In the week I have been here, China never ceases to surprise me with new experiences. Interacting with locals, savoring local food, and experiencing China’s history by exploring the Forbidden City have opened my eyes to Beijing’s character. In fact, I’ve had so many experiences that I’m already struggling to remember everything.

One of the surprises was how friendly most people in Beijing are toward foreigners, at least outwardly. Most of the people I have dealt with, particularly the younger individuals, are glad to help me find my way. Taxi drivers are typically gruff, but even they show appreciation when I try to use my rudimentary Mandarin. Restaurant workers usually help out when I or my group can’t figure out what to get, and I can’t say the dishes I’ve tried disappointed me.

My favorite experience so far was on our group’s very first day in Beijing. We decided to get some breakfast at a local restaurant, which ended up being a small family-owned place. No one spoke any English there, so the challenge was to figure out how we could communicate our order. We had no clue what the menu said, and we couldn’t respond to the owner’s questions. I tried out my terrible Mandarin and told the lady we would like to have steamed buns for seven people, and she seemed excited I could actually say something. She then went of for about five minutes. Apparently she heard me say seven full bowls of steamed buns, because she brought back a massive amount of food that we couldn’t possibly finish. She also astounded us by saying it would cost a total of 42 yuan, less than $7.00!

Who knows what the next week will bring? My favorite experiences here have all been with the people. I enjoy the historical visits, but I feel more immersed when I am out on Beijing’s streets, when I attempt to order food, and when I try to explain where I want to go to a taxi driver. I look forward to the next few days and I expect to have many, many more memorable moments.

Categories: 2016 Trip

When I first signed up to study abroad I didn’t know what to expect. The 15 hour flight made me a bit nervous but I was excited to be able to see the Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven. I thought that this trip would be long since we really didn’t bond with our group before coming but that was not the case. We had our first funny experience when we exchanged money at the airport. One of the guys had left their suitcase there and didn’t realize it until we were boarding the bus. That was my first moment of culture shock. We were trying to communicate with the security to be able to retrieve his luggage. Since that moment our group has just been able to bond and become the best of friends.

The cultural difference is real! From walking on busy streets to the way you interact in markets and in the eating place. The driving in Beijing is insane compared to the United States. Here in China it is complete chaos. Also when you go to the market you have to bargain the price of an item. Nothing has a set price which is very different. When eating it is nice that we have all one big giant table to share and enjoy our meal.

Beijing Jiaotong University is also a lot different from our campus. The University is gorgeous and even has a small pond in the center of it. The classrooms are definitely different than ours. All of the students that we have met so far have been incredibly nice and patient with us. We even met past exchange students and future exchange Aggies. It is very exciting to explain our culture and point out the difference of Beijing and College Station.

I have become more culturally sensitive and globally exposed to a different culture and form of business. The Chinese culture is not at all similar to that of the United States. The Chinese people believe in a collectivist society versus our individualist society and that is something that I found truly inspiring and different. Thanks to all the lectures and tours we have had I have learned so much about China. Coming to China has been an eye opening experience. China is a culture rich place that has helped me see a different side of things. I fell in love with this city because of the food, the culture, the history calling it amazing is just not enough.

 

Categories: 2016 Trip

We arrived in China at 4:10 AM on Saturday May 14th and after a 15 hour long flight I couldn’t have been more excited to explore, but the trip through the airport and to the hotel took several hours. Our drive to the hotel that morning was such an eye opening experience. The one thing surprised me was the amount of bikes and scooters, and the lack of regulation for them on the road. One of our tour guides said that Beijing was once known as the Bike Kingdom. We passed through many apartment buildings along the highway, but these buildings look very run down and old. The people in this city walk the fine line of living in poverty and living well. Even for these old apartments the cost of living is tremendously expensive. Another interesting fact is that they can only own their estate for 70 years, and once the term is over they must return the property to the state. It is so different from the U.S where once you buy a property you only need to pay taxes on it and you own it forever. The culture shock was indescribable, being in a country where I could barely communicate with others except my group was unreal. Buying food and using taxis are always an interesting experience. Our communication consists of a lot of hand gestures and numbers.

