ONYX’S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION (Outsider’s Perspective)

Last week was the birthday of one of our quirky students, Onyx! She turned 22 and wanted a big celebration. When I say big I mean that she celebrated her birthday for 4 days straight… It is true, 22 years are only fulfilled once in life and more so in China!

In this blog, I am going to share our adventure of four days of celebration with Onyx. Ready?

So, the official birthday of Onyx was last November 10th. But we started to celebrate from Thursday 8th. After receiving classes and doing our homework, at 9 o’clock at night we went to a bar known by the American community near the CDTV tower. We invited our Chinese friends because we wanted them to enjoy with us and we also wanted to teach them how to dance like Hispanics. Let me tell you, Chinese people got moves! For some reason, there is nothing our Chinese friends did wrong. At 12, Christina a local friend brought a very nice cake, and we sang happy birthday to Onyx for the first time. We had a great time: we danced, we jumped, we ate and we danced again.

On Friday, it was a little quieter. The staff of G-MEO prepared a lunch for Onyx in which we all attended. We went to a hot-pot, in which we shared time eating and talking. The center also bought a cake for Onyx, and after having eaten, we sang happy birthday for the second time.
It is worth mentioning that the hotpot was delicious, but I think I ate too much because I was feeling super full. Same day, at night, we went to dinner with our Chinese friends to a Mexican place, since they have never tasted Mexican food. We introduced them to the world of burritos (heaven for me), tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas… VIVA MEXICO! None of us are Mexicans, all of us love their food. Additionally, we bought a small cake for Onyx and we sang happy birthday for the third time…

Saturday, current birthday of Onyx. We had a trip to Qingcheng mountain. What a nice way to spend your birthday in the nature, right? Breathing fresh air… sharing time with friends… climbing 300 steps… oh wait! Mistake! It was not 300, it was 3000! Or more, who knows at this point. Someone messed up when putting that announce at the entrance of the climbing route. I do not lie to you if I tell you I still feel pain in my legs. If we would not have got the cable car, we would have probably still been on the mountain… no kidding! But the trip was worth it, we really enjoyed and appreciated the beautiful things that China and Chengdu offer us.

Oh! I am forgetting. Upon returning, a friend of ours had bought another cake for Onyx.

Yeah, A-N-O-T-H-E-R cake… We sang for the FOURTH TIME!!  At that moment, all of us had already increased more than 2 pounds because the cakes.

Finally, on Sunday we devoted ourselves to rest and we just went out for a moment to relax and stroll along Chunxi Road! It should be noted that 11.11., a great event in China for singles, was being celebrated. For this reason, Chunxi Road was flooded with people. It reminded me of Black Friday in America.

That was basically our adventure for Onyx’s birthday. Thank God on Sunday there was no more cake,

 

I do not know if I had a voice to sing for the fifth time

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Birthday (4x)

When I first thought about studying abroad in the fall, I immediately thought about my birthday (Nov10). I thought about how I wasn’t gonna be with my friends and family so it was going to be boring and suck. I really did think I was going to have the worst birthday.

 

 

For my surprise, it was the very opposite. I not only celebrated my birthday on my birthday but I celebrated it 4 days in a row! I got 4 different cakes! Chinese people do know how to make someone feel special on their birthday. I was so fortunate to have GMEO staff and classmates take me out to eat hot pot which was delicious in addition to having a chocolate cake with fruits! It was an amazing time.

Not for one second I felt alone or sad, I was more than happy my whole birthday weekend. We got to celebrate at local places with local friends (buddies) as well as my classmates which all got me more cake!

On my actual birthday we went on a hike to a mountain and at night had another cake. It was an ongoing weekend of celebration and I could have not been more thankful being surrounded by amazing staff and friends.

Written by: Onyx Flores, Fairleigh Dickinson University

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COLLEGE KIDS AND BEIJING

After Xi’an, some of the students decided to travel to the capital of China, Beijing. Traveling to Beijing was a whole experience. Our way began on the slow train. For many of us, it was the first time traveling in a slow train at night. Nevertheless, we were not expecting a fancy train or being comfortable because we bought the “hard sleeper seat” tickets… Pretty explicit right?

