China

Marriott Tianjin China Program at FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management

Bittersweet Farewell

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

Yes, another semester has gone by in a blink of an eye. I arrived to a warm and welcoming campus, filled with life, curiosity and willingness to learn all through out the campus. Students from all across China started to arrive eager to start their new semester – it was truly a sight to see. And now nearing the end of the semester with final projects and examinations, I realize what a wonderful school year I’ve had in China. It was a long year with new experiences, friendships, and knowledge for which I’m eternally grateful.

Of course, each semester has its difficulties, mine was finals. Finals came back to back all week with very little time to breathe to be honest, but I got through it all hanging by a hair. The funny thing is that Chinese students all around campus are also in the same boat, studying in rooms, reciting notes in the hallways, and it’s just a little chaotic in plain words. You can feel the anxiety in the air (okay, maybe that’s just me). Most definitely stress levels are on an all time high; students are determined to end the semester with their best performance. It fuels you and gives a sense of purpose to continue studying to meet self standards.

Along the way one day I woke to light snow outside, which caught me by surprise. In Spring 2019, I experienced one snow day as well but this time it was more than just one occurrence. It felt like Christmas spirit in China! Yes, I know, it doesn’t snow in Miami but it just felt right (picture is too big to enter on the site) .

The day arrived that my finals were over and I was on a train back to Beijing to grab my flight back for winter break. I was excited to return back to my family, but also felt like I was leaving behind a part of me in China. It’s normal now going back and forth (and I’m still not a fan of 14h flights), but it still feels bittersweet. Once again, I enjoyed my time here and await to come back after spending the holidays with my family.

Until next time!

Saying Goodbye Isn’t Fun.

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

Over the past four months, I have made Tianjin, China my own. The first month, I crawled with baby steps through China as I didn’t know what to expect but filled with excitement for the new experiences. As time went by, I was learning and enjoying my new way of life and now, it is time for me to go. I am feeling like I am leaving a part of me behind because China was not any simple new cultural experience, it was transforming. China has taught me so much and one lesson I will hold with me for life is to be content and be. We love to do and do and do but are we really present in all that we do? I do not want to continue just doing but be present in the things I am doing.

It is really a bittersweet time as I leave my second home, Tianjin China as I say goodbye to all the extremely kind and beautiful people I met and the friendship I have formed is for a lifetime. Actually, this is not a “goodbye”, but a “see you later”. I will be back. China will always have a place in my heart because it was so special. I must come back to reunite with my fellow friends.

This study aboard was more than academically and culturally fulfilling. It was the best memories I will hold on to and I cannot wait to share my stories about China with my family and friends home and to you, the new international students as you going to have more than just a study aboard experience but an experience that will most definitely change your life.

Last Days

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

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Now is the time to look back and see how time flies. I had a good time in China and I learned more than what I thought. A wonderful country with great people that are willing to help and make you feel at home. So many memories that I will never forget. The architecture, the hospitality, and the Chinese culture has so much to offer and to learn from. If you ever come to China, please go to Haidilao. For me, the best restaurant in the entire world. If you are part of the hospitality industry, you will understand why I love this place so much. the attention to the details is mindblowing and the food is amazing.

In terms of school, my semester had several difficulties due to health issues, but I was able to study hard and get good grades for my classes. It is very interesting to be learning surrounded by Chinese students. Also, if you ever take senior seminar, please take it with Yunfei Li. even though is not an easy class, I believe that among all my hospitality courses, this one was the one where I learned the most. She is incredibly experienced, and her way of teaching is very interesting so you will never be bored in her class.

Now that I am graduating, I am pretty sure that I have some qualifications than others doesn’t and that is key to get your desired job. There are so many things that you learn when doing a study abroad, that you will never be able to learn in a classroom at the Chaplin School of Hospitality. I am thankful for this opportunity and I’m ready to share it with my family and friends. Now it’s time to go back to where it all started. See you tomorrow America!

