Thursday, January 10, 2013

Building Relationships in Shanghai, China

Kimmy Yu, a Chemistry major with minors in Biochemistry and Chinese and a student in the Verrazano Class of 2014, is spending the winter intersession in Shanghai, China.  Kimmy received a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship to help support his study abroad experience.  Read below for Kimmy's first impressions of his time in China.

Kimmy at Chenghuang Miao (City God Temple) in Shanghai
The day I traveled China was one of the most hectic challenges that I have ever faced in my life as an independent person. My first step of international travel to China began with the TSA protocol screenings. The most surprising and disturbing part of this proceeding was that I had to be searched via pat-down procedure or through the millimeter wave body scanner. So basically, what the wave body scanner does is that it will emit radiation throughout your body in all dimensions in order to search for any potentially dangerous and harmful objects. When selecting with the screening, I decided to choose the pat-down procedure since it prevents any possibilities of radiation dangers even though it was quite embarrassing to some extent because I was being thoroughly searched during this extensive pat-down procedure in front of a crowd of boarding passengers. This was the first time have I experienced anything like this. It was truly shocking! 

There were also many other surprising things that I experienced upon arrival in China. The most frightening part for me was when I almost missed the ground transfer because the SHU (Shanghai University) representative was nowhere to be seen.  I finally noticed that I was about half an hour early for the meeting time, so it didn’t hurt to wait for another 30 minutes. In any case, I was not too concerned because of the fact that I knew how to speak mandarin, and soon enough I found my study abroad peers and the Shanghai University bus took us directly to our campus dorm. From that moment on, I felt completely relieved and satisfied that I was finally able to settle down after my 18 hour flight. As days went on, my fears subsided and I became more and more comfortable in my new environment.  I have not only met other exchange students from the program but exchange students from France and other parts of Australia as well.  Many of these exchange students are planning to stay for up to one semester in China. 
Jin Mao Tower
So far, my experience on the SHU campus in China has been quite manageable. However, I found that I haven’t been able to use English to communicate with the Chinese citizens when ordering food and shopping in the community. As reality sets in, this cultural encounter has made it a little bit uneasy for me since I don’t really know how to read every Chinese character on the menu listed.   I’ve had to either use gestures or try to explain what it is that I want to buy and eat. There are also many rules of purchasing in China that I was not aware of previously.  For any electronic product that you purchase, you’re required to submit an invoice in order to keep track of tax transactions made in the supermarket. After I realized that, I felt really glad that I had a teacher assistant to accompany me when I went shopping for the first time. I also felt much safer not to enter the markets alone, especially at night because the streets can become very crowded and people will likely bump into you a lot.

I have also had the opportunity to meet native graduate students from China who are happy to assist us with not only translating the attractions and food menus for us but also advise us on how to bargain for better prices at the Yu Yuan market. Their assistance has been very valuable to me.   I’ve not only been able to learn how to bargain for cheaper prices and avoid exorbitant prices offered in the markets, but I have also gained a better understanding of what the standard price of certain items should be. In other words, having a teacher assistant’s guidance can prevent me from being taken advantage of by other sellers while bargaining.

Huangpu River Cruise - going by the Oriental Pearl Tower
Our side trips have included the Yu Yuan garden (old city- Chenghuang Temple), an old busy market that consists of bargaining with sellers for the best price. We have also visited the 88th floor of the Jin Mao Tower which had an incredibly amazing view. We’ve had the opportunity to take many pictures and enjoy the beautiful night scenery of the Shanghai financial center and the Oriental Pearl Tower while on the Huangpu River cruise. Overall, it was a great chance for everyone in the study abroad program to go out and bond and have a great time. I have also began to feel much more comfortable around them as we spend more and more time together - not only during the side trips to the Jin Mao Tower and Yu Yuan Garden but also having our own get-together party in the dormitory the night before our first day of class. During our mini-party, we told fun and scary ghost stories, ate Chinese noodles, chips and candies, and enjoyed each other’s company throughout the night. And for those of us who had class the next day, we left the party early to wake up for class the next morning.  This period of bonding with friends and socializing with students from other CUNY campuses allowed us to share how each of our college campus activities differ from other schools.

Despite our hectic schedule, we’ve still managed to have time to relax and enjoy listening to pop music and playing some table tennis with our peers as well as challenge some professional ping pong players on campus. So far, this dorm-life and travel experience has been really awesome for me. I’ve been meeting new people, made new friends, bonded with current friends, and had an opportunity to experience living on my own in a foreign environment. What was also really cool was that I made a new friend in China who is also a language exchange partner.  I tutor my Chinese friend in English and he teaches me Mandarin in return. This learning experience provides us both mutual benefits in terms of language learning, and I am definitely enjoying it a lot!

To learn more about the study abroad programs offered through the Center for International Service at the College of Staten Island, please visit the study abroad website.

No comments:

Post a Comment