China

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

China, you were amazing sweetie…

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

Before getting to the sad teary-eyed stuff, this past month has been full of surprises.

I first went to Zhangjiajie in the Hunan Province with one of the other study abroad students and it blew my mind. We stayed there for 4 days, full of non-stop hiking and sight-seeing. We went to their national forest park (the inspiration for Pandora in the movie Avatar – also I did feel one with the Na’vi), the Grand Canyon (yes, this one blows the one in Arizona outta the park and has a glass bridge), Tianmen Mountain (they have the longest cable-cart ride in the WORLD and a 999 step-staircase to heaven), and the Yellow Dragon Cave (quite lit)! Not to be a drag, but if I got cremated, I would want my ashes to be spread in Zhangjiajie lol. If you’re planning on exploring China, I highly recommend you make a pit stop here to witness the natural wonders that lie within this city (:

Coming back from paradise, I also started my job as a writing tutor for the Chinese freshmen and sophomores at TUC. Not only was it a great work opportunity, but it was a cool experience to interact with Chinese students 1-on-1 and learn more about them. Even though I was with them for only a month, they made amazing improvements in their writing and gave me the perfect “professor” name: Mr. D (my name was too difficult to say haha)!

Also, our study abroad group finally got to climb the Great Wall in Tianjin. It was epic ngl, even though half of us died climbing it (not me)! Plus, I got to celebrate my 21st birthday on the same week… having hotpot is the best birthday present anyone could get.

Onto a more serious note, finals, shminals. Bleh. So glad that’s done with. Never had so many group papers, presentations, and exams all due in one week. There was one positive that did come out of this suffering, I had the actual last week of school off since all of my finals were completed beforehand!!! What did this call for? Last minute traveling to a new area in China.

Ni hao, Chengdu! Chengdu is located in the Sichuan Province, popularly known for having some of the SPICIEST FOOD in all of China. Not my cup of tea if you ask me… but, Chengdu was calling my name for one reason. Pandas. I spent a full day at the Dujiangyan Panda Base volunteering (cleaning up panda poop is one thing to cross off my bucket list), feeding pandas, and learning more about their significance to the Chinese culture and their people. I also did a food tour to explore the local cuisine, and man was it delicious. The spiciness actually wasn’t too bad, it acted more as a numbing agent haha. Since I was in the neighborhood, I thought I would pay a visit to the Lashen Buddha statue, which is the largest Buddha engraved on a mountain in the world. I’m so glad that I got to explore another area in China right before I leave. I guess finals were on my side this time, huh?

Man, these last 4 months sure did go by fast… Studying and living in Tianjin has honestly been one of the best experiences in my life that I was initially unsure of doing in the first place. I’ve made amazing friends (American and Chinese) and they made this stay even more memorable. Specifically, I want to thank the Golden Panthers for making the study abroad students feel like we were back home and introducing us to their Chinese culture. Ya’ll have a special place in my heart. With this experience, I feel better prepared to have a career abroad and embrace new cultures without the added shock value. Also, these trips outside of Tianjin made me even think more about taking an interest in environmentalism and sustainability, seeing more evidence of how precious the natural landscape of this world really is. I can call Tianjin another home away from home now. I’ll miss the street food, fake markets, and the amazing public transportation systems. Until we meet again. As Fall Out Boy once said: “Thnks fr th Mmrs”.

Zai jian (bye bye)!
Miami, estoy yendo a casa

Farewell China

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

I want to start off by saying how amazing and life changing this trip has been; there were so many memories and learning experiences I have gained through this study abroad experience. My last couple weeks were bittersweet, and unlike last time, I knew I wouldn’t be coming back to China with this program because I completed my courses. The people I shared my experience with were nothing less of amazing and all very easy to get along with.

This semester was completely different from last semester in many ways. I had a better understanding of the environment, so I got settled in very quickly when I arrived. I was able to assist my colleagues with different things to help them get initiated.

smart

I was more focused on local travel this semester as opposed to last semester where I went to different provinces and got to experience different landmarks like The Great Wall, and Summer Palace. I was more in tune with getting around on a bicycle and getting very familiar with the city. While exploration is a big part of who I am, I was busy with school work throughout and giving my best effort towards my grades. This semester was also unique in terms of the weather, last semester I came and it was very warm throughout the semester until it was closer to December; this time it was the exact opposite.

