Found in translation

Found in translation

Lauren Smith

Meet ... Lauren Smith

China Study Abroad Major: Mass Communications
Location: Beijing, China
Studying: Spending four weeks immersed in the Chinese culture while visiting majestic, historical sites and studying at the prestigious Institute of Chinese as Second Language of Peking University.

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你好!我叫宋乐仁 我在大学是四年级 我的专业是新闻和中文

Translation: Hi, my name is Lauren Smith. I’m currently a senior at Bloomsburg University. My major is Mass Communications/Journalism and Chinese.

I was really excited about traveling to Beijing, China for 5 top reasons. First, I’ve never traveled outside of the United States. I can write Chinese well but I wanted to improve my speaking skills. Ever since I went to high school, I’ve wanted to go to Beijing. I wanted to see the Great Wall of China and pandas as well. Finally, I desired a better understanding of the similarities and differences in China compared to America. In our first week, living in China was a little hard to adjust to especially with the 12 hour time difference, eating rice and noodles almost every day and using your feet more than any other mode of transportation in order to get anywhere.

After a while, I began to adapt to the Chinese culture. In fact, I have also gotten a habit of watching television in China. My favorite TV show is “喜羊羊与灰太狼”(Pleasant Goat and the Big Bad Wolf), a cartoon about a family of sheep that live together and how these two wolves are always trying to capture them. It sounds strange, but I find it to be very interesting and funny.

Most of all, I think this experience will be beneficial to me in so many ways. In general, studying abroad to a foreign country looks amazing on your resume and can impress many people especially in the business sector. As an aspiring journalist, writing articles about my experience in china can help me gain credibility as a writer and lead to an ideal career. In addition, I also discovered that there are possible open positions in China for journalists, who can speak Chinese fluently. China is always looking for English speaking students to teach English in China for a year.

Studying at Peking University

During our stay in Beijing, China, we attended Peking University where we had the opportunity to learn Chinese in another way. I was placed in the elementary level class, which was the next level from the basics. Each level class was broken up into to 2 courses: comprehensive and spoken Chinese. I attended class every day for 4 hours from 8am-12pm, with 3 short breaks included. In the comprehensive course, my teacher, Mr. Shi taught us each day in Chinese, which motivated students like me to speak more Chinese. He emphasizes on reading and understanding Chinese. We also practiced writing, reading, and listening to new vocabulary. In the speech course, my other teacher, Ms. Hao helped us recite vocabulary with the correct pronunciation.

Speaking in Chinese is very difficult for me but I definitely think this class will help me improve my listening and speaking skills. Every day we are given homework to complete to help us review new vocabulary. Each week we are given a test to see if the students remember what they studied. According to both of my teachers, 60 percent of our score will come from completing homework and the other 40 percent will come from tests. One thing I really like about my class is that it is so diverse. There were students from other universities who came to be a part of the Chinese summer program at Peking University.

There was a blend of Chinese, Korean, European, and even African American students. Inside and outside the classroom, I made friends who were Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, and the list goes on. Overall, the two courses are both very challenging but that was also the same reason why I chose to learn Chinese -- because it's a challenge. In my opinion, challenges bring the best out of me.


Unlike the U.S., China’s traffic system is a little different than what I'm most familiar with. In my first week in China, I noticed that there weren’t many street signs to help you with arriving at a destination. The other foreign students and I had to recall from our memory of how to get to certain buildings or areas in Beijing. Born and raised in West Philadelphia, PA, I thought that it was impossible for drivers to share the road with bicyclists and yield to pedestrians. However, the streets of China seemed to share the entire road with pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles altogether. It definitely took some time to get use to cars moving so close to me and the bicyclists swerving around me and my friends.

The vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians not only shared the road, but also the pavements. At first, it was very strange to see several cars parked on the curb and other areas that would have earned the driver a ticket in America. According to some natives, earning your driver's license is much more difficult than a driver’s test in the U.S. Surprisingly, this method of sharing the road actually works whether a person is walking, riding or driving. Many people would believe that there are less cars than there are in America, although China is overpopulated.

As for other ways of transportation, there are options such as the subway, the bus, or the taxi. Unlike the roads that are shared, Beijing has a main street where most taxis, cars, bicycles, and buses are found. The main street looks more like the highways in America including the amount of traffic during busy hours. I was so used to seeing a fluctuation of traffic at home. In Beijing, I’ve witnessed going to several by different ways of transportation in which every area was crowded with people.
Since pedestrians in China don't cross the main streets, there is a bridge that reaches one curb to the other in which allows people to get across without running in the street.

