Going to China was a once in a lifetime experience, and I know that I made the right choice when choosing a study abroad program. I learned so much about the culture and experienced new food, landmarks, and some serious jet-lag. But I would endure another 16-hour flight and do it again right now. In this post, I will share my overall thoughts of my experience and highlight some of my favorite moments from this trip.

The thing that I was most curious about there was the food. I quickly discovered that real Chinese food is nothing like American-Chinese food. It’s way better. The taste, the seasonings, and the environment in restaurants are all what make it unique. In China, people eat out in groups with family or friends, almost never alone. Restaurants are always lively and full of talking. A noteworthy thing about Chinese cuisine is that dessert isn’t a huge part of a meal. Most restaurants didn’t offer dessert, so my friends and I found ourselves at McDonald’s most days to satisfy our sweet tooth after a meal.

The cultural visits in Beijing were very enjoyable because of our tour guide. She possessed so much knowledge about the landmarks we visited because of her love for her own country. She gave us the information in a way that was interesting and didn’t sound boring to a group of college students. We were able to ask any questions we had throughout our visits, and we could always expect a response with a smile. Her passion for China was contagious, and it helped to draw my peers and I in to get more out of the trip.

The lectures that we attended at Beijing Jiaotong University provided more information than I could have learned on my own. Each lecture presented a new idea and aspect of Chinese business culture to provide us a vast overview of how things operate in their country. The most beneficial class while I was in Beijing was the one about Chinese culture. It made the new place around me seem less scary and also explained some of their citizens’ mannerisms like why they drink hot water or why they prefer to shower at night.

My favorite part of the trip was our weekend trip to Shanghai. It had a big-city feel with high-rise buildings, bright lights, and lively streets. It had a modern feel and there was never a dull moment. I rode a subway train for the first time in my life and found a breathtaking view of the city from the bund. Nearly everything we wanted to do was within walking distance, especially a Starbucks. It was nice to have a little taste of home that weekend in Shanghai.

In conclusion, China was a breathtaking experience that I would repeat time and time again. I learned so much about one of the world’s biggest cultures and got to live in it at the same time. Between the food, the landmarks, and the two cities, there was never a dull moment. I can’t wait to go back in the future and learn even more about my favorite country on the other side of the world.

Categories: 2018 Trip

I miss China, I truly do. Before going on the trip, I was not too sure what to expect. China was always a country I heard or read about. The rich history, and culture first made its way across the Pacific to me in the form of Jackie Chan. I remember watching Rush Hour over and over again as a young boy and being so entertained by Jackie Chan’s acrobatics. He was my first connection to China and still holds a special place in my childhood. As I got older, I learned about The Great Wall, the several different dynasties, the famous Nixon icebreaker trip and so much more. But I did not realize all that I didn’t know about China until I was able to experience it first hand. It hasn’t been more than a month since we returned from China, and I already can’t wait for my next opportunity to visit.

 

For as much as the Chinese and US government, seem as rivals and adversaries, I never felt any tension or uneasiness while we stayed there. I felt truly welcomed everywhere we went. We struggled a lot to communicate with the locals, at least verbally. A few times, a group of us would walk over to the university and try to join a group of people to play basketball with and we were always welcomed with open arms. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, they made us feel included in each and every game. We got into a rhyme, so much so that we didn’t need to know the same language because we both understood basketball. Every game with a fantastic experience and it made us closer to a few of the students. The games were competitive, but after every game, we shook hands and thanked each other for the opportunity to play one another.

 

Another one of my favorite experiences, was trying a donkey burger for the first time. I had gotten an address from one of our buddies who had previously attended Texas A&M and was now back in Beijing. The restaurant was a hole in the wall types. We had trouble ordering at first, but one of the customers there helped us out and knew exactly what we were looking for. When the food came out, we could feel the whole room waiting for our reaction. We all took a bite and became overjoyed with the deliciousness of our donkey burgers. The other customers could not help but chuckle at our enthusiasm and smile.