This semester I was able to experience my friends in China walk across the stage during graduation; this feeling was very heartwarming at the same time it was a time of reflection, as I will be doing the same in the following semester. I was super proud of my friends for achieving their goals and sent them with well wishes. I will meet some of these graduates in Miami as they continue their education overseas. I am ready to continue my next journey and see what the future holds for me, I know for sure I will be back to visit China, but until then, Farewell Tianjin!

Time to say goodbye- Chengdu

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

Time flies! I remember when I got here, and it feels like yesterday.  I can’t believe that the time to say good bye to all the amazing people I met, and to the incredible food that I tried in this country is here. 

In the last month, I traveled to Chengdu to see their beautiful scenery, the pandas, and of course, to try their local food.

Chengdu is located in the southwest of China, and is the capital of Sichuan province. This province is known for having the spiciest hotpot in China. Hotpot is a very famous cooking method in the country. This is prepared with a simmering large pot of stock that is placed in the middle of the table so all the people are able to reach it . This works by ordering some East Asian foodstuffs and ingredients such as; vegetables red meats, seafood, and so on. This is a must-try in China because it tastes amazing, and it is also a great experience! 

I also tried the pancakes that they had in Chengdu which were very interesting because of their unique flavors mix. They are mixed with spicy, sweet and sour ingredients.  The mix ingredients such as potatoes, sugar, sesame paste, chili, and others ! It is just fun to experience all this unique mixes, and of course, it tastes so good! 

This are Chao Shou “folded arms” Dumplings in chili oil sauce. These were one of the best dumplings I tried in China . I had mine filled with pork; it was soo yummy. I had 3 different styles: the first ones was in chili oil sauce with sesame seeds; the second ones were kind of the same , but with a chili powder and some scallions; and the last ones were in a soup . The three of them were incredible, but my favorites were the ones with the chili powder because they were more spicy! 

I also tried many kinds of noodles. The first ones were the cold noodles “liang mian,” which were very tasty and refreshing. This are prepared with a classic Sichuan flavor combination of sugar, black vinegar and chili peppers. The second were the sweet water noodles “ Tian Shui Mian,” which were very chewy noodles with pepper-spiked sweet sesame sauce, chili oil, and soy sauce. The third ones were called “Dandanmian” or Dan Dan Noodles. These ones were topped with a smidge of crumbled ground pork and marinated with a five spice sauce; just delicious! 

I’m sure I’ll miss all of this tasty food that I tried!  Study Abroad is an amazing experience that I recommend everyone to have. There are no words to describe how amazing it is!   

Departure

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019 | No Comments

24 hours until departure!

 Today marks the end of my journey in China. It’s a bittersweet moment. I miss home, but I also know I’ll miss it here when I leave too. China was a great experience. I was able to live in a country halfway across the world, interact and meet new people, and grow as a person. This was my first time being so far away from home especially for an extended period of time. China pushed me out of my comfort zone (in a good way) I was able to fully immerse myself in a new culture. The people here are so kind and welcoming they are quick to help you with any questions you may have. 

Octopus

As a group trip, we all went to the Tianjin Great Wall. It was a HIKE; I didn’t expect it to be so much of a workout lol. Definitely wear shorts and bring water (it took about two hours). It was really cool though when you get towards the top you can see the difference between the original Great Wall and the rebuilt version they had to do over the years. We also had a tour guide who was able to inform us of all the history that took part during construction.  

Great Wall

Also, I was able to go to the Beijing Zoo it was one of the places on my list to visit. It was super cheap with our student cards (student discounts are everywhere), and they had a ridiculous amount of animals not just from China but all over the world. I mainly went to see the pandas. It was the highlight of my trip. After the zoo, we went to go to the Pearl Market, a place where you can get anything from electronics to souvenirs; bargaining with the sellers can get you some really good prices for stuff. I was able to get a load of things for my family and finish off my gift list. 