We really went with low expectations, but we just wanted to go to Beijing no matter what. Turned out that we did not have seats, we had small beds!! Yeah! B-E-D-S! It was a kind of bunks like military style with other six people. At first, we were really surprised and shocked. I mean, yeah cool bunks, but we were going to sleep with people we did not know. It took us a few minutes to get over of that fact and realize the people on the train were nice. It was mostly old people traveling. Apparently, we were the only foreigners. We adjusted our luggage and lied down on the beds. We really liked it and after a while, we were laughing, eating and trying to speak Chinese with the old ladies by our sides. Really a nice experience to repeat.

Arriving at the hotel was another adventure. The train stop was a little far from our hostel, so we had to walk for a while. We went into these alleyways that reminded Kat and me of the streets of Ecuador and Peru. Narrow streets with a curved path. We were really scared for a while because, you know, we were 6 college students with their bags walking in a city they do not know in a very lonely area… we were just praying to arrive at our hostel ha-ha.

After 15 minutes, we arrived at this really nice hostel with a European style, where we booked a room for six people (the cheaper one). We weren’t looking for an extravagant room or something like that, but we got a really comfy room and private bunks to sleep. The room did not even use a key, but a passcode to open it. HOWWW COOL!! (Fun fact: we asked for the code several times because we kept losing the little paper with the instructions. Never trust young people with codes!)

Sunday, we visited Forbidden City, Jingshan Park, Tian’anmen Square, and Summer Palace. The day was really cold and windy. It was difficult to take good pictures, but we enjoyed it a lot. We walked for almost 10 hours and were exhausted at the end of the tour. Anyway, we rested couple hours and went out to eat this famous roast duck of Beijing. It was delicious!

Next day, we traveled to the Great Wall, our highlight for that day. Being a child in Ecuador, I have never imagined that I would have had the opportunity to visit such a cultural and historical patrimony. It was really a dream come true and a thing to cross out from the “things to do before I die” list. We took tons of pictures and walked from the bottom to the top of the wall. We were just so glad to have the opportunity to be there and enjoyed until the last minute.

Even though, we really enjoyed our stay in Beijing and Xi’an, we missed home so much. By home, I mean Chengdu. We were missing our kind neighborhood, our beds, the people from the center and our second mother Michelle! Definitely, it is good to be back in Chengdu, our new home!

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Bargaining and discovering 3000-years of history in Xi’an

Discovering the ancient Xi’an

Last week, we did the midterm exams. After that, we had a week to relax. The G-MEO Chengdu American Center prepared a cultural excursion for us. We visited the city of Xi’an, which is known for being one of the ancient capitals of the Chinese empire and in which the terracotta warriors were found in 1974. The terracotta warriors are one of the most important cultural and archaeological discoveries in the world. They were even cataloged as cultural heritage of humanity since 1987.

The trip to this city was pleasant. For some of us, we traveled for the first time in speed train and it was very comfortable and fast. Arriving in Xi’an, we met the one who was going to be our guide, Steve. He showed us many historical places and took us to the museum where we learned a lot about the history of the emperors and how the dynasties worked. The creations of each dynasty and how the culture evolved over time. In the Terracotta Warriors Museum, the guide explained the history of this army. Emperor Qin Shi Huang made this powerful army of terracotta soldiers to protect him in the afterlife. At that time, there was a lot of belief in life after death. Something interesting about warriors is that they are all made differently, the features of the faces and small details distinguish them from each other. They also measure 1.80 meters, which is a bit surprising since they are made in a stature of a real person, they are even bigger than me.

 

Something I loved about Xi’an was the Muslim street, where you can find everything from food, clothes, and souvenirs. This place was full of lights, noise and very colorful. It was full of life! It reminded me a lot of street markets in Ecuador. Definitely, Xi’an was a splendid trip full of teachings and fun. Thanks, G-MEO for creating new memories for us.

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FUN in KTV

China never ceases to amaze me, and this time it was with karaoke, here also known as KTV. The karaoke in China is a very peculiar method of entertainment. The first time you visit one you will be stunned as they are in huge buildings with many rooms of all sizes.

 

 

Upon entering, you will find long hallways filled with neon lights and many colors. It is very elegant and striking. Many people even use it as a method of closing their business contracts. It is the most used alternative for the nights of parties or social events and to which many people of all ages go.

We, thanks to our Chinese friends, had the opportunity to know the famous KTV. At first, we were very surprised, it looked so elegant and professional. We could not believe we had a private room to sing, shout, jump and have fun while we sang.