On our first day here we had the opportunity to visit a few historic sites and we finished it off with a delicious Peking Duck dinner. There was light rain throughout the whole day, but it didn’t ruin the experience at all. We began the day by going to the drum tower and bell tower. These two tall buildings were used in the past to announce time. The architecture on these buildings were beautiful. Afterwards we walked to a historical residential courtyard where families a few centuries ago would live. These type of courtyards were several buildings that housed extended families. They were designed a specific way where certain buildings were meant for certain members of the household, such as a building for the parents, daughters, and sons. It was so interesting to see how a family in China lived several centuries ago. That night we had a very delicious dinner that was served on a round table. The Chinese enjoy eating in round tables so everyone can be included in the conversation. We ate a family style dinner with the food served on a cylinder disk in the middle of the table that rotated and we all just shared. Honestly a lot of the food here is hit or miss, I have tried things that are really tasty, but I’ve also had things that I never want to try again in my life. We have shared a lot of our meals in China because of the size of the portions that they serve, and because its often very difficult to order for everybody individually because of our lack of mandarin.

The second day here was my favorite. We had the opportunity to visit the temple of heaven, summer palace, and the forbidden city. The size and the architecture of these buildings are amazing and breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, and the history behind it is amazing. The constant transition of dynasties throughout history had so much influence on Chinese culture. Comparing this to the U.S, with the U.S being only a few centuries old it is really amazing to see the history of such an influential country. My favorite place was the forbidden city, this place housed the emperors for all the dynasties. The place was so big it said that it has 8800 rooms, so it would take at least a full day to see everything.

I feel very lucky to have such a great opportunity to visit China, and experience the culture and appreciate the history. I’m taking in everything I hear, see, taste or touch because I do not take this experience for granted.

Categories: 2016 Trip

This China trip has been an eye-opening experience for me. I’m struck by how much consumerism I see in parts of Beijing since China is labeled as a Communist country.  The malls are very luxurious, I see a number of thriving privately owned businesses, and the pursuit of profit definitely exists in this city. It’s a reminder to me that China has a mix of both socialist and capitalist elements.  I was caught off guard by the need to haggle here, because in the US I think bartering is viewed as confrontational. At the same time, I’ve observed a great deal of poverty in Beijing. I’ve heard from multiple locals about how financially difficult it is to even rent an apartment in the city. There are so many things that I have in the USA that I took for granted that aren’t available in Beijing. I have access to clean water from the tap, I have freedom of speech, and I’m encouraged by the society around me to think outside the box. It’s so easy to take the luxuries you have in life for granted.

I certainly underestimated how difficult it would be dealing with the language barrier. Simple tasks like hailing a taxi or ordering food have often turned into stressful experiences. Having said that, the food here has been terrific.  I’m a picky eater so I was nervous coming down here, but I’ve come to love the dumplings & pot stickers they serve here. In Beijing, it’s much more common to share the food and pass it around the table rather than just ordering an individual dish. I think that goes back to China’s emphasis on the group over the individual.

China’s population problem makes traffic ridiculous in Beijing, which makes me understand on some level why the government felt the need to control the population through the one-child policy.  I see so many more bikes and scooters here than in the US.  Honking in Beijing is extremely common, but I don’t think it has the same angry message that it does in the US. Pedestrians walking in the road don’t have many rights here. Even when it’s your turn to walk on the crosswalk, cars are still coming right at you.

Categories: 2016 Trip

The first thing I initially noticed in China when we were driving from the airport to the hotel was the architecture. I noticed that the modernly built buildings were very unique compared to the skyscrapers in the United States. Many of them seemed to have more curves to them than edges, like the buildings in the U.S. As a result, they looked absolutely incredible. Some looked very futuristic with many different colored lights on them as well.

Furthermore, the number of people in China also blew me away. Everywhere I walk, even at night, there are incredible amounts of people out. To make a 20-minute cab ride in the United States would take about an hour here because of the large amounts of traffic. Subsequently, the way of life and traditions are very interesting to me. I quickly noticed when I first arrived that people love to ride bikes and scooters. In the United States, it is very rare to ride bikes places, especially for adults. Also, I have yet to see a person who rides a scooter or a bike wear a helmet. I have the idea that China seems to not take safety in that aspect as a top priority like in the United States. Throughout my life I have always heard my parents and other people tell me to wear a helmet, and I always see people who ride scooters wear helmets in the United States, so it was very surprising to see this.

