Remembering China

Hello! I’ve been back on campus for a week now. I spent 2 more weeks with my family in Hangzhou and returned to Minnesota at the end of August. Leaving China was bittersweet, because I had grown accustomed to the lifestyle, people, and family. It feels very strange to be back and not seeing people on the program every day. I was jet-lagged for at least 2 weeks, simply because I took advantage of my time off and binge watched a lot of TV. Despite feeling ready to come back to the States, I found myself missing my family, the food, and the convenience of everything. Before departure, I expected this trip to China to be like the other trips I’ve taken there. In hindsight, I realized I had such a different experience this time around. I was not with my family most the time, had responsibilities like attending classes, and lived independently in a city that differs so much from the one I’m used to. Besides advancing my Chinese skills with learning hard literary texts and poems, I gained insight on the Chinese health care system and its traditional practices. These practices are such a vital part of daily lives in China. I was able to experience acupuncture, cupping, and Chinese massage. My absolute favorite part about studying abroad is the people. My class and I went out to get hotpot with our Chinese professor. I was not expecting to meet so many amazing people this summer, let alone become so close to them. This experience has been such a delight that I’m trying to find room in my schedule to study abroad again before I graduate!

Looking Back

It’s been about a month since I returned from my study abroad trip in Beijing, China. I’ve certainly returned to many elements of familiarity back in the United States, where road signs and restaurant menus are in English. Recalling all the experiences that I’ve had in China this summer, I can’t help but think about how enriching this experience has been, both academically and personally.

Other than the more obvious academic gains that I was able to take away from this trip by taking Chinese, Public Health, and Traditional Chinese Medicine classes, I was able to grow and develop as an individual by navigating the subway system, traveling with friends from Beijing to Shanghai and back, and even simply attempting to order food at a restaurant. In a country where I had such little knowledge regarding the culture and the language, simply attempting to accomplish everyday tasks became a significant challenge. At the end of the two months, however, I found that these challenges were a lot simpler. Instead of asking Chinese-speaking friends for help, I found that I was actually able to complete these tasks myself.

Through this study abroad trip, I was able to meet an amazing group of friends; as we struggled together through the challenges of being in an unfamiliar country, we were able to become extremely close-knit.

This study abroad trip to Beijing, China was certainly one to remember. I will definitely miss the food and interactions I had with individuals during this trip!

 

                          

Missing China

Hey guys,

I’ve been home from China for a few weeks now, but it feels like I was there just yesterday. During the last two days I was in China, we visited the watertown “Wuzhen” and Shanghai. I am glad we got to experience both, but I most enjoyed being a tourist in Shanghai. During our first day there, we visited the Bund which had beautiful sights, but unfortunately we were not able to stay for long. We also saw another acrobatics show which I actually preferred to the one we saw in Beijing. During the second day, we explored some of the city on our own. We went to this really cool “Art Mall” called K11, which is like nothing I have ever seen in the US, and enjoyed some quality cupcakes and ice cream. We also did some shopping in Chinese markets and enjoyed our last dinner together in country.

The Bund!

Fancy fruit at K11 Mall

During my first week home, I took a week off from responsibilities and used that time to rest, recover, and visit family. Unsurprisingly, I found myself very jet-lagged and a little bored especially because I was used to having every day jam-packed with activities. During the second week and the rest of my time home, I am working at my old job at Pyxis Technologies where I am working on a few small engineering projects until I head back to school in September.

Being home from China is a bit weirder than I imagined. When I was in O’Hare International Airport waiting for my connection to Detroit, I found myself saying “thank you” in Chinese to the person who sold me my Gatorade. It was also a bit surprising to me that I no longer had to point at what I wanted and the cashier actually understood what I was saying. That being said, I kind of miss the adventure that came with trying to communicate with people using the very little Chinese that I knew.

I am looking forward to going back to campus and starting a new school year, but I will never forget the time I spent abroad. Coming home from this trip, I am feeling more confident and educated but most of all, happy that I went, especially because I debated going for a long time. I would recommend to almost anyone that if you get the chance, you should definitely study abroad. I know I certainly don’t regret it.

Well, this wraps up my last blog post. Thanks for reading!

-Mandy

It’s over already!