Giant panda
Giant panda

Now in the last 24 hours I have in China I’m packing and looking forward to our last family dinner we have planned for tonight 🙁 

MJ doggy chips
Hey Tea

Goodbye Tianjin

Hello Florida (again) 

Study abroad group spring 2019

Final Weeks! (Departing)

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

Yes, final weeks here in China and of course I get a little sentimental. But on the bright side our study abroad group traveled as part of the FIU China program package to a segment of the great wall in Tianjin. About two and half hours on bus and we arrived to what seemed to be a short distance wall to walk/hike, but in reality a real leg day workout. Nevertheless, we started our journey up to the last part of the wall. Sun beaming, field trip kids screaming, and our tour guide falling behind we grew closer and closer with every step. After about an hour of hiking we all felt hungry, alright, I felt hungry. We continued to hike for another hour until we reached the top, took group selfies, took a selfie with a random stranger (his idea, not mine), and made our way down right on time for lunch. We all ate together in a restaurant nearby, enjoying several Chinese cuisines — it was a great bonding experience. After that we headed back, I finally got to watch The Notebook on the three hour ride back.

We made it to the top! ( Pictures above )


Ohh…Celebration was in the air, smiles, skipping, and most of all pictures & caps being thrown up in the air. Graduation had arrived, and our FIU students didn’t hold back — they earned it. I only got to see the small celebration, like outdoor pictures being taken wearing their cap and gowns. Accompanied with indoor pictures and small food portions being served and not the actual stage walk (my flight leaves a couple days before -_-  ), but it was amazing to see their faces in a foreign country. It gave me an appreciation for the program there in China and how hospitality is rapidly growing even overseas. Overall, I loved the time spent here and wouldn’t trade it for anything. The professors are knowledgeable, the school representatives welcoming, and the students are amazing to work with. I for one will be coming back soon!

We’re Half-way there…

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

Time is flying faster than ever, as I approach the other half of our program I am finding myself involved and busy than ever. Classes just finished with midterms so I got a chance to relax and get ready for the next half. These past couple days have been very busy, as a group we students signed up to help sophomore and freshman students with their essay writing, to help improve their english. I am very excited about this activity and getting to help out as much as I can. I have signed up throughout the week where I am free so I can balance this with school work. My colleagues and I will begin this next week, and get to work with multiple students each. 

        For the upcoming weeks I have planned to visit the city of Qingdao, this city is full of rich history and beautiful architecture. The city is located along the yellow sea and home to some delicious seafood. I did get a chance to visit last semester but it was such a great time that I want to visit it again. This time I plan to explore of the historic sites and see more of city as I will spend a little more time in the city. We plan on leaving in the next couple weeks, I am hoping for warm weather that way we might be able to go to the beach there. 

           The last couple weeks have been full of celebrations as we celebrated on our friend Celine’s birthday. We went out for some mexican food in the city, it really is some of the best mexican food I have had. Surprisingly you can find many different types of food. I have a favorite shawarma place and along with a fantastic burger place called Paku-Man burger, they serve the most unique style of burgers. Being a return student, I have come to understand the city in terms of directions to places and where certain places are located generally. This is very convenient when walking around the downtown area as most streets are becoming familiar to me. I have focused more on exploring Tianjin this semester and looked into more depth of its culture and it never fails to amaze me.

Ni yào zhīdào shénme

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

After a great trip to Shanghai and Hangzhou, we returned home. A few days after being home we were pleasantly surprised with snow. I have been looking forward to seeing it since we landed. It has been a while since I last got to enjoy seeing snowfall. I decided to take a stroll and let it sprinkle on my face and hear the crunching of the snow under my boots, this made me very happy. Sad to say it did not last long at all a couple of inches for a few days is all we got.  When it all cleared up the next was a visit to Ancient cultural street as well as Italian Style street. There were some great finds there. Before we leave I need to go back and explore some more.

The next stop on the tour is to Xian to explore its culture and history. With the flight and room booked we were ready to go. Our flight into Xian was late so we decided to get a goods night rest and start fresh in the morning. Xian is known for the Terracotta Warriors, the Bell and Drum Towers, as well as the Ancient City wall and many more sites to see. With four days and our trusty map we ready to visit all the great spots. Yes, we relied on a good old map not google or Baidu we went old school. Fortunately, our homestay was in walking distance of the Bell Tower which began our journey. Not too far was a stroll to the Drum Tower, where we were able to listen to a live drum session. Once we were done exploring we headed right below on the North end of the Drum Tower to the Muslim quarter. I felt like I was in Disney all over again with the number of people. I couldn’t even focus on that because of the wonderful smells that were coming from the food stands. There were so many stands, and shops in every corner, on every turn that it would take a good two full days to get through everything, but we only had a few hours.