 

I decided to travel to China because I wanted to get away from western culture. I had grown up with it my entire life and enjoyed it. But I wanted to see something new, learn and adapt to my new surroundings. I wanted to get out of what I had always known and feel uncomfortable. And I am so glad I did because I found something a new love and appreciation for something I never even knew I had.

 

Categories: 2018 Trip

Every time I think about the China trip I fall in love with it over and over again. Being able to visit a place so different in every single aspect of life was challenging but very inspiring. Something I will miss the most is the people. The people of China are extremely hard working individuals who make their dreams a reality. Amber is someone who I countinously think about because of her work ethic and passion for her job. She gave us her true self and made the entire trip an amazing experience. The biggest challenge I think most of us faced throughout the trip was the language barrier. We are all so used to everyone speaking English that coming here and not even knowing how to ask for ice made things extremely difficult. On the other hand, it was encouraging for me because it made me realize that I should be learning other languages and not stopping at two. The culture and food of China were my favorite thing about the trip. During our lectures I enjoyed learning about the different aspects of business in China in comparison to the United States. Knowing the differences is imperative I ever see myself doing business here. I came on this trip knowing the minimum and therefore felt extremely overwhelmed during classtime because I knew I was behind and should research business in different countries regularly to broaden my perspective. My favorite lecture was the on directed to the culture in China. This was incredibly informative on a general level because the professor made sure to we understood the material. For example, when she introduced China and began speaking on the general practices, she used pictures with comparisons to the United States so that we could put it into perspective. Another event that stood out to be through the trip was the business visit to CRCC. I had no previous knowledge on this massive company before visiting their location and was fascinated by the amount of work they do in China as well as other places around the globe. Overall, this trip was extremely informative and eye-opening. I wish I could have stayed for an extended time to really dive into the culture but it was an amazing experience to get a glimpse of it and continue to do reasearch on my own and someday go back. Beijing and Shanghai were both very beautiful. Beijing being filled with history and beautiful architecture, and Shanghai being modern and enriched with tall buildings like New York City. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the trip and would recommend anybody that has a chance to attend a push because it is important to visit places that are not similar to the United States in order to gain a greater knowledge and appreciation for the rest of the world. And also the food is amazing! I cannot wait to come back to China, maybe even live here in the future.

Categories: 2018 Trip

Study abroad in China is an experience I will never forget. This was my first trip outside of North America and would probably be my only opportunity to visit China. It feels like a dream that I was actually in Beijing and Shanghai. I really enjoyed being fully emerged into a totally different culture because it made me look at life through a different perspective.

Throughout the whole trip I noticed that the people in China were very nice and generous. Toward the end of our first week in Beijing, the weather turned rainy and none of us thought to bring an umbrella. One of the professors at Jiatong University sent a student to buy us all umbrellas by the end of our lecture that day. We were all so amazed that a student went out of her way to do that.

That weekend we took a high speed rail to Shanghai which was amazing especially after visiting the company that builds them. This high speed rail “bullet train” reached a whopping 350 km/hr. Last weekend I visited Dallas and rode the train there where it’s max speed was 45 mph so I was really reminiscing the bullet train and how crazy it is that you are able to travel about 1000 miles in just five hours. China also has a “one-belt” initiative where they want to connect the entire country to the western world through both land and water. Coming back to America, I wonder why there aren’t more advanced railways here.

After visiting Shanghai for the weekend, we learned about some differences between the two cities. We had to have a different tour guide because even the dialect is unique. Shanghai was a lot more modern and “international.” We found that many more people spoke English. We went to a Mexican restaurant where there were only American businessmen eating.

Towards the end of the trip and after going to lectures daily, I felt that I could stay in China for much longer. The hardest part about the trip was not being able to speak the language. From now if I cannot go to a Chinese restaurant and really call it Chinese food. I would recommend anyone to go visit themselves and try the food themselves because it was so good but I am at loss of words when I try to explain it.