Two moths later…

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

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Its been two months since we started the program and I have learned so much about China and about myself. the first weeks were adaptation and everything was new. then, I had the opportunity to travel and now I’m used to the culture. Now that we are halfway there, I start to wake up feeling like at home. China doesn’t celebrate Halloween as we do. Moreover, we wanted to do something for Halloween and there are a few international restaurants like the Hard Rock Cafe where they have this kind of celebrations to attract not only tourist but locals that want a western experience. From a hospitality point of view, this special celebration makes you feel at home and there are enough international people in Tianjin that are willing to celebrate at a western restaurant. The food was good but the service really slow. Even though they had enough employees, the language barrier made it a little difficult to communicate, the music was very loud, and there are some special requests from customers that made it very difficult for them. The average price for an entree and a drink was about 130 RMB and is usually what you pay at a good restaurant. now,  when you compare a 130 RMB  dinner vs a 20 RMB dinner on campus, you feel that you will be broke in less than a week. We have managed our money wisely now that we know the average costs of leaving and the price of some goods. Compared to the first days when everything looked cheap, now I am more aware of what the price should be like. It is going to be very hard when I go back to Miami and instead of paying 2-4 bucks for a meal on campus, I will have to pay 10-15.  I am looking forward to enjoying the other half of the trip and make the most out of this experience.

Visit to Beijing!

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

This weekend I finally visited Beijing which was absolutely beautiful. It is definitely different from my “home” Tianjin as it is more cultural and touristy. As Beijing is the capital of China, it is very busy with locals and foreigners as they are both exploring the many attractions. On the other hand, Tianjin is a bit slower and is filled with buildings rather than touristy sites.

In Beijing, I visited The Temple of Heaven, The Forbidden City and of course one of the wonders of the world, The Great Wall. They are all unique and magnificent as well as have an interesting history. Firstly, The Temple of Heaven is an imperial complex of religious buildings that was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for a good harvest. The entire place is breath-taking and extremely peaceful, especially in the park sections. Even though there were a lot of people, it still did not take away from the radiant view of the temple.

The Forbidden City served as the home of emperors and their household and was the ceremonial and political center for the Chinese government for almost 500 years. It is also an incredible and spectacular place to visit as I got to see live where the many various emperors sat on their thrones and also where they slept. Also, the garden is not the typical garden, it is filled with unique shape trees at added such beauty.

 Lastly, The Great Wall of China which is cross off my bucket list, six more wonders to go. Besides the long walk and many steps, the Great Wall is a MUST visit when you come to China. It represents so much of the Chinese history and the history is fascinating. It was built to keep out the Mongolian tribe and this wall crosses over 17 providences (states). What really exploded my mind was that the wall took 1000 years to build and it was built by hand. How amazing is that? I mean it must take long to build since it is so long and built by hand but WOW.

“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” – Elie Wiesel. I am grateful for this opportunity to explore China’s history and carry it along with me for the rest of life. Even though my culture back in Trinidad and Tobago is different from China, it allows me to appreciate deeply my experiences in China because of its great history.

The end is near but it is not over yet.

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

The end is near but it is not over yet.  You may be familiar with the saying “Time flies when you’re having fun”, but I like to say, “Time flies; so have fun!”

Someone once told me that if you put time into perspective, you’d realize that time is man-made, a form of control, but if you take away the idea of time you just see things as either temporary or permanent. I mentioned that because being here in China, 12 hours away from home the concept of time has changed significantly for me. Usually we think we need ‘more time’ in order to fulfil particular goals but it is not time that we need, it is strength, willingness and desire, all of which is possible once we pay attention to our mental and physical health.

Living here for over two months thus far I have adapted to the Chinese way of life and found ways to maintain my healthy lifestyle in a totally different society. These are my top five recommendations:

  • Try eating mostly with chopsticks. This may be tedious at first but it helps you to not only eat slowly but to also eat smaller portions.
  • The canteens on campus do not sell beverages which at first I found was very strange but it allowed me to not be tempted to buy juice and instead carry my water which is always the healthier choice.
  • Walk as much as you can. China is very safe and the campus is huge! Take advantage of this because back at home walking was never a part of my daily routine but here there’s no option.
  • Focus on your goal not the price. Food is very cheap in China so do not get distracted by the prices and purchase more than you would usually just keep focused on your health goal and buy just enough of the right things to nourish your body.
  • This last tip is related to mental health. Remember to be present and be engaged! Soak it all up, you only have 4 months which for me was the best 4 months of my life! Take this time to grow, you’re on the other side of the globe, nothing is the same use the time to reflect and discover another version of yourself.