Day two to the Terracotta Warriors had a lot to see and a journey to get there that it required a whole day. We had dinner at a restaurant at the end of the tour where I was able to try the famous Xian biang biang mian noodles and it was delicious. This was the best accidental meal that I had. I chose this dish because it was the only noodle dish on the menu that had only veggies that I could tell. I suggest that everyone should try it if they can at least once, you won’t be sorry you did.

We decided to take a night visit of the City Wall which was beautifully set up with lanterns for the New Year festivities.

Our last night we visited the Big Pagoda and the music fountain. As we explored the Pagoda we were able to see some beautiful artwork, a parade, and even a mini concert. This leg of the journey enhanced my experience in China.

I finally was able to schedule a time to visit Beijing which was great. I attended a women’s empowerment luncheon, where I got to also try an all-vegan menu. The talk was great, the women I met were wonderful, and before heading back to Tianjin, I stopped by the 798 district. This was a great spot to look at some wonderful artwork and enjoy some coffee at one of the cafes. It was an old factory area turned into an art district. A lot of cute cafes and tons of artwork everywhere. There was even a locomotive from a train where the built a café around it, Ace where I had a cup of coffee.  I do need to revisit Being and explore a little more, so I am looking forward to it. I did not have a chance to visit any other locations so I need to plan another trip before we leave.

Although my midterm trips were exciting, I am also sad because I know our time is coming to an end. I look forward to informing you all with my final steps through China. There is just so much more to see with so little time left.

Beijing

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

I’m not sure to be disappointed (time has gone too fast ) or satisfied (great memories along the way) to reach mid-trip of my journey in China. Definitely, satisfied; China has been an incredible experience. Our study abroad group finally traveled to the great renown city of Beijing (30 mins by bullet train). We were determined to try it all from food, temples, landmarks, and of course, shopping.

Street food entrance : Can’t rotate picture 🙁

My first favorite spot was… you guessed it… Street food! But it’s not normal street food like a cart located by a corner. It’s an actual full lane street filled with unique foods known from all around China. Let me tell you, I was hungry, but the foods I saw there were not exactly my cup of tea. After walking down back and forth I settled with two sticks filled with tasty meat (I think it was cow meat, hopefully not dog or cat…lol). There was live scorpions (scorpion stinger tail still attached) and cooked crickets available for the brave. Yeah… I was not that brave…

During the day we traveled to various locations, one was ” Temple of Heaven ” which had very interesting history of sacrifices. ( Picture below )

The final location we stopped by was a famous inside market (Above) where you negotiate prices for the item you’re interested in (think of a flea market but inside like a mall). You can find clothes, hats, jewelry, watches, electronics, food, tourist souvenirs, and shoes. I came for shoes, that was my mission. Before entering, you must mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come. Ohh…pop an Advil (headaches to come), hold your phone tight (Phone AliPay is form of payment), and prepare for battle. Step in, and right away your forehead is stamped “Foreigner” and “$”. Second step, you get the first salespersons’ random “Hey, wanna buy Gucci belt”, “Buy handbag, good price” (fake Gucci of course). I don’t wear Gucci belts or use handbags.

I sped through to the next floors until I finally arrived at the shoe section. I was ready, determined to walk out with sneakers for a steal. I entered my first shoe shop, and I locked my eyes on a pair of Adidas Ultra Boost (black and white). The salesperson immediately goes for the kill, “Yes, nice sneakers, I give special discount because you my friend” — exact words. I was like Girl, let’s find out if we “friends?”, so I reply “how much?” (Background knowledge: I research the original price before stepping into the shop to know what price is acceptable, price for those shoes are $150~). Her first price is 800 rmb ($119), so I looked at her eye to eye and said “I thought we were friends,” and she replies ” ok,ok, 700 rmb, very comfortable shoes” ($104). I reply “That’s too high, I want to buy these shoes today but not for that much, what’s your final offer?”; she replies “550 rmb” ($82). I say “Thanks, but no thank you,” and start stepping out of the shop and her true colors show “300 rmb” ($45). I ignored her, and while I walked away, I hear her calling me “CRAZY.” Short story short, I came to find the exact pair three shops after for 150 rmb ($22) and a lot dirty looks (if looks can kill).