The last two companies we visited were outstanding. We went to Digibird Tech which is a leader in videowall controller/processors and matrixes. We also went to Turing Robot which is also a leader in its field of artificial intelligence. They use “AI” in children’s toys and smart watches, like the Peppa Pig smart watch which is very popular in China.

I am so thankful for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I am also grateful for our professor Dr.Gaspar, the professors who taught us at Beijing, and the new friendships I made with the other students on this trip. It has really opened my mind and makes me want to keep traveling and expand my knowledge of the world around us.

-Leslie

Categories: 2018 Trip

  1. Upon returning to back home to the United States, I was struck by how accustomed I had become with Chinese culture and surprised at the small bit of culture shock I felt being back. I could have never imagined the kind of impression that just two short weeks in China would have left on me. The experience of exploring some of China’s greatest treasures with a group of virtual strangers who turned out to be some of the most interesting and fun people I’ve ever met was truly life changing in such a positive way. Whether it was the people we met along the way or the places that we were so fortunate to see, my view of the world was broadened by the unique and truly wonderful culture of China.

Though the language barrier proved to be a bit harder than many of us were probably prepared for, there was a hardly a person we met that was unwilling to help us and take the time to communicate whether it was via Google translate or pointing to various pictures on a menu. Luckily enough, our tour guide, Amber, and our friends from Beijing Jiaotong University were phenomenal humans who helped us out in any way we asked and every way they could.

Nevertheless, we all became very self-sufficient operating there with very little assistance from any others. One of my favorite mornings on the trip happened to be spent taking a solo stroll to the Starbucks near our hotel. While a large group went to get some last minute shopping done at Silk Street, I opted for a slower start to the morning and was glad I did. The rain that had been going on for days had finally cleared up to the sun and clear blue skies. It felt liberating to take that walk and comfortably order a drink and breakfast—especially compared to the first timid experience we had ordering our first breakfast there.

My favorite part of the trip by far was the weekend trip that we took to Shanghai. We traveled via bullet train which had always been a dream of mine to do (sadly, I was asleep the entire time) and arrived in a city that I did not expect to look so modernized and well kept. The city felt so alive with people constantly bustling about and despite its modern look, the history of the city was present all around. I loved Beijing, but I could have seen myself moving to Shanghai. If there was only one thing that I could change about our trip to Shanghai, it would be to have more time there. Sleep was hardly a thing because we were all so set on soaking up as much of the experience there as we possibly could before we were back on the bullet train to Beijing.

Admittedly, China hadn’t been the top of my travel bucket list, but after this taste test of a trip, I cannot wait to go back. Panda Express will never satisfy my craving for the authentic Chinese food we had the pleasure of eating every day and there is nowhere in America that can match the unique Chinese culture that we lived. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.

Categories: 2018 Trip

After coming back from China and having time to reflect on the experience, there are a couple take always I know will help me in my future and were valuable learning experiences. Despite there were some experiences I liked more than others, I think there is still a lesson to learn from everything I experienced in China.

First, the culture. Reading or watching about it or hearing it from someone else is a completely different experience than standing on the Great Wall looking out over the mountainous terrain or standing a couple feet away from the Jade Buddha in Shanghai. There is a simple appreciation for and sense of tolerance that is naturally paired with experiences like these. I think understanding and learning about the history and significance of Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, Buddhism, etc. helped me become a better global citizen. Mays Business School is increasingly emphasizing global citizenship and successful business traveling outside just the United States. Learning what is importance to the Chinese I think will better prepare me in understanding and building relationships with the people.

Despite this though, a major takeaway was not some fundamental difference between the people of China and the United States rather a fundamental commonality. At their core, they have the very same goals and aspirations as people here at home do. Even the methods for getting to those goals are very similar. I learned how heavily they emphasize education as a means to upward mobility. Just like in the United States, they believe in higher education for better job placement and salary and their students are involved outside the classroom and work internships before signing with a company full time. Similarly, entrepreneurship is a risky yet admirable avenue a lot of them go down.