 

With that said, being mentally healthy also means doing things that make your mind relaxed and happy hence, I strongly suggest taking time to explore.  I visited Beijing with some of the other international students where we went to the great wall, Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City. It was a beautiful experience, my favourite place was the Temple of heaven; seeing that huge building stand tall as if it’s almost against the clouds was an awe moment. It’s amazing how much there is to see but as I mentioned above, the end is near but it is not over yet

 

Golden adventures

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

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            Golden week in China is the national holiday of the Formation of the China Republic. This year celebrating 70 years of formation. All of China is on Vacation for a whole week. Since I only have class on Tuesdays, I have a few extra days off. Not only did I take advantage of this, but I traveled all around south China and enjoyed every second of it. Not much sleeping during these 12 days and 8 cities, but totally worth the long days and short nights. I believe we did a great job planning the trip, since each city got better and better. The trip began with a plane ride the “worst” city (YET STILL SUPER AMAZING) Xi’an. A city that is rich of history and has a lot of story to tell the world. The Emperor Qinshihuang’s Museum- Terracota was our first stop. Not a very local place to go since it is top 10 tourist spots to visit in China but it is also a must see. But within the museum we did very local things. We ate in the museum food hall an arepa type with what I think was pork but I am not certain of it but it was amazing. After this we had planned on visiting the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. We did but really did not make it inside. You wonder why? Well since it’s all about living in the local’s shoes; we started walking around the area and found an amazing park across the street that was in a nutshell what China is. Not only was this park beautiful but it took us to a gorgeous fountain in which we are celebrating the beginning of Golden week. They had a light and music show to begin the celebrations of this national holiday. The show was a tribute to mother nature for giving Xi’an all that it has. It was right in front of the pagoda which gave the background of the show the amazing China Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. This was a great beginning to the trip but it simply only got better from here. The next morning, we traveled to Chengdu for the amazing experience of meeting the China only PANDAS! These cute animals did not only give us a day of fun, but it also brought us another friend. On the way to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda we met a family that guided us all around the park and gave us tips and tricks only locals would know. We had a great time seeing them play and breed. After the long day at the park we decided to go to a local street full of street food and China customs. Here we learned a lot about the Chinese culture and got to eat some amazing hotpot local style. This culminated a great day and the next day took us to LeShan. A City we were in only for 10 hours but enjoyed every second of it. Here we walked more than I have in years. It was a true journey getting to the top of the famous Giant Buddha. First, we are no longer Chinese tourist, which means we do not carry cash. We only have We chat and Ali pay, for the first time this was not a good thing. We needed a Chinese ID to be able to pay with We chat or Ali pay the other option was cash if we wanted our student discount or our tourist discount or tickets at all. The only problem was that the nearest ATM was 20 minutes away. Finally, we could buy the tickets with a local’s id help. When we got inside we had to go up so many stairs but it was totally worth it. We got to the top and had a lot of fun taking crazy pictures feeding and kissing the Buddha. Not only did we visit the Buddha in this park, but we were able to go all the way up to two pagodas and under a cave. This was an amazing day that started with a train ride and ended on a plane. Taking us to sleep in Guilin, my personal absolute favorite crazy local day. It was a long next day that consisted of the Reed Flute Cave, the Li river view and bamboo raft tour around the river, the elephant hill, the sun&moon pagodas, the many emperor residencies and even the local theater. I think I mentioned everything, but I have no idea how we did the whole city in a day but we did. It was one of the only cities that we had the opportunity of calmly enjoying everything local and tourist offered. The next day it was time to begin the garden, pagoda craziness. We visited Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Suzhou each giving it a special spin but all offered amazing skylines, pagodas and eye opening gardens. The highlight of these three cities was the Sacred Heart Cathedral, the canton tower, the intercontinental in Hangzhou (which is the sun of the city), and the Lingering Garden. These cities were amazing but in my memory, they feel like one giant city. Since they were very different yet extremely similar. After all these amazing southern cities of China we had the great opportunity of finalizing our trip in Shanghai. Where we visited the world’s second tallest building, amazing pagodas and temples and DISNEY. Disney was great, not only because of the people I was with the whole day, but because even though the park is small it gives you everything you need in a park. We had an amazing time, and not only was each city better than the one before but the people I was with mad my trip even the more special. In each city, we made new friends that helped us navigate the cities as locals and enjoyed local cuisine and fun. I would not change anything from this week and I will forever remember the great adventures we had in such a short time. 12 days that will be forever marked in my memory. Thank you China for such amazing landscapes and memories and happy national day!