In addition, the most important realization to me was China’s poverty. I went to Brazil before when I was young, and met people who lived very poorly on the Amazon River, however, because I was so young I did not fully grasp the nature of the poverty there like I have hear. Everywhere I turn there are people on the streets begging or having a small business barely trying to make it to the next day, desperate for some business. It breaks my heart to see this. There are so many people here, and not enough jobs. I truly know how blessed I am and feel that when I arrive back in the United States, I will feel uncomfortable and undeserving of what I have. These people here living on the streets were born into this lifestyle and cannot help the way they live, and I was born into a blessed family with so many opportunities ahead of me. It doesn’t feel right at all. So because of this, from now on, my mission in my life will be to give as much as my income as possible to those have less, and also to love people.

Categories: 2016 Trip

The moment we exited The Forbidden City we were confronted by beggars, cripples, and people selling trinkets. As I took in what I was seeing I couldn’t bring myself to look any of these people in the eye – I simply kept walking and looking forward. These are things I knew existed but had never seen with my own eyes. More than anything China has sobered me. I’m learning how astonishingly luxurious my life is. I am not well off by western standards – I pay for my own schooling, my car is 16 years old and the ‘check engine’ light won’t turn off; I can barely afford my bills, and I grew up with a dad who, at times, worked 2 or 3 jobs to provide for us. But, what I’m learning after being here is that I am well off! I thought my life was difficult but after experiencing this amazing country full of smiling, kind, and helpful people (despite their situation) I am a changed person. I will never be able to look at America in the same way. Knowing that I have my apartment and car and WESTERN TOILETS to go home to makes me so thankful. Another thing I have learned here is that America is a developed country while China is a developing country and that makes all the difference. It excites me to know that China is working hard to continue this development by focusing on teaching the people to be innovative. The wealth of knowledge I have acquired in our short time here amazes me and I know that with my remaining time here I will learn so much more.

Categories: 2016 Trip

China is a much more competitive environment than an unexperienced foreigner would understand. When I began my journey I expected a calmness because of the mental image of traditional China that had been painted in my head. What awaited me was bustling calamity and the fiercely man-eat-man environment that Beijing offered us. To say the least, I was caught off guard.

My first cultural shock was a few minutes from when the bus wheels started rolling away from the airport. I noticed the density of the city. The streets were packed, and people walked and biked everywhere around us. Coupling this chaotic scene, the bus driver was more aggressive than any taxi cab I had ever been in. I’ve come to understand that this is the norm, however. In the packed streets of Beijing you need to assert yourself to get where you need to go.

Upon arriving at the hotel, we unpacked, noted the noticeable room size difference from those hotels in the United States, and went to go eat some local cuisine. The first place we entered, we noticed our first, and indisputably largest barrier in Beijing language. We could not communicate to them what we wanted to order, and it was clear they had not had much experience with foreigners. We eventually were able to order dumplings by pointing at the plate of another customer.

That day ended with a great deal of excitement, and the next day we continued our adventures by diving into the center of Beijing’s cultural heritage. We visited the Drum Tower and took trips into the more cultural area of Beijing. We were carted by bicycles through slim alleys with aged, grey brick. Our tour guide, David, taught us about the architecture of the local homes and its’ symbolic meaning. We ended the day by visiting the lakes and the surrounding market place. Our foreign minds were still in awe as we traversed the winding streets of Beijing.

Categories: 2016 Trip

I didn’t know what to expect when we got to Beijing. We arrived at the hotel around 7am, and didn’t want to have breakfast there, so seven of us went to look for breakfast on the street. We didn’t know where to go, we just walked until we found something that was open. None of us knew any mandarin, we basically communicated with signs to get some food. We some really good dumplings, but the lady misunderstood us and got us way more than we could eat, and it was still less than a dollar per person.

