Thursday, November 21, 2013

BuzzFeed

I just figured I would let you guys see my first BuzzFeed article since it directly relates to studying abroad! Here's the link:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/kate13a2003/8-reasons-why-im-glad-i-studied-abroad-in-shangha-gsrd

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It's the little things that count

As the semester wraps up, I still have two Chinese tests and a little homework, one Economics presentation and paper, and one Finance presentation and paper until I have completed my Spring semester of my junior year. It’s crazy to think about, but in reality, it has been a long semester. All of my friends in the states have already been out of school for a few weeks now, but because we didn’t start classes until a month after them and we had two full weeks of vacation, we’ve had to make the semester longer than normal. There are some people heading back next week for internships, but for me, I wanted to stay. (And now my sister is even coming-you guys have no idea how excited I am for that!) 

Today, on my way to internship, I was walking between metro lines and noticed the escalators were both closed. This is common occurrence and I’m not sure why it happens so often, anyways, we all had to take the stairs. I noticed an older lady is holding up people because she has a bag that she is incapable of lifting down three flights of stairs (she has a rolling one that she’s ever so slowly having fall down each individual stair). I go up to her and politely tell her in Chinese that I can help her and she tells me, “Oh thank you young lady!” She still holds onto the bag as I lift it down. When we get to the bottom, she goes back to rolling it and says some Chinese which I’m not sure what it meant, but I carry on knowing that this lady was extremely grateful. It’s not like I was the only one around that could help, I was the only one who made the effort to help. As I continue towards the metro, a Chinese man looks at me and gives me the thumbs up. Today, just made me realize that despite the whole difference in language and culture, you can still impact people’s lives for the better, even if they are just small acts of kindness.

Since it’s been blowing up on Facebook and since he is from Minnesota, I wanted to write a little about Zach Sobiech. (at this point in time, if you haven’t watched the 20 minute video on him, go do that!) I watched his video this morning and found out about his death on May 20, 2013 which just happens to be the Chinese “I love you” Day because the pronunciation of 5.20 (wu er ling) sounds similar to 我爱你 (wo ai ni) which means I love you. I found this to be incredibly ironic, and it makes his story that much more meaningful (although it is already such an emotional story). It makes me realize how precious life is so go out there and start making the legacy that you want to leave behind. “You don’t have to find out you are dying to start living.” –Zach Sobiech

Monday, May 20, 2013

The end is near

Though the title contains a negative connotation, I am having mixed feelings about leaving. Of course, I want to go home, but this place has left so much of an impact on me. Personally, I still have exactly a month left here, whereas other people only have a week or two (one girl has left already!) I have enjoyed my experience here more than I would have ever expected and now have a different view of life. Not only do I want to travel more in China, I want to see the whole world.

Shanghai has so much uniqueness to it. It still shocks me how accustomed I have grown to be to the variety of architecture everywhere I look as well as being a white person in a country where everyone is Asian. The traditional Chinese pagodas mixed with European influenced buildings is so perfectly blended and allows for each one to shine through. In regards to being a minority, I don't think I will ever like being stared at how much I do here, but I think I would be able to get used to it if I lived here longer. 

I've been lucky enough to have found an ultimate frisbee league that plays every Monday night here in Shanghai. It's a great mix of people who all enjoy ultimate just as much as I do. They have taught me so much thus far and have even invited me to play in the Shanghai tournament June 1st weekend. I am so happy I have this opportunity and hope that the sport of ultimate frisbee continues to spread all over the world. 

My sister always asked me where I wanted to be buried just so that if something would happen, they would know what I would want, but I don't even know what I would want. I found out that in China, they bury their ancestors on mountains because there is a holiday that is called Tomb Sweeping Day (清明节) where they go home and go clean their ancestors graves off. After hearing about this day, I realized I had not seen a cemetery this whole time in China. I think it would be neat to be buried on a side of a mountain because then my family could climb the mountain to visit me while enjoying the beautiful scenery. Which mountain...I'm not sure yet. What do you guys think?!

With that being said, I hope you guys take some time to watch this video. I find it to be very inspirational and definitely worth your time! http://www.ted.com/talks/david_foster_wallace_this_is_water.html

Places I want to go (maybe since finals are coming up!):



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Malaysia and Singapore!

