长城, the Great Wall

长城, the Great Wall

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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I never thought I would be able to say I climbed the Great Wall. Growing up, I thought the closest I'd ever get to see the Great Wall was to watch Disney's Mulan on the television screen. Like any adventurous child, there were several places that I've dreamed of seeing up close.

The Eiffel Tower (France), Big Ben (London), and the Great Wall of China are just to name a few. Above all the different historical sites we've visited during my stay in Beijing, I was most excited about seeing the Great Wall of China. I even have a metal to prove that I climbed it! However, climbing the wall could never be compared to my previous experience in climbing Mount. Tai.

Although walking on the Great Wall was a challenge, I didn't have to worry about walking up a staircase for more than a half hour. As you may already know, the Great Wall of China is not an ordinary wall. It consists of many curves, and turns in which are very similar to the structure of a roller coaster. I also learned that the entire Great Wall was not created at one time but several portions of the Wall were built by different people at different times.

Despite the rainy weather, I really enjoyed having the opportunity to the walk on the Great Wall and appreciate China's beautiful architecture. In addition to the Great Wall, I noticed that the people of China were very intrigued in learning about their culture and seemed very proud of their history.

七月二十六号(July 26th), The Last Class

It felt so good to wake up that morning knowing that this was my last day of class. No more homework. No more tests. No more having to wake up early to get to class at 8 a.m. Then suddenly, another feeling swept over me.

My last day of class was a bittersweet moment. I was excited that I finally finished the four-week intensive Chinese program, but I was also dreading this moment because I knew I would have to leave the new friends I've made through my journey in China. Since we just finished our final exam the previous day, as a treat, my teacher Ms. Hao let the class watch“功夫熊猫”(gong fu xiong mao) better known as Kung Fu Panda.

Watching Kung Fu Panda in Chinese helped me with my listening comprehension skills and it also made me laugh. Not to mention, the movie had subtitles in Chinese characters, which also challenged my knowledge of identifying Chinese characters and reading comprehension skills.

When the bell rung to end class, I said my goodbyes, exchanged contacts, took a few pictures and embraced several new friends. I never thought I would have made as many friends as I did. Now I can study and practice Chinese with my Indonesian, Chinese and Korean friends that I’ve met during my stay in China. I'm so thankful to God for allowing me to meet so many amazing and different people in this foreign country.

七月二十六号,第二(part 2)

China Study Abroad
        Lauren Smith's media presentation
Earlier this week, Shyree and I were planning to invite both of our Chinese professors to join us for dinner. After class, the professors agreed on eating dinner at 6:30 p.m. Since class ended at noon, some of the Bloomsburg University students (including myself) decided to check out the gym nearby to play Badminton.

I must confess that Badminton is not one of my best sports. Not to mention, I recently learned how to play Badminton just last month. For someone who hasn't played Badminton for a long time, I thought I did pretty well. After playing in the gym for about an hour, I went back to my dorm to prepare for dinner with my professors.

For dinner, we took our professors to a place not too far from our dorm. The restaurant was called the Secret Garden. At the restaurant, Shyree and I had the opportunity to use what we've learned in class to order food. I was nervous at first but I eventually became comfortable because it wasn't enforced to only speak Chinese to my professors.

Throughout the night, we spoke a combination of Chinese and English to our professors as we were getting to know them better. Most of the night, I talked to Ms. Hao because we had so much in common. We both like to watch the Twilight movies and SpongeBob. Not to mention, she’s only in her late 20s so there's not a big age difference.

We definitely tasted a variety of dishes and flavors but my favorite part was eating the steamed and baked dough with a condensed milk-like dip. After dinner, we all parted our ways except me and Ms. Hao. As Ms. Hao escorted me back to my dorm, she told me she was going to miss me and hoped that I would return one day.

I don't know what God has planned for me but I definitely plan to stay in contact with Ms.Hao. I owe her a big "thank you" for encouraging me and giving me the confidence to speak Chinese more often.

First stop: Temple of Heaven, then Pearl Market

Friday afternoon, we went to the Temple of Heaven. In my opinion, the Temple of Heaven looked a lot like several other historical architecture that we saw in our first week in China. For example, a lot of the temples look similar to the structure of the buildings in the Forbidden City as well as the Confucius Temples.

The Temple of Heaven was a very sacred place. Most of these historical places were visited by the emperor himself, especially the Temple of Heaven. Usually, the Temple of Heaven was where sacrificial offerings were killed and a common area for the emperor to pray to the gods. According to our tour guide, poor people were once used as sacrificial offerings which occurred in the temple. One commodity that I've noticed about most of the ancient architecture I've visited is that each door way has high ground that one must step over. It was said to symbolize good luck to the one who steps over it.

After seeing the ancient temples where the emperor prayed, we returned to the bus and were on our way to the Pearl Market, which was only ten minutes away. We only had an hour to shop, so there wasn't a lot of time. However, I really enjoyed bargaining with people and paying less money for items than I would in America. I know that I will miss shopping opportunities like this in China because the people try to agree to a price to satisfy the customer whereas malls in America just have a set price for all customers. Overall, shopping in China is an interesting and memorable experience.

Reflection

I'm so excited to return home today. I'm also thrilled that I had the chance to see just a portion of what God sees every day. This experience has definitely taught me a lot about the several differences between China and America. It also has given me a better understanding of Chinese people and their culture.

Most importantly, it has helped me to appreciate America more than I ever have. This was my first time traveling to China and outside of the United States. Therefore, I began this journey with a lot of fears and stereotypes about China but quickly adapted to their customs with some exceptions. The people of China made me feel like a Hollywood star with their excitement and the enthusiastic energy they’d get from taking pictures with foreigners like me. If that wasn't hard enough to adjust to, then the constant stares and complements definitely did the trick.

Most of the Chinese people were just as interested in knowing about us and the English language as we were to their culture. Most of all, I've enjoyed trying different foods, drinks and learning about the Chinese diet. The best part of this experience is being able to take these captured memorable moments and share them with others. If you're reading this, take my advice. If given the opportunity, explore the world beyond your doorstep and learn about the different people around you.
Lauren Smith

Welcome Back Surprise

After sitting in a chair for 13 hours, experiencing body cramps and total exhaustion from staying wide awake through the whole flight, I was extremely happy to get off the plane in Newwark, N.J. All I could think about was seeing my dad waiting for me at the airport and a home cooked meal for dinner, which my boyfriend promised to make for me.

After going through customs, my dad was nowhere to be found. I was beginning to worry. Then I saw my friends from school holding up a big sign that read "Welcome Back Ren." As I walked closer to them, they dropped the sign which revealed my boyfriend, his family and mutual friends.

My boyfriend told me that he had been practicing Chinese. Then he smiled and said "你可以嫁给我吗?," which is translated as "will you marry me?" I was so surprised and so excited.

Of course I said yes. This was the best way to end my China Trip and being proposed to in Chinese at the airport will be a memory I'll never forget.

    — Lauren Smith, mass communications major