Traveling: Yuyao 

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My final trip of the winter break: Yuyao! Yuyao is in the countryside of Zhejiang, not too far away from Siming mountain. Even though I hadn’t left the province before my home stays started, I felt like there was so much more to see than Ningbo, so I chose to stay with a new friend in Yuyao about 2 hours away from school.

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After Harbin, I came back to school for a few days to head to Yuyao, just in time for the Spring Festival or more commonly known as the Chinese New Year. Last year, I celebrated Chinese New Year with Project Pengyou at USF, but this time I got the chance to see how Chinese families spend the new year.

 

On the first day, my host family prepared a meal for their ancestors and prayed for them before my host mother’s family came for lunch and dinner. We visited a strawberry farm and went to a small town fair. There’s not much that goes on in the countryside for new year except for Mahjong and eating. Gambling and eating must be family holiday essentials no matter where you go in the world.

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Since my birthday was approaching, my friend made homemade cakes for me!

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The next days were spent visiting family friends in Siming mountain and going back and forth between my host mother’s and father’s family. Other than eating, I enjoyed watching the fireworks and attempting to talk to my host families. I still have a long way to go with Chinese, but I’m making progress!

I really enjoyed spring festival and it almost made up for missing out on the winter holidays with my own family. When I get back, I’ll appreciate Thanksgiving and Christmas more than I already do. Surely though, I will be dreaming about the fried spring rolls next Spring Festival!

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Flashback Fridays: Christmas in China, Dec.24 & 25 


Finally Christmas has come again, but this time somewhere I would have never imagined! I was worried before I left about spending my favorite holidays away from home. Thanksgiving and Christmas time is what I look forward to every year, and after Thanksgiving didn’t go as planned, I was little worried about spending Christmas alone. Luckily, VAV threw a Christmas Eve party to save the day!


Almost all of us headed to a factory 2 hours away that let us rent out their employee facilities. For the night, we had a large dining room, basketball court and pool tables all to ourselves for the whole night.


We started out with a lovely dinner, then everyone got in their pajamas (except me because I forgot mine) to get ready for the nights activities. We played games, danced, and watched Home Alone. The best part was the Christmas party tradition of putting makeup on the boys and watching them model in their pajamas! I even got to play UNO the Chinese way, which is ten times more difficult than what I remembered playing back home.


We woke up that morning to the gifts we brought to exchange with each other. After that, we headed back and luckily one of my best friends on campus hung out with me for the night. We had pizza and watched A Christmas Story and Love Actually.

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Even though I was terribly homesick, I was grateful to be surrounded by my friends. It will be a Christmas I will never forget.

Flashback Fridays: Treasure Hunting, December 3 2016

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In hopes of making more friends, I joined a VAV program called Buddy System. Buddy System pairs up domestic and international students with similar interests and invites us to free activities for us to hang out with each other. We’ve had a game day together, ice skating and our last activity for the semester was a Running Man activity.

Running Man is a popular TV series in both Korea and China where the show members play compete against each other to win a race. That day we played games like tag, exercise competitions, food competitions, and re-enacted famous scenes from TV and movies. The best part was tag which got super intense and the WeChat stickers that followed.

My team was dead last in the race, but it was a nice break from studying for exams!

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Traveling: Home Stay in Harbin 

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I made it to the winter wonderland! Growing up in Florida, I never thought I would see snow anytime soon and definitely never thought my first time would be in China!

I participated in the Home Stay Match Meeting where I was able to meet students from all over China who were willing to open their homes during the spring festival. Originally I wanted to go to Yunnan, but last minute I realized I might as well take up the opportunity to head north!

While I was in Sichuan,  I didn’t think I would even be able to go to Harbin. After some drama happened, it was all sorted out and I headed to Harbin. I would be staying in a hotel, but I still hung out with my new friend and her family.

Heilongjiang province borders Russia, so the capital city is a mix of Russian and Chinese culture. On my first day out, we looked around town and tried famous treats like Russian style sausage and ice cream (yes, they eat frozen treats in the freezing cold!)

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We headed to the World Ice Festival, Volga Manor, the Siberian Tiger Park, Harbin Polarland and Unit 731. I happened to pick a good time to be in Harbin because it was during the Spring Festival so it was never too crowded anywhere that we went. Out of all the places, one of the most memorable had to be visiting Unit 731. Most people have probably never heard of it, but I’m a bit of a war history buff and I wanted to check it out. I didn’t take any pictures out of respect, but it was an eye opening experience and changed my view of both Harbin and China.

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The most rewarding experience about Harbin had to be my home stay family. They were so warm and inviting and really encouraged me to keep studying Chinese and chase my dream of being the ambassador to China one day. My home stay grandma was so sweet! She reminded me of my great grandmother. She taught me how to make dumplings and fed me until I was about to explode. I was so grateful to them and happy that I chose a great family to stay with.
My favorite thing about Harbin is that no one cares that you are a foreigner! No one stopped to take pictures of me, I didn’t get any stares or people shouting  “a black person!” when I walked by, so I was able to travel in peace.

If you are in China for the winter, I would definitely recommend traveling to Harbin!