Here’s a rundown of what happened. My friend Sally and I took a red eye to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia & arrived at the hostel around 9 am. We signed up for a tour through our hostel which started at 10:30 am, giving us enough time to go eat breakfast and explore a little bit. Once on the tour, our tour guide ended up being rather interesting both in a serious but not serious manner. He informed us about his knowledge of lady boys in addition to his opinion on the election which has created a lot of uprising since the former prime minister got re-elected for the 56th year in a row. Anyways, in regards to the actual tour, we went to seven places:  The National Mosque where we had to wear a robe and hijab to cover ourselves according to Islam standards, Sri Mahamariamman Temple where we could hold turtles, Little India where I bought some fresh pineapple, Batu Caves where there were monkeys & ate Indian food for lunch, The King’s Palace where the newly-elected prime minister showed up, The National Monument where we saw a beautiful statue, as well as a traditional Malay village where we ate stingray. We were struggling to stay awake after taking a red eye so we went back and took a rest. Once we woke up, it was raining (it did this everyday around the same time) so we did not want to go anywhere to find food. Luckily, our hostel has a restaurant on the first floor so we had pizza there. We met bonded with some British friends that night and called it a night so we could get an early start the next day.

The next day, we got up fairly early, got breakfast at our hostel (PB&J!), started exploring by ourselves. First, we went to Central Market and then China Town, both of which were right by our hostel. After that, we just wandered and got lost a bit. Eventually, we found a place that served cendal so we decided to stop and try it. It definitely grew on us as we ate it and ended up being a nice refreshing afternoon treat. Then, we made our way to the Petronas Twin Towers. After exploring the inside, buying our souvenirs and eating Auntie Annie’s pretzels, we went outside where there was this fountain as well as a pool that you can swim in. Of course, we had to go in it for a bit, but then we just chilled by the side and watched the little kids enjoy their time there. We returned to our hostel for a quick afternoon nap and then headed out again, but this time we got caught in the rain and had to make a quick decision to escape the rain by grabbing some dinner as well as white coffee! The rain did not stop once we were finished so we decided to just trek back through it and shower once we got there. That night, we ended up having a chill night by watching a movie and then enjoying each other’s company at the hostel. I was shocked by how many people I met this trip who were backpacking Southeast Asia, only to find out from some foreign friends here in Shanghai that it is typical for their countrymen take a “gap year” between school and work.

Overall, Kuala Lumpur was an amazing experience, and the city definitely was not what I was expecting. Despite the rain and there being rats in the street at night, I loved the environment of Malaysia. It seemed to be a very harmonious place even with the diverse group of people. Also, I could not have asked for a better hostel. I highly recommend staying at Reggae Mansion if you are ever in KL.

We made our way to the bus station the next day in order to go to Singapore. Just in the nick of time, we were able to catch the bus right as we arrived so we got to Singapore around 5 pm. Singapore’s customs were a little intimidating, but they are known for all of their strict rules so it was understandable. So once we made it, we booked our ticket to go to Melaka and headed over to our hostel. From there we went to exchange money and find some food to eat. We ran into a Malay restaurant and decided to try it, which ended up being delicious in my opinion. After that, we explored the downtown, harbor area and took some night shots before going to sleep.

The next day, we went over to Sentosa Island which in my opinion is a huge tourist trap, but it had beaches so I wanted to go check it out. We found the Universal Studios as well as Chili’s so we decided to go and get dinner there. I think it would have been neat to see the world’s largest aquarium, but besides that, I wasn’t too fond of the rest of it. I did get to go to the southernmost point of continental Asia though (there even was a Chinese movie being filmed on the bridge to the little island!) That night, we checked out Chinatown as well as Clarke Quay, and of course, we had to get a Singapore Sling! Singapore was a wonderful yet strict city. It was definitely much more westernized than I would have imagined.

Early in the morning, we took a bus to go to Melaka, a very historical city in Malaysia. Once we got there, we spotted a Tutti frutti and decided to get some ice cream because it was very hot, and we also had to figure out how to get to our hostel. On the way to our hostel, we were able to spot the Christ Church of Melaka, took some pictures really quick and then continued our trek out. Our building was one of the many that had paintings on the entire back of them which faced the river. We had to figure out how to get to the airport so after a short rest at the hostel, we decided to go back to the bus station and find a place to buy our tickets for the next day. Tickets were easy to book although there was only one company that offered buses. We were right in town then, so we decided to check out the Melacca Strait Mosque, which appears to be floating. We started walking there, but since it appeared to be so far away, we switched to a taxi which ended up being a very smart choice on our part. Not only would we have been exhausted if we walked all the way there, but our taxi driver was incredibly friendly and even took us to Little India to get Indian food yet again! That meal was plentiful and made us extremely full so we went back to our hostel again and took a little rest before exploring more that night. We walked along the river and then went to Jonker Street which is right next to our hostel. Here we bought many pairs of earrings, but they were so cheap, we couldn’t say no! Then we rested by the side of the river and watched river cruises go by, one by one and reflected on our travels.

The next day, we were able to sleep in a bit and then went and got white coffee and peanut butter toast for breakfast at Old Town White Coffee and then took the bus to the airport. The rest of the day was spent traveling. After arriving in Shanghai, I had a feeling of being home not only because we were driving on the right side of the road, but also because I could communicate with the taxi driver in a language that I’ve been focusing on so much these last few years.











Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Various things I’ve noticed about Shanghai and even China in general:

• I do not think Shanghai has squirrels at all – only stray cats and dogs.
• Chinese police will routinely stop drivers at early hours in the morning to check for drunk drivers.
• Shanghai is extremely international – I’ve met people from allll over the world: Australia, Germany, Israel, Korea, France, Morocco, Burundi, Zambia, Singapore, England, Canada, I think you get the point.
• No matter when I get on the metro, I will always be stared at by someone. It has been interesting experiencing life as a minority for once.
• T^T is a smilie that Chinese will use to show that they are crying or upset.
• It is possible to eat dog here – especially in Guangdong providence.
• For the most part, food is ridiculously cheap & so is pretty much everything else besides rent or cars.
• Most restaurants have pictures of the food on their menus which makes it easier to order if you cannot read the characters.
• People openly talk about their bodily issues and don’t typically just say “I have to go to the restroom”.
• They also make more sound effects than I am used to, not only in basic conversations like “oh” and “mmm”, but will “hock/hawk a loogie” or even snot rocket in public quite often. They view it as things that should not be in your system so you might as well get it out when you have it right then.
• Starbucks, KFC, McDonalds, Subway, Carl’s Jr., Pizza Hut, Haggen-Das, Coldstone, and many other Western restaurants all exist here.
• You may see signs that say Merry Christmas up all year. Most Chinese know that it is a Western holiday but do not realize that you only display these things during that season.
• The sense of personal space is much smaller here & people often times push or run into you and do not even stop to say sorry
• The ultimate frisbee league that I started playing on here in Shanghai is so much fun and I am learning an incredible amount. They have many tournaments and I hope to participate in one!



The glass is half full!

It is official: I’ve reached the halfway point. I cannot believe that I’ve lived here in China for 2 months already. The way the program was set up, it places our vacations about 3 or 4 weeks apart. This makes the time go by faster, in my opinion. First was the Hangzhou weekend trip, then the Hong Kong weeklong trip, next our independent trip which I’m going to Malaysia, and finally, after the program is over, my sister will be here!

There are many things in the Chinese culture that I love: one of them being how active lively they are, especially the elderly. They all value their health and try to do activities that will be better for them. This can be in the form of eating or even exercise. Fruit stands are everywhere and are considered more of a dessert, and the elderly can be seen everyday working out either in the park or just wherever there is open space. If I had to choose a place to retire, it might just be China because of this aspect, but only if their health system greatly improves by that time.

This last Sunday, we went to a park just outside of Shanghai to get some fresh air and to exercise. We rented boats and went out on them, but the boat that three other guys and I got on, ended up breaking! We were stranded in the middle of this lake. Luckily, one of the teachers was nearby and could call the workers for us, and they sent us a new boat. But once we got it, we called it a day for boating. Instead, we went and played volleyball. There were two little boys that joined us, and they wanted us to help them get better and teach them how to serve. It was so much fun playing with them and trying to teach them with a mix of some Chinese but a lot of slowed down movements.

When it comes to the younger generations, most of them are using technology in some way, shape or form. They will shop online, play video game, or watch TV shows and movies online. Every time that I take the subway, people are always on their phones playing Bejeweled or some video game otherwise they are watching either a TV show or movie on their phone. I think it is crazy how dependent on technology we are. I mean the first week that we got here, everyone was so upset that we didn’t have Internet or wifi in our room because it was a holiday week for everyone (Chinese New Year). I understand telling your family, friends and loved ones that you are safe, but I feel that we place too much of an emphasis on technology and do not enjoy everything else that the world has to offer.

As for the classroom, Chinese class has been pretty much the same the whole time. I’ve learned around 500 new words thus far and can tell that not only my speaking has improved but so has my listening and comprehension. My teacher has been great with everything and my roommate is always there if I need help on homework or to simply just teach me a new word.
My roommate has also taught me about other things. One of them is simply how to order food online from Pizza Hut so that it is delivered to my room. Ha! Another one of them is dating in China. You have to be 21 in order to get married in China. Also, if you aren’t married by 30, your parents will start to become very worried. For example, every weekend you can see parents with flyers at various parks, especially People’s Square in an attempt to match up their daughter or son with someone!

She has also informed me about the education system here. For example, all through your time in school, they will keep a file on you. Each year your teacher will write comments about you and track your academic progress. This file will be sent to future employers so you have to make sure to not do bad things that could be permanently written within this file; however, you are NEVER to know what the teachers have wrote. She made a really good connection about this to the movie Les Misérables. What she said was that in the movie, Jean Valjean got a second chance. He stole the loaf of bread and was punished, but then he stole the silver and should have gone back to prison again. Instead Myriel said that it was a gift and Jean is able to make a very good life for himself. She said that this would never happen in China. If you mess up once, you will lose face and not be respected in the same way ever again.