In just a few days I will be back at home in Florida and my adventures in China will be over. It seems crazy how two months have gone by so quickly, yet it feels like a lifetime. I have done, learned, and seen so much that I never imagined I that I would get to. Even so, I found myself cramming everything into my last few weeks here, there was still so much I wanted to experience, and time was running out.

This week I went to Tianjin, a city near Beijing. We woke up at 5 am in order to make the trip. Stepping out of the train station we were welcomed into a very European city. It was interesting to see how much influence foreign lands had in this city. We started our day by eating Tianjin style jianbin and walking around the city. Later we saw some of the landmarks, like a house made entirely of Chinese pottery. A full day was not enough to experience all that Tianjin had to offer.

Another day, I visited the olympic stadium. We expected to find it nearly empty, but there was so much going on. A friend that went with me remarked how it seemed like the olympics were still happening in Beijing, because there were so many people visiting. We entered the stadiums and made jokes about how we were standing where some of our favorite athletes had stood before. We even played ping pong right outside the Bird’s Nest. This may have been one of my favorite trips because the Beijing olympics were on when I as very young and that was one of the first times I had learned about the city. So it seems fitting that it was one of the last things I got to see.

Missing shouzhuabing

It’s been about 3 days since I arrived back home from Beijing, and the jetlag is still hitting hard. I’ve been spending the past few days sleeping, unpacking, and trying to process the blur that was the last eight weeks.

One thing I found that I really enjoyed about this program was the independence. I have never been away from home for this long and this was something I was anxious about in the beginning of this process. However, I enjoyed being able to go out and explore different parts of Beijing and immerse myself in a culture I initially knew very little about. Over time I became very comfortable communicating with locals in Beijing, taking the subway on my own, and just going out and exploring different parts of the city.

Another thing that initially intimidated me was the fact that I did not have any close friends with me going into this program. Fortunately, I was able to make some amazing friends and met some really wonderful people on this trip. I am so grateful for the new friends I made who helped make this trip an unforgettable experience.

Overall this was an amazing experience and I am so glad I made the decision to study abroad this summer. I’m pretty sure I will miss the delicious shouzhuabing I had for breakfast every morning the most! But for now, I am ready to spend the rest of my summer relaxing in home sweet home!

Last Week in Beijing!

I can’t believe in one week I will be on my way back home to Chicago! The second half of this program has certainly flown by quickly.

My last full weekend in China was certainly eventful. On Saturday, I met up with my aunt who had been visiting from New York. Together we went to the small town of Pingu, about a two-hour drive from Beijing. We went because we had heard of a giant glass platform that stuck out of the mountains at Shilinxia resort and we were dying to go there. We took a cable car and hiked a bit to get the glass platform, and the view was unbelievable. My aunt was terrified, but I had a great time.

The next day some of us decided to take a day trip to the city of Tianjin. Tianjin is about a thirty-minute train ride from Beijing and features some interesting European architecture, a beautiful river walk, and a Spanish cathedral. We woke up around 6 am to catch the bullet train and spent the full day exploring the city. I’m so glad we got the chance to have one final excursion outside of Beijing before we left.

Since this is the last week of the program, I have been pretty busy with exams and essays for my classes. I am also trying to plan gifts and souvenirs to buy for friends at home while soaking in as much of Beijing as I can before I leave this Sunday. I will admit at times it seemed like these eight weeks would stretch on forever, but looking back it is all a blur. I am so grateful for all the amazing memories and great friends I have made on this trip, but I am also looking forward to finally getting back home!

 

 

 

Summer Palace

Our last excursion of the program was Summer Palace. It’s only a subway stop or two away from Peking University East Gate subway station, so you could even go on your own and explore! There is New Summer Palace and Old Summer Palace. We went to the new one.

The day began with intermittent raindrops and grey clouds but by lunchtime, the sun came out just in time for pretty pictures of the palace. When it was raining, Professor Gu got each of us disposable raincoats which made us look like a blue blob walking around. I had to be extra careful with the slippery steps but at the top of the palace, everything looked small and I could see the entire place below. Because of the rain though, not everything looked as beautiful and there were umbrellas everywhere. But by the time we got to the ferry, the rain had stopped and the sun was out.

