Student Travel Log: Week One

This summer, five OneWorld Now! students are in China with American’s Promoting Study Abroad (ASPA). APSA creates global education opportunities for youth in underserved communities and empower them to change the world of tomorrow by learning to cooperate, collaborate and innovate across national borders. They select youth from diverse backgrounds and regions in America who show a commitment to their communities and learning new languages.

On Study Abroad in China with APSA

 OWN students Sumaya, Edmel, Christophe, Nam, and Jeanette are blogging about their time in China on ASPA’s blog. You can read more from other APSA student here.

Jeanette Nguyen – Week 1

Originally posted on July 19, 2015

Local Customs and Behaviors

It has only been one week and a half since we arrived in China and I’ve already learned so much about the culture and more importantly, about myself. This program has given me so many chances to speak to the locals and the APSA staff is very encouraging. I’ve studied abroad last year in Beijing and Changsha for two weeks but there weren’t many opportunities to practice speaking Chinese with the locals. Because I have been to China before, I am familiar with the Chinese customs. However, there are a few customs that still surprises me.

What I’ve noticed in this past week was that the Chinese customs and behavior are very different than the American customs and behavior. For example, it is normal for young children to go out in public with their butts showing. I’ve also heard that parents allow their babies to urinate on the streets, but I have yet to see that. This does not happen in America because we believe that it is not sanitary. One other difference that concerns me is the driving laws. In America, pedestrians have the right of way, but they do not have it so much here in China. When we were walking across the street during an excursion, it was our turn to cross the street but people would still try to drive through. That alone was a scary experience for me because most people in America respect the driving laws. One last thing that was significantly different here is the transportation system. Because traffic is so terrible, it is not safe for pedestrians to walk across the streets, so there are tunnels and overheads that people use to cross.

All of these differences made me realize how much I appreciate what I have in the United States of America. There are many differences that makes me very uncomfortable, but as the APSA staff always say, “If  you are uncomfortable, you are growing,” I wish to continue growing throughout the rest of this trip.

Sumaya Dirie – Week 1

Originally posted on July 15, 2015

Observations in Beijing

All of my life, I have experienced the label of a foreigner. Being a Muslim in America, I was classified as “other” before a chance to even open my mouth was even an option. I was very aware that I, a dark-skinned girl with layers of clothing draping from every limb on her body; would get a lot of curious attention. I assumed that this simple realization was enough preparation for the trip, but I was unbelievably wrong. The amount of eyes that glued themselves to me from the moment of my entrance to the moment of my exit was astonishing, and the discomfort that settled within my chest was growing greater and greater with every group outing. I’d lived a relatively invisible life in Seattle; I walked the streets as another face and was very satisfied with the minute amount of attention I got. It has taken me quite some time to ignore the looks and mutters, but I have to understand the reason behind it. When I was younger, and when I assumed everyone else in the world was Somali, I looked at people who were different from myself with the exact same expression. I remember hearing something that made the feeling of discomfort dissipate in my chest.

“These schools have 4,000 kids in them, and every single one is Chinese.”

China is a place that has maintained its history because of its reluctance to fully open its doors to foreigners. This practice shouldn’t be seen as negative because its given people like me the opportunity to metaphorically –and sometimes literally- step back in time. I get to practice and witness practices that are only in China, and immerse myself in a culture that doesn’t already have opinions about me.

Christopher Lam – Week 1

Originally posted on July 19, 2015

Local Customs and Behaviors

I have felt drastic differences between the lifestyle and customs of the Chinese opposed to the Americans even though I come from a Chinese upbringing. I never would have expected to receive any culture shock. However, the most astonishing differences are the ways of life between the two countries and their approaches towards certain courtesies.

My experience so far, for a week in, is amazing to say the least. With that said, within a short period of time I have been able to easily distinguish between the Chinese and American lifestyles.  
The air quality, coming from Seattle, I could immediately feel the pollution to be draining towards my lungs. Once I stepped out of the airport, everything felt heavy and as I walked around the vicinity, I couldn’t even distinguish between the smog and the clouds. With Seattle claiming its title for having one the best air qualities in the US, it was difficult to adapt. Also, another major difference is that the food in China heavy. Despite the many exquisite flavors, the richness that comes with it doesn’t suit my pallet. The eateries in China include a lot of oil and grease in many of their cooking processes, and because of that, after a few bites in, you become immediately full.