Sorry my posts are so long but I tend to do longer posts less often than short ones quite often.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai

I just returned back from a week of traveling to Guangzhou (广州), Hong Kong (香港), Macau (澳门), and Zhuhai (珠海). Each city was quite the experience! All of them are in the South of China so they use Cantonese to speak, which was interesting to say the least. For those of you who don’t know, Mandarin in most commonly spoken in China, which is what I am learning, but there are still a lot of Cantonese speakers out there. I discovered them last week. (Cantonese is the same characters, just different pronunciations – just like how Shanghainese is.) Though most of them can understand Mandarin, they will reply to you in Cantonese. I had no idea what a lot of them were saying, so I was just glad that most of the week was planned out because I was pretty much helpless. In addition to the speaking, in Macau and Hong Kong, they use traditional characters, meaning the characters are more complex and I am studying simplified so that just made it even more difficult to communicate.

One of the trips was to the biggest sitting Buddha in China during our stay in Hong Kong. This is where I had an encounter with a local Chinese construction man. He was working on the scaffolding, which here in China is always made up of bamboo and some string to tie them together. I look up and was amazed by how they can build it so fast yet gracefully and then I noticed that he just stuck his tongue out at me. Out of shock, I decided to stick mine out back at him. After a series of funny faces, I just start laughing and walk away. Even though, words were never exchanged, I know that I made a connection with this guy by being silly just for a few seconds. These little moments are the ones that I will never forget in China.

Hong Kong and Macau were different than Guangzhou, Zhuhai, and the rest of China because they are special administrative regions of China. That means that China controls the defense and foreign affairs, but everything else is their own responsibility. Hong Kong used to be under British rule, whereas Macau was a former Portuguese colony. You could definitely see the influence of the former rule in each city. For example, Hong Kong still has the double-decker buses and trams, a lot of people there could speak English, and signs were translated into English. Meanwhile, Macau had many people who could speak Portuguese and signs translated into both Portuguese and English. For those of you who do not know much about Macau, Macau is the Las Vegas of China. Gambling is not allowed in Mainland China or Hong Kong, so everyone goes to Macau for it. With that being said, Macau has greatly benefited from this tourism industry. I remember our tour guide, David, telling us (in an attempt to get us to want to move to Macau) that the government makes too much money so they end up giving money back to the residents.

Now for a little bit about guanxi (关系). My resident director was able to get me this internship as well as all of our company visits this last week thanks to his guanxi. What that means is that his past connections with these people have allowed him to have a good reputation in order for them to want him to return (or for them to trust the people they recommend). To them, it is more about the value of the relationships more than the product’s price or quality. Another situation is when people get pulled over in China. If you have the right connections to people or guanxi, you can manage to get away without a ticket or anything by simply calling that person of higher rank, but if not, you have to listen to the policeman. Guanxi can also be applied to wedding culture here in China. Weddings are typically only attended by the bride and groom’s family and close friends. That does not mean that they leave out their neighbors and co-workers though. What they have to do with them is give them a small gift - typically sweets like chocolate - as well as treat them to lunch or dinner. (This actually happened two weeks ago to me since a co-worker got married.)

We had a few field-study visits this last week. One was at a pharmaceutical company, another was at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and the last one was at an Italian chemical company. I found each visit to be beneficial, especially the last one. This Italian firm entered the Chinese market, but without copyright laws, the Chinese gave them a shock. Months after opening up their factory, another company selling the exact same product just happened to open up across the street from them. They told us that in China, people feel as though they have the right to copy. It is a different concept, but it is something you just have to get used to and find a way to overcome it.

After all of the traveling and sightseeing throughout the week, we settled down near Zhuhai at the Zhongshan Hot Springs. This resort was more than I could have ever imagined. There were many natural hot springs as well as a variety of other ones like coffee, coconut milk, jasmine, lavender, rose, ginseng, mint and even fish! The fish one was the most bizarre because the little fish would bite the dead skin off of your feet. Eventually, I got used to it but it tickled so much at first!

We left Shanghai in a windy rainy mess, but when we returned the temperature greeted us warmly. Today, it is now 85 degrees Fahrenheit! I am so thankful for this well planned traveling experience, but at the same time, it feels good to return home in Shanghai. And yes, I said home, I truly love this city and have no regrets in choosing it for my study abroad experience. These next few weeks may be a little busy since I have my midterm for Chinese on Friday, and my midterm for Finance next Wednesday, but once it is May 6th, I get to go to Malaysia and Singapore! That is my motivation; I can do it - 加油!(jiayou!)

I've added a few pictures and ill just describe them in order: Baishuizhai (白水寨)waterfall, Hong Kong stock exchange, Hong Kong skyline, big Buddha, the construction worker on bamboo, Bruce Lee's star on the avenue of stars, the Venetian in Macau, and a picture of the streets of Macau.