As always thanks for reading. Pass by later for the final experiences I’ve encountered in China on my last post.

Beijing Takeover

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

Ni hao (again, again)!

This is my third month here in China and wow, it has been amazing so far. I’m finally getting the hang of life down here, and it’s hard to think that in less than two months I’ll be back in Miami getting back to my usual routine. Throughout the past month, our study abroad group has been making sporadic trips to Beijing on the weekends since it’s only a 30-minute bullet-train ride from Tianjin.

Our first trip to Beijing, we made a pit stop to the Temple of Heaven Park. This park was massive and bigger than we had all anticipated with separate sections containing different sights to see. Fun fact, the actual temple was used by Chinese emperors to make sacrifices to the heavens by using calves.  We also stumbled upon Tienanmen Square later that day and it felt so trippy being in the middle of that space knowing its historical significance. At the end of the day, we went to a popular street food area where you were literally stuck shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone. I ate one of the best lambs I’ve ever had and even tried scorpion for the first time with my roommate! Very crunchy and salty, 10/10 would recommend, just to say you’ve eaten one. Just be careful with its stinger (;

Back again in Beijing the next weekend, the roomie and I went to the Forbidden City and que freaking grande. It felt like a never-ending maze of ancient architecture but (surprise!) we made it out alive. After that, we ventured to the Beijing Olympic Park and took a tour of the actual Olympic stadium and its surrounding space. We didn’t get to, but you can actually tour and walk on the very top of the actual stadium… I would totally recommend to if you have a fear of heights.  

Tianjin also has so many cool areas to visit. The best site to visit is the China Ceramic House, a house entirely made from broken-down porcelain pieces. The pictures alone don’t do it justice, it’s something to see for yourself. It’s even listed as one of the top 15 most unique places to visit in the ENTIRE WORLD!

Inspired by the sight-seeing highs I’ve gotten exploring the areas around me, I’m planning a trip to visit the Zhangjiajie National Park (super south and far from Tianjin). This park was the inspiration for Pandora in the Avatar movie, and I’m dying to see it in person. This is what the bad boy looks like and the picture alone puts the Grand Canyon Park to shame (and I’m from Arizona :/): 

Aside from the fun of traveling, classes are going great, and I’m meeting a lot more of the Chinese students. I’m enjoying my Global Food and Culture class the most, so far. I find it interesting how almost everything in our everyday life impacts what and how we eat. Our professor took the class out to dinner one night to experience the typical Tianjin cuisine and it was delicious. The oddest, yet most delicious thing, was fried shrimp covered in wasabi and SPRINKLES. Yes, sprinkles, like the ones on cookies or ice cream. I’ve learned not to question the food here, and just embrace it lol. Aside from that, the food was amazing and it was a great cultural experience to engage with the other Chinese students and eat. Also, midterm season is finally over, and I can finally take a mini-breather before finals. Our study abroad group is even now taking Mandarin-language lessons on the weekends with the assistant dean, and it’s getting a little bit easier to communicate while ordering food or even driving around in the taxis. The Spanish accent comes out sometimes and it makes it a bit difficult to speak Mandarin’s 4 tones. I guess it’s a more “latinized” form of Mandarin that I’ll eventually come up with haha. 

Until again (for the last time) 🙁

Zaijian!

Mid-Trip

By | Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

Hi guys,

We are halfway through the semester YAY! It’s crazy to think I’ve already been here for two and a half months; time is flying by so fast. Now that midterms are over, we start to prepare for our finals and final projects. I was worried about attending school in another country but it honestly is a great experience. Class sizes are much smaller so it is easier to keep up and students get to interact with the professor more often. Professors really care that you understand everything they are teaching and are willing to go over the topic as many times as needed for you to understand.

As for my social life, I’ve made good friends with the students I came with from FIU. We often travel together with Beijing being the most recent place. Beijing is only thirty minutes away by bullet train and costs about $25 round trip. We’ve been multiple times visiting places like the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Pearl Market, etc… It’s a beautiful city and the capital of China.  We are able to see so many remarkable artifacts that have been around before the United States was even built. Of course, we had to try some authentic street food and the world famous Beijing duck, which is delicious.  We also got some souvenirs for our friends and family back home.

This trip is quickly coming to an end, and I look forward to seeing what else I will do while I’m here.

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