At the end of the day, I realize people are people, no matter what their backgrounds. Our values, beliefs, world views and goals are all very similar. I think the only difference comes in our methods and traditions. “Be stubborn about your goals but flexible about your methods.” I think this speaks volumes to the relationship the people of our two nations have. We all want and value the same aspirations but simply have different ways of getting their.

 

Categories: 2018 Trip

The People’s Republic of China, the Middle Kingdom, or as the locals call it: Zhōngguó. This study abroad experience was truly eye-opening; an enriching journey that educated me on why China is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It included lectures from the highly-regarded Beijing Jiaotong University, which ranged from the cultural norms of the country, the banking system, HR management, among other business topics. Throughout the trip, we were escorted by professional guides and even some former Aggie exchange students that were native to the country, which made the historic as well as contemporary lessons much more meaningful and informative. The two weeks of intensive cultural and academic exploration were well worth the start of my last summer before graduating–words cannot express my gratitude and growth.

The trip also comprised of a weekend excursion to the global financial hub of Shanghai, via the high-speed railway or “bullet train”. That portion of the trip entailed visits to the famous Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai Museum, the Bund, and Nanjing Road, led by a local tour guide with in-depth knowledge of the city. All of these phenomenal stops gave us an opportunity to experience both the Western-like nature of a modern city and the historical beauty within it. Additionally, our return to Beijing at 214 miles per hour was enhanced by the agrarian landscape of the beautiful Chinese countryside. Upon our return to the capital, our group made a collective effort to explore as much as we could for our remaining time by visiting some of the major touristic sites, such as the Olympic Village, the Beijing Zoo, and even some of the local shopping markets.

Furthermore, we had the opportunity to visit some interesting companies that supplemented our understanding of the Chinese economy and business processes: a privately-owned tech company, a state-owned environmental plant, a state-owned, publicly-held construction enterprise, and a private robotics firm. Interacting with the friendly employees gave us insight into what day-to-day business operations look like in China and it is like to work at one of the largest cities in the world. At the conclusion of the trip, I was beyond amazed by everything that I had seen and learned–China had exceeded my expectations. Now that I have a more thorough knowledge of the Chinese culture and business environment, I look forward to applying some of the principles I learned from my friends on the other side of the world through my career and personal life.

Categories: 2018 Trip

After arriving back home in the United States, it’s hard for me to believe that I just spent two whole weeks in China learning about the country’s economy, visiting different companies, and touring many big sites, all before the month of May even ended. So much has happened in the Summer China Study Abroad program, yet I feel like it all went by so fast that I wish I could have spent more time there to everything that China had to offer, whether it would be the delicious foods, the many tourist sites, or all of the fun times with my travel mates.

With this program covering the Chinese economy, we attended lecture sessions throughout the two weeks covering topics such as the legal environment of China’s business, the cultural impact on management, banking systems, and smart technology. Each session had tons of material to cover and would serve as some of the information needed for our research projects after the trip. We also had corporate visits to four different Chinese companies and corporations: China Railroad Construction Company, Beijing Environmental Sanitation Engineering Group, DIGIBIRD, and Turing Robot. All of these visits were very memorable, but my most favorite of the four would be Turing Robot. What made Turing Robot my favorite company visit was how unique it was with how it is pushing China forward in advancing technology to build robots, with the goal where everyone can own a personal robot. Their main business consists of open platform, service robots, and smart devices for children like storytelling machines, toy robots, and smartwatches. The idea of robots being developed to where people can own one is fascinating to me and really makes me wonder what the world would be like when robot production becomes widespread.