After 5 days in Beijing, I’ve had several impressions. First of all, it’s a really busy city. There are a lot of people that are always in a rush to get somewhere. People driving are all crazy. They don’t respect traffic signs and do whatever they want, run red lights, and pass really close to people going on bikes, walking or other cars. Honking is sort of like prevention, to let you know they are there. Cars and scooters honk a lot. And people on scooters think traffic rules especially don’t apply to them. I’ve seen a lot of them going the wrong way, even on highways.

Taxis will try to rip you off, but not all of them. We learned the hard way to only use a taxi that is willing to use his meter, or you will have to overpay. Everything is very far away; anywhere you want to go is at least 30 minutes, a lot more with traffic, which apparently is anytime of the day.

But people are very friendly in general. We have been lost a couple of times, and sometimes we don’t even ask for help, Chinese people see that we are foreign and come to help us and give us directions. We’ve hade Chinese people translate to the taxi driver for us, or help us order food. In restaurants, People always seem curious about us, and if they speak English they will approach us to make conversation. Some have even offered to buys us drinks. We have met some really nice people this way, that have made good impressions on the whole group.

Lastly, food. Its cheap on the street, and very good. Most of it is spicy, but not that much. They eat a lot of vegetables, and eat as a group, everything goes in the middle. It is really hard to eat with chopsticks, especially when there is little food left. The rice is sticky, which helps. But if you are in China, I definitely recommend to eat on the street and not American food.

Categories: 2016 Trip

Before the trip, I didn’t have any idea of what to expect once arriving in China. The culture here is unlike anything I have ever experienced. It has been one of the most rewarding trips of my life, and we are only halfway through it. So far we’ve been to the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and many other city sights. It’s crazy to me that some of these sights have over a thousand years of history, when in the U.S. our history expands to only a couple hundred years. Everything about each sight has so many meanings behind it such as the number of steps leading up. I love that they put that much thought into everything they do.

Some of my favorite moments have been just going out and exploring the city with everyone in the group. I feel like that is how I’ve truly been able to grasp a lot of the culture here and get a feel for the city of Beijing. The people here are extremely friendly and willing to help us, especially when we are lost. The language barrier has been the biggest challenge of the trip by far. Looking back I wished I wish I had prepared more by learning some basic phrases in Mandarin.

I’ve really enjoyed our business visits and class lectures while on the trip. The KPMG visit opened my eyes a lot to the Chinese economy and how much of an influence it will have on the world in years to come. I’ve also really enjoyed learning about all the differences China has to the U.S. during our class lectures, especially in the business environment. In the U.S. everyone is very competitive and tries make themselves stand out, but in China it is customary to blend in and not distinct yourself from the group. There is also a much larger power distance between people of power in China. In the U.S. I am so used to everyone speaking their mind when they feel there is an issue, but in China that is not considered acceptable. The trip so far has been a really eye opening experience, and I can’t wait to see what the second half holds.

Categories: 2016 Trip

This statement will sound very exaggerated, but I can promise you it’s not.  My study abroad trip to Beijing, China has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.  Our visits to the Drum Tower, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City are indescribable.  The pictures I had previously seen of the places mentioned above do not do them justice, because a camera simply can’t capture the amazing detail and rich colors.  I stood in the middle of the Forbidden City in awe for hours just trying to soak in exactly how amazing it was.  While visiting these places, the tour guides were very insightful about China’s rich history and how their culture has developed over hundreds of years.  I really enjoyed learning about their long history, because it’s very interesting to me how countries develop over time and how different dynasty’s come to power.

The company visits were also really insightful.  At KPMG, Luke Treloar stressed how fast China’s economy is growing and how fast it is predicted to continue to grow through predictions, such as the massive number of Chinese companies expected to enter into Forbes Fortune 500 list in the near future.  He really showed me how important China’s economy is and how desperately I need to learn more about what drives it and how it differs from the U.S. economy.  The visit to Hanergy was definitely an eye-opening experience as well.  The pollution in Beijing is a great example of why it’s clear to see that we need to invest in more clean alternative energy companies.  Although we’re only half way through the trip, the visits to some of China’s historical landmarks along with the company visits have given me an unforgettable experience.

 

Categories: 2016 Trip