Now onto the topic of common courtesy, the two cultures seem to be placed on polar opposites to say disparately. In America, manners are an essential; they are needed to make good impressions, needed to show respect to elder, and simply just needed in daily life. It’s ingrained into the American culture to the point where it became the social norms. Phrases such as “Excuse me”, “Bless you”, and many more. Once I arrived in China, the norms that were instilled into me, such as the phrases that I thought were just part of common sense, vanished into thin air. At first, I was offended. I was pushed around in China, either at the train station, the cafeteria, or in the public. However, I’ve come to realized that the standard displays of outward politeness I am use to aren’t used or seen to be needed. By all means the Chinese are respectful; they just show it in different ways. Americans deliver their respect in a public manner, whereas for China it’s, as I feel, shown within filial piety.

Overall, the experience so far has been unbelievable. I come to realize many unique aspects of the culture that I would never have known. Common courtesy seems to be the huge difference, but apprehending the two, my biases now aren’t leaned towards one another. Comparing the American to the Chinese it grants me a greater understanding, widening my world view.

Edmel Ronquillo – Week 1

Originally posted on July 19, 2015

Local Customs and Behaviors

Hi!My name is Edmel. It’s been a week since I’ve been here with the program, and can I just say that this week feels like a month already. The customs in China and behaviors here are far from what I’m used to in America. First off, crossing the street is ridiculous. The cars and bikers do not care for pedestrians. It’s not a thing to let the people have right of way even if the signal says it’s okay to walk. Another custom that I’m still on edge about, are the squat toilets. It’s a little hole where you have to squat in order to use. I’ve been meaning to use it before I can have a fair opinion about it. My peers highly recommend it, as well as the facilitators. There are also little things that surprised me; such as figuring out that rice isn’t always given with every meal, but can be. Breakfast isn’t so bad here. You’d think you’d get enough of dumplings after a while, but things start to grow on you. And by grow on you, I mean you need to stop questioning things and just understand it. Like, would you think that it’s weird if a baby’s pants were bottomless? Yes? How about being a foreigner going places. Even around the university, people are surprised and continue to take pictures of us. I wish they learn how to be discrete, because they aren’t. It’s amazing how amaze they are with us. The attention and pictures get tiring and repetitive to say the least. It would also be great if they would ask, we would love to take a picture with them, and we often do when they ask.

Besides the customs that continue to surprise me, and compare my own culture to theirs, their behavior is almost the same. Chinese people are just trying to live their lives. They just happen to speak Chinese and live in another country. If you strip away the superficial attributes, we are alike. You’d be surprised by how many Chinese people love Taylor Swift. Besides the love of Taylor Swift, they are eager to speak to us. They want to know just as much English and America and our culture as we do theirs. But, one thing that is extremely different is that fact that they don’t say excuse me. It’s something I’ve been trying to get used to and not take it too much to the heart. Other than all these things, we’re similar in so many ways but different in just the same amount.

Nam Simran Singh Boyd – Week 1

Originally posted on July 19, 2015

Local Customs and Behaviors

When I first arrived in China the first thing that I became aware of was the fact that in China, pedestrians do not have the right of way. As soon as I stepped foot onto my first road in Beijing , a bus came storming by blasting it’s horn, refusing to yield to a group of about twenty foreigners. Nobody stops for you when you are walking through the streets. Thankfully, everyone here is very honk happy so you can at least hear the cars barreling for you at full speeds. When me and the other APSA Scholars were returning from Yuan Tu Cheng Yuan Park, we were all crossing the road on our way back to the university (mind you there are thirty one of us, not including Facilitators and other staff members). In the process of crossing the road, people on bikes and motorcycles just made their way through us. I believe this is due to the fact that in Beijing, it is so densely populated and compared to America, traffic laws are rarely enforced.

If I could talk to you all back home, the things that I would say to you would be to value all the commodities available to you, no matter how small. In China, you cannot flush your toilet paper. You must throw it away in a trash bin because the sewers will flood back into your room if you don’t, and the smell is not pleasant. In China, not only is ice not available, but they enjoy drinking hot water instead of cold. At our Welcome Dinner, I asked the waitress for some water and then she proceeded to come out with a teapot full of boiling water. They do so many things differently here. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to try new things, whether I like them or not.

In the short time that I have been here, I have been able to observe just a small amount of Chinese culture. But I still have three more weeks to learn as much as I can. I am so excited to be able to compare and contrast the similarities and difference between China and America. The better my language skills become in the time that I am here, the more I will be able to assimilate myself into Chinese culture and understand the different ways people do things around the world.