Of course, with every study abroad trip, there are always many cultural visits to come. So many visits come to my mind when I think back to all of the places we visited in Beijing and Shanghai, like the Great Wall, the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, Houhai Lake, the Summer Palace, Beijing zoo, Shanghai Museum, the Bund, Yu Garden, and the Olympic Village. These were the highlights of my time in China and I could talk so much about each visit and how much I love each one, but I would be here typing dozens of pages if I did. If I had to choose my most favorite, it would have to be the Olympic Village in Beijing. We went there during our free time at night and what I got to see was absolutely beautiful. The stadiums lit up, so many people were holding fun activities like dancing, playing music, and roller skating, and we even bought tickets to go inside the Bird’s Nest Stadium! I remember the last time I went to China which was about five years ago during summer vacation I saw the stadium from a distance, but I never got to be inside of it, let alone get so close to it! This was easily the most memorable night during the China Study abroad trip and I don’t think any of the other visits could top this.

Because of how different China is to the U.S. when it comes to culture, business, and language, there were bound to be challenges for us to face, whether it would be deciding which restaurant to pick and which food to order, knowing if we’re going the right way when taking a taxi, or, the biggest challenge for me, overcoming the language barrier. Communication is essential in everyday life, especially on big trips like a study abroad program, and it is difficult when you’re visiting a country that does not speak your language. While, thankfully, China’s secondary language is English and there sometimes were subtitles to help us understand what we were reading from things like signs and menus, being able to speak the language was very hard for all of us. I often found myself having to pull up my phone to use google translate to get across what I wanted to say because I knew nothing of how to speak Chinese and what each letter meant. My most used Chinese phrases (which, honestly, were the only phrases I used) during this trip were “Ni hao” for hello, and “Xiexie” for thank you.

Despite these challenges, I think that these are what add to the experience of study abroad. There are definitely going to be things that you won’t know, from the language barrier that hinders your ability to communicate to others who don’t speak your language, the locations of where you want to walk to or ride a taxi to during your free time, to the food you’re ordering at a restaurant. It’s that element of not knowing that adds to the sense of excitement and adventure when you’re studying abroad, and I don’t think I’ll ever get that feeling anywhere else than with these trips. This has been my second time studying abroad in my college career and after this, I feel more and more accustomed to traveling out of the country. If I do get a chance to visit someplace outside the U.S. that I have never been to before, I definitely would love to take the chance!

Categories: 2018 Trip

It is absolutely crazy to think that just a couple of week ago we were in China! It feels like a lifetime ago but honestly most trips, at least the good ones, seem to be like that. China was an amazing experience and I feel so grateful to have been able to go on this trip with such a great group. Traveling around a foreign country with a big group is never easy or simple but we always managed to laugh and have fun no matter what we were doing. The three biggest things that fascinated me the most was the food, the fast paced nature of the people and the city, and our experience at Silk Street.

Let’s start with food because who doesn’t love talking about food! I’ve always been a fan of Chinese food, well the Americanized version anyway. The real thing is a little different then the typical things on the menu at Panda Express but it was all familiar enough that nothing seemed scary to try and eat. The craziest thing we ate in my opinion was donkey, which was actually really good. It was really salty but I love salt so I didn’t mind. The hardest part about eating in China was learning how to truly eat with chopsticks. My experience with chopsticks was limited to basically the wooden ones from Pei Wei with the plastic helpers to keep the chopsticks together so I didn’t start the trip with a lot of skill in that department. At first it was a little frustrating at first because I was never in a situation where my only option was to eat with chopsticks. I would pretend to eat with them for about 30 seconds before switching to my fork to truly eat my meal. In China forks were hardly ever given to us so I had to learn how to manage if I wanted to eat. After the first day or two I got it down and I’m proud to say that I can eat a whole meal with chopsticks without making major errors. Eating with chopsticks in the grand scheme of things was only a small part of our trip but it made me feel like I was truly experiencing the culture and we weren’t just at the Chinese buffet in College Station. One last food thing before we move on is that noodles for breakfast are brilliant and I really miss being able to get them every morning at the Jia Yuan Hotel.