Flashback Fridays: Exchange Exposition: Recruiting Future Bulls, Nov 16, 2016


VAV has six programs within their organization, one of them being Go! UK~ which aims to help full time UNNC students study abroad on campus. UNNC is partnered with a few American colleges, one of them being USF so I was asked to help create and run the American booth!


Along with another students who studied at USF and one who studied in North Carolina, we decked out our booth in red, white, and blue and I even gave them some pictures of USF campus activities for them to hang around the booth.


From about six hours I helped set up, talk to interested students, and take it all down in the end. We provided them with some games like basketball and fortune cookies; typical American stuff. Some students had an idea in mind of where they wanted to go, and some had no idea at all. Of course, I promoted USF the entire time. One girl told me she had already been looking into studying at USF! I know the study abroad fairs at USF helped me get to where I am now, so I’m always willing to help around campus when it comes to anything related to America and study abroad!


This experience was so rewarding, because even if only for those few hours I felt at home. Just seeing those pictures of my school and being wrapped in the flag made it  feel like I’m not a 1000 miles away.

I’m proud to be a Bull abroad I hope I’ll meet some students from UNNC when I get back to the States!

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Traveling: Chongqing 

 

IMG_1819Chongqing is one of the five national central cities of China; a massive city with a population of over 30 million right next to Sichuan. Before we left to Chengdu, my friends and I decided that we would go to Chongqing after a friend was scheduled to leave Chengdu two days ahead of everyone else. The four of us would head to Chongqing for two days and after, myself and another friend would head to Harbin together. Of course, it wouldn’t be an exciting trip if everything went as planned, right? 

While we were booking our tickets, my ticket on the same plane with my friend to Harbin was taken and the price shot up a ridiculous amount for that same flight. So, I wound up having to go on a different flight than my friend. I was fine with that, since we were still going to the airport together and our flights left at the same time. But of course, he just so happened to lose his passport an hour before we were supposed to head to Chengdu together, so he didn’t even make it on the trip!

Then, when we arrived in Chengdu, the friend who was supposed to leave two days early instead booked his flight to leave from Chengdu a day later. That was fine since the rest of us could still go to Chongqing for day, but the day before we planned to leave my friend realized he didn’t want to spend money to go to Chongqing and back for just one day so he opted out. Now it was just me and my friend May who planned to go to Chongqing. To top it all off, right before we were to leave to Chongqing, she had a reaction to the seafood from the night before and had to go to the hospital!

So I’m the last person left and I was terrified. I hate traveling alone, and the idea of traveling alone in a foreign country with a language I can barely speak had my anxiety skyrocketing to new levels. Luckily, May had an older sister in Chongqing who said she would show me around.

I took the slow train to Chongqing for about 4 hours and met May’s sister at the train station. She couldn’t speak any English, which worked in my advantage as my survival Chinese kicked in and we were able to communicate some. If we couldn’t, we used a translation app to talk to each other.

We headed over to Yuzhong district which reminds me of Manhattan. It’s super busy, everyone is rich or trying to look like it, and there’s monuments like the Chongqing Liberation Monument that you have to check out!

We stopped for some street food and looked around a mall for few hours before heading to an all you can eat seafood restaurant. Even though it was technically a buffet, it was super fancy and we ate our weight in seafood by the end of it.

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We soon rushed over and made it on the last tour boat on the Yangtze river. I was able to see a good part of the city that I wouldn’t have been able to see in such a short period of time. May’s sister was really lovely and she showed me a great time!

Around midnight, she dropped me off at the airport so I could catch my early flight to Harbin the next morning. Even though we couldn’t talk much I was kind of sad to leave her but she left me with a bag of Chongqing peppers that I’ll probably use for hotpot. My stomach will probably disagree, but I can’t wait to try them!

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Flashback Fridays: VAV Team Bonding- Nov 12, 2016

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Joining VAV will have to be one of the best decisions I have made coming here. I’m introverted at times and I knew coming here if I didn’t try to break out of my shell my time in China would be grim. Even if you are studying abroad for only a semester, I suggest that you join an organization or club. It’s a fantastic way to make friends fast and meet people who have the same interest as you!


Our team bonding consisted of two parts, hiking and camping. I have no idea where we went, but it was no more than an hour away from our school to a local mountain. I have never hiked before so I was kind of worried, but when we got there the scenery was so beautiful I momentairly forgot about how out of shape I am.


First it was a nice walk up a road for about an hour… and then it got intense. Maybe it would be lax for others, but I really thought I was going to meet my end on that mountain. I was practically climbing it at some parts hoping I was not going to slip on the rocks that were barely lodged into the mountain.

Eventually, we came to a stop about an hour or so later. The senior members asked us if we wanted to keep climbing or go back down the mountain. From my fetal position on the ground I protested going any further because I did not have the energy, but also because I assumed we were climbing up it to camp in the mountain. Turns out we hiked to “build character and bond”. That’s not my idea of bonding. After walking down a nice road I wish we had used to get to the top, we headed over to our camp site on someone’s farm.


That night we pitched our own tents, had some barbecue, KTV,  and played some games around the camp fire.

I had some great laughs that night, and this is the moment that I really started to feel like I was going to have some great memories to reflect on with some amazing people.

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