Golden Week

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

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After over a month of our arrival to Tianjin, we were very excited to have a “spring break” to travel around the country and experience different things. During Fall in China, there is a “spring break” called Golden Week. This special week is a national holiday created to promote and increase domestic tourism and to celebrate China’s National Day. This year, it was the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and there were many events before and during the week.

Since it is a national holiday, we didn’t have class, so we were able to explore a little more of our host country. Moreover, China is one of the biggest countries in the world, and in order to explore as much as we could during the week, me and two friends decided to go to a different city each day. In total, we had 11 days of traveling and 8 cities, we took more than 8 trains, 5 flights, many bike and metro rides to move around, and no time to sleep.

The trip was worth it and we had the opportunity to see different unique things that only China has like the Terracotta Warriors, the Sun and Moon Temple, Pagodas, pandas, the second tallest building in the world (Shanghai Tower), one of the most important rivers for trading (Li River), and the happiest place on earth, Shanghai Disney Resort. In addition, we stayed at a luxury hotel in Shanghai (the Hongta Hotel), and we did a tour of one of the most iconic hotels in the south of China, the Intercontinental Hangzhou. It is a sphere-shaped hotel that represents the sun and attracts the energy from the river and brings it to the city to bring success.  Nowadays, Hangzhou is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and many people believe it is because of their innovation and “feng shui” (how everything is placed in order to attract and let good energy flow).

In conclusion, this week was kind of a field trip where we learned a lot about the Chinese perspective of life, architecture, and hospitality in different cities.

Golden Week!!!!

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

Without even realizing how fast time goes by, in the blink of an eye, Golden Week was upon us all. A special week for China, it commemorates the birth of the People’s Republic of China. Golden Week was particularly special this year, as it celebrated its 70th anniversary. This week gave us the opportunity to travel around China a bit and get to know some of the many wonders this impressive country has to offer. After planning an exciting week of adventure with my roommate Angelica, Saturday morning came and I found myself sitting in the Tianjin West station waiting to board my train towards my first destination.

After a 10 hour train trip, Chengdu welcomed me with open arms and plenty of pandas to go around. (Important note: I’m a panda FANATIC!!) Fulfilling my lifelong dream was so surreal, I still can’t actually believe it happened. I know, I know, I am meant to take you all with me through a food journey so incredible it will make your mouth water and your senses explode with the imagery I provide you, but alas, I wouldn’t do anyone any justice if I don’t share what I did this past week.

After spending a perfect day looking at, feeding, and admiring pandas, I came out of the research center more knowledgeable about pandas than when I went in. A diet made up of bamboo, carrots, and special panda cakes are what these gentle and amazing giants eat. They also emphasize the importance of the care of these animals and how, through thorough research, the panda population has successfully gone up and strengthened over the past couple of years.

Chengdu and its amazingly spicy culinary world is incredible, but what took the cake for me was most definitely my trip to see the pandas. Without much time to act after a day of euphoria, Angelica and I were already on our way to our next stop for Golden Week: Zhangjiajie.

If you’ve ever watched Avatar (the movie with the blue people, not the award-worthy tv show), then you’ve probably been in awe at the amazing views the movie has to offer. As with many things, it turns out those views were inspired by the amazing mountain formations in Zhangjiajie and the Tianmen Mountains. With many tourist attractions at your disposal, Zhangjiajie was a whole experience. Opting for the amazing Heaven’s Gate, the Tianmen Mountain path, and the daring Glass Bridge, our adventure day in Zhangjiajie proved to be anything but boring.

After arriving at the base of Tianmen Mountain and enduring a crazy 99 turn bus ride, we were met by a small 999 step staircase that led us to Heaven’s Gate. From there we would take some 8 escalators to the very top of the mountain and walk around the mountain top to see breathtaking views and challenge ourselves with the world known Glass Bridges.

Our last stop in our Golden Week travels was Shanghai! AMAZING food with the Lost Plate Tours, Disneyland, and many other attractions awaited for me during the last days of this special week. I became very familiar with the metro system in Shanghai and was able to travel easily up and down the city to visit those well known tourist traps as well as other smaller, more intimate historically rich locations.

The Pearl Tower and the Jade Buddha Temple received me warmly and amazed me equally while further fascinating me more and more with Shanghai. As I boarded my train back to Tianjin, I had no idea I would be received warmly by part of my Tianjin family — Angelica (who had left a day early) and Mario. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new and different places in China, but it sure felt nice coming back and being met with those who, in such a cold climate, warmed my heart up.

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