I’ll stop talking about food now and move onto the fast paced nature that I felt throughout the city while we were there. Now of course since we were in the middle of Beijing it’s going to be busier than your average farm out in the country side but it wasn’t just the city nature that felt fast paced. It seemed like every person in that city was ready to go and move on to the next thing. I noticed it a lot in the nature of our tour guide Amber. She was always on the move and it was keep up or get left behind. She was this ball of energy and she was telling us that she only takes a couple of days off a year because she has to work and keep pushing forward and striving for the goals she has set for herself. It was amazing to see that same energy throughout the people in the city and it made me want to see everything and take advantage of my time in China.

The last topic I want to talk about in this blog post is Silk Street. Wow was that an experience with some highs, some lows; heart racing and victorious moments, and maybe a little bit of regret. So if you don’t know Silk Street is a bunch of booths that sell everything and anything that you could ever dream of where you can barter with the seller to try and get the best deals. Now when I was imagining what Silk Street was I was thinking street fair vibes with tents and fold out tables and that sort of theme. If you were thinking I was spot on in imagining what Silk Street was like you would be very wrong. It is basically a huge shopping mall with escalators and food and revolving doors and a one-stop shop for everything you would ever want. What I was really excited for was seeing all of the counterfeits. It was mind-blowing to walk down a row of booths and see Gucci, Louis Vuitton, North Face, Converse, Ray Bans and so many more knowing that is was all fake. It was a really cool experience and one I would highly recommend even with the required aspect of bartering, which I dislike because I’m not very good at it because I become so nervous in those situations. If you thrive off bartering than you will have an even better time than I did because Silk Street was made for bartering.

China was an amazing experience and I was able to make so many memories that I will cherish forever. Thank you to Dr. Gaspar and Texas A&M for making this trip possible and a huge thank you to everyone that went on this trip with me. Y’all are wonderful, amazing people and China would not have been the same without each and every one of you. Thanks and gig’em!!!

Categories: 2018 Trip

  • One of the most amazing experiences I have ever had was being able to study abroad in China. I thoroughly believe that immersing yourself into a new culture is one of the most life-changing things that you can do. My trip to China was life-changing because I was able to experience a culture so different than the one that I am used to. I have always been fascinated by the Chinese culture, and it was amazing to be able to experience it in real life with such a great group of Aggies. Over the two weeks in China, I was able to meet new people, see new places, and learn all about the Chinese culture.
    One of the most interesting things that found on our trip was that there was a huge language barrier. I have traveled all over the world however, I didn’t expect the language barrier to be as difficult as it was. The majority of people do not speak English in China and so it was very difficult to navigate our way through the cities. The language barrier made simple things like ordering lunch or trying to get a taxi extremely difficult. However, most of the individuals that we encountered did their best to try to communicate with us and with the help of Google translate we were able to get around the city.
    It was also fascinating to be able to learn about the business environment in China. China has one of the largest economies in the world and an interesting business environment. One of the things I found the most interesting was learning about HR and management within the Chinese business environment. While there are some similarities to the United States there is also a huge cultural difference between the way companies and the businesses are managed.
    Another one of my favorite parts of China was our weekend trip to Shanghai. Shanghai Was extremely fascinating due to the fact that it is a modern city with an extremely rich history. The places that we saw in Shanghai were absolutely breathtaking. From visiting the Bund to walking around Yu garden, there was never a dull moment. I was surprised to find that Shanghai and Beijing are very different. Shanghai is a modern and bustling city while Beijing has a strong tie to their history. It was a great experience to be able to see and compare both cities.
    Overall my two weeks in China were absolutely amazing. I met so many new people and learnt so many different things about China. Im so happy that I was able to have this experience with a great group of people. I can’t wait to go back and visit China one day.

Categories: 2018 Trip