimes lose in efficiency what they gain in pure power of size, and the cultural group-think mindset can often times lead to as many bad decisions as good.

Enough about economics, lets talk about people. I want to thank Geng Xinyu (Candi) for putting up with my incessant questioning. Little did she know she’d be getting interrogated any time she got near me. First of all, the word “Manchuria” is not known in Mandarin, the Japanese created that term when they invaded, instead the North-East part of China is known as DongBei. Although it says it right there on the Wikipedia page, this is something that I wouldn’t have known unless I went to China and asked for myself. Secondly, not much thought is given to North Korea (surprising for me), when asked about Korea, Xinyu began to list off some of her favorite artists before I clarified. Finally, for anybody reading this before their trip to China, be ready to welcome tons of photographs. They will try to be discrete about it, but it is so much more fun welcoming them in and taking a group photo.

Above all else, the most important thing I learned is how kind the Chinese people are. I can’t wait until my next trip to the Middle Kingdom.

Categories: 2017 Trip

Before I came to China, whenever I told someone about my study abroad plans they usually made a comment about the pollution. Although I did not pack a face mask, there was a slight worry that my body would not handle the air well. However, when we arrived in Beijing we learned there was a conference going on regarding the Belt and Road Initiative. The concept, proposed in 2013, is a land route starting in western China and extending out to through central Asia to European and through the Middle East. The Chinese government had turned off the factories in Beijing because many foreign leaders were visiting the capital for the conference. We were very lucky to be blessed with good air quality during our stay and I have not needed a mask.

There was a large difference between the design of American cities versus Chinese cities. Most America cities have a central business district with large skyscrapers and then the buildings spread out and become shorter. In Beijing, the city is very large and spread out with building rising and falling in all directions. In China, there were clusters of 4-8 building that looked exactly alike and most of these were residential. We later learned these were government–built buildings. Overall, the architecture didn’t look drastically different from buildings in America.

I was concerned about how I would embrace the food in China because I am a very picky eater. However, when I tried the food I was delightfully surprised. On the first night we had Peking Duck, which is a Beijing specialty dish. The cooked duck is served on a thin pancake with sweet bean sauce with a sliver of cucumber and onion. I really like this dish and all the other food I have tried has been really delicious.

The cultural visits have been incredible and my favorite part of the trip so far. We have seen Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall of China. I loved learning about the Ming dynasty that built the Forbidden City and how it has been used since. It was repainted for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 so the colors are very vibrant. The Summer Palace was incredibly beautiful set on a hill overlooking a shimmering lake. The dirt from the manmade lake was used to make the hill where the palace is perched. The Great Wall of China has been my favorite sight seeing experience because the Great Wall has always fascinated me. It was incredible to be able to walk along an amazing piece of history and see it stretch out for miles.

My initial impression of China is that it is very different from the United States. The people are incredibly kind and their culture is fascinating. I am excited to learn about the business aspect of China and further my understanding of Chinese culture during the remainder of my stay.

Categories: 2017 Trip

It is so important to learn about China because they are a world leader and possesses a growing economy. It seems like Americans are afraid that China is seeking to become the most powerful country in terms of military and economic strength. Through my study abroad, I learned the United States and China have a partnership to mutually benefits each country. Our countries look to a future of integration and collaboration, which starts with understanding each other.

Although we lacked knowledge of the Chinese language we adapted and decreased the language barrier. Our tour guides were very helpful and were able to speak to Chinese officials at the cultural visits and servers at restaurants in order to give us the best experience. We also had a few students from Beijing Jiaotong University that spoke English and knew a lot about America from studying in the United States. The students became our good friends and hung out with us during our free time where they helped by directing cab drivers and giving us better understanding of the culture. When it came to ordering at restaurants a lot of establishments had pictures and English on the menu and the servers understood when we pointed to the items. Google Translate became a wonderful tool because I could type in English and it would translate to Chinese. I was even able to get a wonderful haircut by translating what I wanted to the hairdresser.

We had the opportunity to visit the city of Xi’an, known as the western capital. Xi’an is the home of the Terra Cotta warriors discovered in 1974 by a farmer. It was incredible to see this huge army of unique clay warriors. The time and dedication to the creation of protection for the afterlife was very impressive. We spent the night in the Muslim market exploring interesting foods and shopping for souvenirs. Another memorable moment was riding bikes along the city wall for exercise and sightseeing. Xi’an is famous for their many kinds of dumpling and we got to try them all at lunch.

We visited four companies during our time in Beijing. The first company was KPMG where we met Luke Treloar, and expatriate who had lived in China for 15 years. He loved to talk about his experiences as an American worker in a foreign country and China’s growing economy. We visited Yanjing Beer Group Corporation and got the opportunity to tour their brewery. Yanjing Beer has a lot of pride in their beer and their country and was highly respected as the official beer of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. We also visited two major construction companies, CRCC and CCCC. These are both state own enterprises that work on major infrastructure projects domestically and abroad. I enjoyed hearing about the major projects that they had done around the world, which took so much engineering and construction planning. I was especially impressed by CCCC because their museum was simple yet impressive and their presentation was informative and interesting. They talked a lot about corporate social responsibility and the benefits that they present when do work in other countries. It was extremely interesting to learn how business is done in China and how the government is greatly involved in the companies work.