Summer Palace!

We took a ferry to the other side of the palace. It was a short ride but definitely worth the time. As we walked back to where our royal lunch was waiting for us, we went into a gallery area inside one of the buildings. There were paintings of flowers and the palace–all very beautiful and almost Impressionism-esque. But the visit to the gallery was very short and we hurried to lunch.

Ferry at Summer Palace

Royal Lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch was probably one the best meals I’ve ever had in China. With dishes filling up the round table, there were countless of different foods I had never tasted before. To say the least, my tummy was absolutely pleased the entire day.

Summer Palace, being so close to Peking University, reminded me that there are places around campus to visit and explore. Not everything and everywhere exciting and new has to be far away. Sometimes, it’s just right next door.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Cups and Needles!

As one of the field trips for the Traditional Chinese Medicine course, we were able to visit the Traditional Chinese Medicine department of a local hospital to learn how different treatment methods are used and to directly observe physicians treating patients. During the first day of the field trip to the hospital, we were taken to a separate conference room, where we were taught the purpose and philosophy of each of the different treatment methods, such as acupuncture, cupping, and moxibustion. We were allowed to try these different treatments on ourselves and our peers. We were even provided needles to try acupuncture on ourselves, but no one was confident enough to try it!

After we learned about the different treatments, we were able to visit the clinic the next day to see patients being treated with acupuncture, cupping, and a massaging technique called “Tui Na”. It was extremely interesting to see how a variety of different problems, including back problems, digestive issues, numbness, and even insomnia were able to be treated with acupuncture needles and electric stimulation. The physician who we observed told us that throughout his career, he had used about 4 million acupuncture needles in order to treat a variety of different health issues!

This opportunity to have a hands-on experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine was extremely valuable because TCM is not as popular in the United States, and thus, it is very difficult to have an opportunity to observe how TCM plays a role that Western medicine cannot.

Drinking Tea for Class

I was in the Media and IMC program in China, and this summer was different than before summers in structure and learning material. Our very own Northwestern IMC Professor Paul Wang taught the class, and he was the first professor to encourage doodling and creating art for the sake of arousing our imagination during discussion. I personally loved the class.

We had to read case studies of different businesses–family businesses, businesses within China branching outside, foreign businesses trying to enter China, etc. Each story had a different take on what entrepreneurship means, especially for someone to start a business in China.

But my favorite part of the class was none of the things we read. It was the thing we experienced: tea. Professor Wang took us to a family-owned tea shop/education center in Global Village as an excursion for the class. There, we not only learned about the different types of tea and their healing powers on the mind and body but we got to hear first-handedly the story of a family-owned business. The highlight of the excursion was that the story-telling was guided and enhanced by tea. The tea master brew different types of tea, from green to oolong to white to black, as he told us his story and, at least for me, I felt like not just my ears but my entire body was absorbing every word he said.

Oolong tea freshly brewed

Tea, as an integral part of Chinese culture, was definitely a valuable experience for me. Especially as a tea-lover, I learned so much as well enjoyed so much during the excursion!

Almost done!

During the last two weeks of this program, I learned more about tuina, which is Chinese massage. There are many techniques, such as rolling manipulation (“rotating the forearm outward and inward in circles to lead to the flexion and extension of the wrist joint”). I really enjoyed being able to try the techniques in class.

We also went on an excursion to the Summer Palace, which is only three subway stops from Peking University. The Summer Palace was built by the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, for the Empress Dowager. Apparently, instead of using the money to build a stronger navy, the emperor used it to build this palace instead. Because of this, China lost Taiwan! We climbed “Wanshou” mountain, or Longevity Mountain, and rode the ferry to the other side of the lake.

Last weekend, my friends and I took a quick day-trip to Tianjin, a city 35 minutes away by train. Jianbin (savory crepe) originated from here! Tianjin is a very westernized, modern city that was once split up into different foreign concessions (France, Great Britain, etc). We went shopping at “Binjiang” street. At the end of the street was a cathedral built by foreigners. It was really cool to be able to walk in and observe a service in progress. We spent the afternoon at an Italian-style touristy town. Although, we were scammed by our taxi driver on the way over there. To make up for it, I had the best pasta at an Italian restaurant there!