1st year graduate student/ Sport Management
Beijing and Inner Mongolia, China
Education and Health Across China: From Kindergarten to College
Summer I, two weeks
My experience in China for Study Abroad through Western Michigan University was amazing. I honestly wish I could have stayed for a longer period of time to see more and participate in different areas of China. Because it is such a big country with over 56 nationalities, we literally got a glimpse of the country and its’ traditions. The small group I was with helped the trip to remain intimate and fun and I can honestly say I created some type of bond with each one of them including our professor Dr. Liu. I am so glad he was able to make this a trip for students to participate in.
While being in China I learned a lot about myself and about the world we live in. Because this was my first time out of the country a lot of my experience was a learn as you go concept. The flight was 12-13 hours, the living quarters were slightly different in certain places, and the language was definitely a barrier because I did not know any Chinese/Mandarin prior to this trip. My world perspective changed slightly because it gave me a look into another culture fully and I realized why that specific culture does some of the things they do in America.
By understanding their culture, their lifestyle and their traditions it helped to not only be more understanding but to accept it and be more comfortable around this culture. It also gave me the urge to surround myself with different culture and nationalities more so that I may become a more well-rounded individual. The authentic food, the shopping centers, the atmosphere and the everyday lifestyle was something I had to get accustomed to and honestly it felt good to live in another country and adapt. These new experiences helped to not only embrace being who I am but to appreciate others for their culture more.
One of the experiences I had coming in contact with a different culture while being in China was based on the way they treated myself and my group. My perspective did change from being just a United States citizen and sometimes became frustrating as well. In my group we had two African American females (with braids/twists), one African male (with accent), 3 White females (1 blonde and 2 brown hair), one White male and one Taiwanese male. With the diverse group in China, we already turned many heads, but when separated or in smaller numbers the looks we received from others were different to say the least. The Chinese people showed many different emotions when coming in contact with us: afraid, shy, nervous, surprised, confused or overly excited. At any given time seeing their emotions altered our emotions also. Many pictures were taken with us knowing or without us knowing and even selfies at times. Already being an African American female and then entering another country where I am still a minority at times made me feel small but not being used to seeing a different race on a regular basis would make anyone feel a certain way as they did.
One of the most different and at first difficult things to do while in China was getting used to using the bathrooms. It was literally a hole in the ground with porcelain or without and you had to squat down (make sure you bring your own tissue) and when finished there was no soap to wash your hands. The way the bathrooms were set up in the dorm room was overlapping with the toilet, sink and shower, there was no separation between the 3 areas.
Once you embrace the culture that you are living in and really take advantage of learning instead of complaining or restraining, you then began to learn more about yourself and it will be a benefit for your life in the future. One thing I would have liked to do, besides stay a little longer, was to do more hands on projects or community service to get another view of life and a community other than where we stayed. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip and definitely plan on going back, hopefully with my original group and become better at being a well-rounded individual.