By Mark Hoy '13
Editor's note: For the third year in a row, Mays students are spending four weeks of their summer living in China and studying at Beijing Jiaotong University, thanks to a program hosted by the Center for International Business Studies. Throughout the trip, students are sharing their experiences through a class blog. This post was originally written for the Mays China Business Study Abroad Blog by one of the trip's participants.
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Since I have been slacking on my blogging since we’ve been in China, I figure I should post something to summarize some of the major events of the last week and touch on some thoughts and observations I’ve made along the way.
The commute to China wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated, in terms of the lengthy flights. It was on these flights though that culture shock first set in for me. This was the point when I realized that we weren’t surrounded by Americans like I was used to, but instead there were many people from the Middle East, Africa, India, and parts of Europe on our flights. Along with this realization, the other major culture shock moment I had was when we went and had our first meal in China and it hit me that communicating with the Chinese was going to be a struggle over the next five weeks. Before coming on the trip I figured English would be fairly widespread when in China, or at least that one or two people everywhere we went would be able to speak it. At our first dinner in China I realized that this was not the case, and that we were going to have to adapt if we were going to be able to communicate at all with the locals.
The first weekend of sight seeing was very interesting, and I feel like I learned a lot about Chinese culture just by navigating the streets of Beijing. It was a shock to us how people drive in this country, with little regard for pedestrians or for safety in general. It was also a shock to me how bad traffic was at all times and simply how many people are walking around all the time. The tourist destinations were really exciting to see in person, and it made us wonder just what it would be like to see places such as the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven back when they were used for Imperial purposes.
The students at BJTU that we have made friends with have been immensely helpful since we’ve been here, helping us with practically everything from the moment they picked us up on the bus at the airport. They’ve set up our cell phones, subway cards, and even wrote down the name of a favorite dish we like at the cafeteria in Mandarin so we’re somewhat less helpless when we order it.
The Great Wall hike was quite an experience. I think we all had pretty much no idea what we were getting in to when we met Cyrill in the morning. Cyrill is unlike anyone else I’ve ever met, with his Swiss military background and his ability to speak so many languages. He led us through a treacherous trail that he apparently blazed himself, and we were all exhausted by the time we made it to the top. The views were spectacular; it really is hard to fathom how long the Great Wall is. The descent back down the mountain wasn’t necessarily easier than the way up, and it was probably even more dangerous, but we made it down safely. Celebrating with Cyrill over a Chinese meal was also a fun time that night.
Our first experience at the silk market was a real eye-opener. I myself got involved in some intense negotiations for a couple of NBA jerseys, to the point where the vendor grabbed my arm and was not going to let me go until we struck a deal. Along with those two jerseys and a T-shirt, I spent a total of 180 yuan (the equivalent of roughly $28 USD), so I suppose I could have done worse in my bargaining.
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