What a clever idea!

One day while I was waiting for the subway train to arrive at the station, I noticed that a big crowd of Chinese people slowly began to form lines in front of the doors of the train. When the doors of the train opened, a myriad of people came out pushing and shoving. Not to mention, the subway train was always crowded. If you were lucky, you probably found a seat but it wasn’t a guarantee. Above all modes of transportation, taxis may be the most familiar. The process of getting a taxi is pretty simple and very cheap especially when there’s more than one person using-it. Overall, the transportation methods are very different compared to the U.S, but it’s definitely beneficial to the people who live here.

The People of China

In China, the people always seem to be in large numbers. Majority of the Chinese people I’ve met are very pleasant and friendly, especially to foreigners. It’s a rare occasion to hear them yelling angrily at each other but they always seem to be in a relatively good mood. Just from my observation, they are very excited to have foreigners like me speak their language. However, that doesn’t stop the excessive glares and stares received from many of the people.

It still surprises me that they think I'm unique because I have a brown skin tone with very different physical features. In fact, I thought it was very interesting that I’ve been stopped by several Chinese people to take a picture with them or have been called 漂亮(piao liang)which means pretty. Experiences like this definitely are a self-esteem booster, but it also helps me understand how most of them treat other people who differ from them.

Unlike Americans, they don’t seem to complain as much either. Chinese people appear to be very satisfied with what they have or at least accepting of it even if they disagree. As for the younger generations, they are all about fashion, mostly young women. After talking to a friend I met who has lived in china for a while, she gave me a better explanation of fashion in china. I would concur that the Chinese dress more conservatively but they also dress more formal than Americans too. In America, for girls, high heels are an essential part of dressing up. However, in China, high heels weren’t seen or sold in stores. I found that very surprising since I love buying new stilettos.

Although some Chinese enjoy shopping and dressing up each day, they don’t seem to have an unbearable appetite for more materials than necessary. As our trip to the Forbidden City was coming to an end, I was walking down a street where I seen people that were blind or had some unusual major injury who were asking for money from the people passing by.

I’ve noticed in many other areas that the Chinese's have a low tolerance for the poor and the homeless. Although I still don’t fully understand as to why they feel that way towards people who don’t have anything, I noticed the responses the people have towards the poor and injured.

One day, I was walking on the bridge when I saw a poor woman laid down with her face to the ground. I noticed a cup in front of her so I scavenged in my purse and put a few 元(yuan-Chinese dollar)in her cup. I tried to greet her with a friendly, 你好(ni hao-hello), but she did not pick her head up even though I could tell she was awake. That’s when I realized that not only do some Chinese people have a low tolerance for the poor but the poor are ashamed of their current social status. Furthermore, observing the people who live here in China has allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for the things already have and makes me proud to be an American.

The 元(Yuan)and bargaining

The yuan, 元, is the name of the Chinese currency dollar bills. One hundred yuan is equivalent to about 17 U.S. dollars. Jiao, 角, is another term which is used when shopping for items. It also means ten cents. Wu jiao, 五角, is 50 cents and can appear in the form of a bill or coin. Chinese currency is also brightly colored which helps one identify the right amount of money to pay the clerk. Like in the U.S., when I try to purchase items with a relatively low price, they will not take a hundred yuan because the bill is too large and they would have to give me more change back. There are several convenient stores near the university similar to corner stores in Philadelphia. Further down from the campus are shopping centers and markets where you can buy things for cheap as long as you can speak Chinese and know how to bargain.

Bargaining is a method that is not commonly used in the U.S. but it is a shopping norm for people who live in China. The objective of bargaining is to get the clerk to lower the price of the item they are trying to sell you as much as possible. My first experience bargaining was great. I was able to lower the price of these two beautiful bracelets from 60 元 to 40 元. Professional bargainers would have probably been able to lower the price to 10 元 but that takes a lot of practice. Unlike most Americans, after enjoying a delicious meal at a restaurant, one usually leaves a tip for the waiter. However, this is not the case in China. Chinese people view receiving a tip just as bad as waving money in their face.

While Americans would be insulted if they were not given a tip, Chinese people would not understand if they were given one. The reason is because they are accustomed to people just paying for the bill. To them, it may look like someone is leaving their change on the table. Chinese people don’t seem to be a "greedy" country. I don’t have to worry about tips as long as I’m in China but I just had to make sure the bill was paid.

    — Lauren Smith, mass communications major