I loved my time in China and greatly value all that I have learned from this trip. China and America need to keep our political and economic ties so that we can have a more global future and continue the success of both countries. I believe that learning more about other cultures such as China gives us a better understanding and a greater advantage in the business world.

Categories: 2017 Trip

Although two weeks was not nearly long enough, I have learned more about China than ever before. Dr. Gaspar, along with a star-studded cast of Bejing Jaotong University professors, did an excellent job of painting a full picture of the business and cultural environment of China. The course material was engaging and touched on a wide variety of companies operating in different industries across the country.

One of the more intriguing topics exposed to us were the so-called “Ghost Cities” that are being erected all over China. The way in which they are being constructed and financed is complex and extremely convoluted, but in short they are largely unpopulated metroplexes under construction. The government believes in its ability to divert population to this area by means of relocating factories (and its workers) once the infrastructure projects are complete. To my knowledge no other country in the world has the wherewithal nor the authority to do such a thing. On our return journey from Xi’an to Bejing we had the opportunity to ride a bullet train, which gave us a front row show to the plethora of fifty plus story buildings being constructed in groups of a dozen or more. As cool as this may have looked in passing, I couldn’t shake an overwhelmingly eerie feeling.

As is true with any culture, the only way to fully immerse oneself is to spend time with its people. The students at BJTU were gracious hosts, so I am going to give a special shout out to Candace, Candy, Linda, Derek and the many other students that made for a great trip and helped with a very inconvenient communication barrier.

Categories: 2017 Trip

First Impression

China was left a serious impression on me. I was struck by just how many things we had in common, and the subtle (and serious) things that we did not. I was first impressed by just how prevalent technology was, especially for younger generations. Much like in the US, everyone had a cellphone, and what’s more, used cellphone payment services to make most of their purchases, leaving us tourists who used cash a near-relic. Another major difference was how different the housing stock was. I know that China is densely populated, and that Beijing is among the most populous cities on the planet, but I was still overwhelmed by massive apartments rising dozens of stories as far as the eye could see, in sets of half a dozen or more almost identical buildings. In the cities we traveled, I never once saw a single-family unit house. Despite that, I was actually impressed by how spread out Beijing was, I expected a nest of skyscrapers and fantastically dense sidewalks and highways. It was still very dense, and a significant amount of new vertical buildings pierced the sky, but the city was larger than I thought, but not quite so high. Perhaps the most significant difference I noticed was how unregimented street traffic was. There were no vehicle standards other than a max of 4 people to a taxi. There were motorbikes, rickshaws of all makes and models, mopeds, bikes, buses, and of course cars. Cars would aggressively merge and make rapid turns and coast near pedestrians, honking occaissionally, mostly to just avoid a collision. Despite it all, there were few wrecks, and I did not get a sense of anger or aggression in their driving.

 

Final Impression

China has helped open my eyes to just how different other nations can be in all sorts of ways, but also how much we have in common. Business in China is conducted more with the nation’s wellbeing in mind, rather than just the individual. Some independent thinking is apparent, we had a lecture of a professor opposing the high speed rail project the government was encouraging. However, on the whole, everyone is very much a supporter of the nation and their family. We saw a Yianjing Beer commercial that almost doubled as propaganda, as did a multi-floor exhibition of the CRCC. Another major example is the fact that the nation had all of its major factories turned off so the smog would not hinder a major international summit. The Chinese obviously want to make the best impression as possible, and are trying to balance more interaction with the world and their vested interest in state management. Another thing that struck me was how much American and Western culture in general influenced their dress, music, and shopping habits. Brands from Europe and the states were spelled in english letters, and not transliterated in to Mandarin, as were the names on the apparral of the youth in China. Many wore clothes English phrases on them, and we did not know whether they could read them or not. Additionally, many danced and listened to the same music American youth listened to. This extended to the general celebrity status Americans had, rightly or not. We were constantly asked if people could take pictures with us, even at impressive and photo-worthy national monuments. The college students seemed more active in general (we did not go into any dorms), as they could be seen strolling, walking around, or playing any number of sport games in the outdoor arenas throughout campus. It was interesting to see such a campus embedded so deeply and integrally to a city. Many of those on campus were not students. Overall, I think China is a major player in the world already, and will become more so as time goes one. The massive new cities built from nothing in just a few short years, the spectacular growth demonstrated on virtually every economic indicator, inclusion in the WTO and currency reserve basket with the IMF, among many other things tell me that China has a lot to offer the world, culturally, economically, politically, and socially, and this trip helped me to see that, and realize it is worth keeping track of the People’s Republic as time goes on.

Categories: 2017 Trip

Going into this trip to Beijing, it was hard to know what to expect. Traveling on a 15-hour flight with a group of students I barely knew and no cell phone (Air China forces you to leave your phone powered off for the entire duration of the flight) was definitely a nerve-racking experience. However, once we arrived in China many of these nerves quickly went away. Our group bonded as we were all fascinated by the cultural differences and how massive the city of Beijing is. The drivers are aggressive, there are high-rise apartment buildings everywhere, we were told to bargain for prices at various markets, and the language barrier was a real challenge.

Over our first few days we visited the Great Wall, walked through the Forbidden City, took a dragon boat ride at the Summer Palace, and ate a wonderful Peking Duck meal. These cultural experiences opened my eyes to the rich history of China and made me even more excited to see what the rest of the trip holds.

After some cultural experiences, we had the pleasure of visiting KPMG Beijing and the Yanjing Beer manufacturing facility. At KPMG, we were able to hear from Senior Manager Luke Treloar, an expatriate who told us about the future of the Chinese economy as well as his experience as an American living full time in Beijing. Yanjing gave us a great opportunity to see how a Chinese manufacturing facility is run and we even received samples!

This visit to China has been a tremendous experience so far and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this trip has in store for our group.

Categories: 2017 Trip

Over these two weeks, we were able to become a lot more comfortable living in this unique culture. We became accustomed to ordering food by just pointing or by showing them a photo. We figured out how to get around using the subway system and we got better at finding fun activities to do at night as a group.

During the second half of the trip, we experienced riding the sleeper train and spending a weekend in Xi’an. During this cultural excursion, we visited the world-famous Terra Cotta Warriors and experienced exotic food at the Muslim Street Night Market. This weekend getaway was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Something that I found fascinating about China was the prevalence of State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s). SOE’s are companies in which the majority stakeholder is the Chinese government. These were frequently brought up by our professors at BJTU an we also had the pleasure of visiting two of the largest ones, China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) and China Communications Construction Company (CCCC). Both of these companies operate in the engineering sector and they collaborate on some projects while competing for others. The main difference is that CRCC focuses on government-oriented projects (such as High Speed Rail construction) while CCCC is more oriented towards the global market.

One thing I developed over the course of this trip was a new appreciation for how seriously the U.S. government takes environmental protection. There was frequently a thick layer of smog in the city and breathing could sometimes be difficult. While the U.S. does have its fair share of environmental issues, I feel truly blessed that we can have air of much higher quality, even when our factories are running.

Visiting China was a fantastic experience and I made a lot of great friends. While I don’t see myself living there long term, I would love the opportunity to visit again for business or tourism purposes.

Categories: 2017 Trip

David Page

Initial impressions of china – When we were headed to china on the plane I didn’t know what to expect when I got off. In my mind I had all the pictures I’d seen in textbooks or on TV and movies. I was expecting a somewhat poor place with a lot of street markets and people walking around, with a lot of typical Chinese culture. As soon as we got off the plane I realized most of what I had in my mind was going to be false. When we first got off and were waiting in line to show our passports I was completely surprised at the size of the airport and how modern everything looked. As we got on the bus and headed to the hotel I realized how similar America and china were really going to be. The street signs looked the same, the highways looked the same, and buildings look somewhat similar to America. The only difference was all the writing was in Chinese. As we get to the hotel it is apparent how urban and modern Beijing was. There are nice cars everywhere, big buildings, and a lot of people already walking around even though it was 5 or 6 in the morning. The hotel was nice and better than what I was expecting, and I thought it was a little funny that every hotel room had an air purifier, to make sure we weren’t breathing in too much pollution. As walked around everything started to seem even more like America and I realized there were more similarities to the US and China than there were differences. We went to go eat lunch and my first impression with the food and the people was very positive. Everyone was pretty nice and very patient with us Americans who only spoke zero mandarin.

 

What I learned about china – I learned quite a bit about China in our two-week stay. While some of it was learned in our lectures and business visits, and a lot was learned just walking around interacting with the people. In lecture we were given a crash course on some of china’s biggest industries and the culture of china. We learned how many of the large corporations in china are state owned enterprises, in which the majority of the business is controlled by the state. Many of these state owned business’s run at a loss and the government covers their losses. One of the most interesting lectures was learning about the high-speed rail way and what it took to finance, build, and maintain. The professor was against the government funding the high-speed railway because many of the rails are run at a loss. They are expensive to maintain, expensive to build, and need an extremely large amount of people to use to maintain a profit. We also learned about how Chinese culture applied to businesses. The Chinese people think more about the group, compared to Americans who focus more on the individual. To get ahead in America is pays to be creative and take the initiative in your job. In China, these traits are not as valuable. It is better to do what you are told and learn to follow the rules to the T. Walking around we learned quite a bit about Chinese people and culture. Something that stood out to be the most was the driving and how different it was than America. People drive however they want and will get inches from you when you are crossing the street and other cars while driving. But they don’t get upset or angry like people in America, they seem used to it and remain calm through the whole process. We learned in lecture that Chinese people did not express emotion as much as Americans and this was evident when we walked around and interacted with people.

Categories: 2017 Trip