 

In America, karaoke is usually in the bar and you are surrounded by friends and strangers waiting for their turn to sing. In contrast, for China you have your own room, with the songs you choose and the hours you want to sing. In our KTV night with our friends we sang about 3 hours of Chinese, English and Spanish songs. It was really fun and we enjoyed it so much. We definitely are coming back more often to KTV.

 

 

 

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“I never thought I would ever come to China”

The reasons for studying abroad can be many. Some people want to know more about a culture, learn a new language or simply want to become independent and learn how to live alone. Whatever is your motive, the reality is that traveling far from your country and your family brings many teachings, but at the same time fears. At the beginning of an adventure, we all have fears and those questions like, what will it be like? Will I be fine? Is it worth it? At the end of our travel, all these questions are answered with a “It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life” because that’s what traveling is all about. To learn, to enjoy, to have fears, to believe that everything is possible and more than anything to make everything possible if you believe in yourself and your abilities. Today, I want to introduce you to Onyx! She is another of our students at G-MEO. The major of Onyx is Criminal Justice and she is currently a Junior in Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. As I have been telling you guys, this semester we have a mix of multicultural students. The parents of Onyx are from San Salvador, Central America. Therefore, like many of our students, she can also speak two languages, Spanish and English. Onyx will share with us some of her fears, thoughts and first impressions of China and its culture.

Onyx Flores

“I have to say that I never thought I would ever come to China, and even less to study here. When I first started the process of applying to study in China, I thought it was a crazy idea, that I was going to back out or once I got here I was going to hate it and be depressed. However, it has been a great experience so far and very rewarding. Adapting to the culture, lifestyle, food and time in China has obviously been a bit of a struggle. I am not used to air drying my clothes, or eating spicy food, but living and learning is something that we all have to go through at some point in our lives.

Meeting Chinese students, “buddies” and people has been very interesting, they are very welcoming to foreign people and are eager to know about you and show you around. On our first day we met them, they wanted to have lunch with us, make plans with us and even help us get around the city. In addition, the idea of obtaining an internship in China scared me a little for the simple fact that I do not know the language. During the interview, the interviewer was really welcoming, he was very interactive and was glad that Gabby and I are going to be interning with him this fall semester.

Although the interview did not go as I expected, I am glad to be able to have this opportunity. I know that my main goal is not to become a lawyer, but interning at a law firm will give me an insight on what type of cases lawyers here deal with and what type of crimes are committed here to have a better idea. China has definitely turned out to be the opposite of what I thought, I actually love it here and cannot wait what else it has to show me for the rest of the semester.”

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National Holiday trip with local friends!

Last week we were able to have a rest thanks to the national holiday. Chinese National Day is celebrated on October 1st every year to commemorate the founding of People’s Republic of China. On that day, lots of large-scale activities are held nationwide. Obviously, we were not going to miss the opportunity to travel, so we visited two well-known places in Sichuan. Bipenggou Mountain and Leshan, Giant Budda.

I’m going to tell you a little about our trip to the mountains. We got up super early, 4:30 in the morning (I had never got up so early in my life). We had the company of three Chinese friends so they helped us throughout the trip. Bipenggou is beautiful and giant. It has a waterfall with very clear water at the first stop and you can find a small restaurant where you can buy coffee. Let me tell you, it was really cold. At the top of the mountain where we arrived almost frozen but happy, it was even snowing. Yes, you read me well SNOWING!! Am I in New Jersey again? The funniest thing is that none of us wore warm clothes so we were more freezed than a snowman. Despite the cold, we had a lot of fun. We ran through the mountains, we played the snowball war, Max my friend made a mini snowman.

Our second trip was on the weekend. We headed towards Leshan, another city in Sichuan which is very famous because many tourists go to visit the Giant Buddha. In December, 1996, the location of the Buddha was included by Unesco on the list of the World Heritage sites. Begun in the year 713 in the Tang dynasty, and finished in the year 803, the statue took people more than 90 years to carve. Pretty impressive if you think about it! Upon arrival, we met our friend Cindy who lives in Leshan and guided us on our trip. We went to visit the park where the giant Buddha is located. In the place you can not only have the opportunity to see the Buddha, but many other attractions such as monasteries, small parks and caves. Additionally, you have to be prepared to make a line for about two hours to go down to see the whole Buddha, but sincerely, it is worth it because it is a piece of art and the mere fact of appreciating something built by hand many years ago is a great privilege.

Here are more photos that we took on our trips.

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“When I arrived, all my worries and stress disappeared”

Knowing G-MEO students

Hello! It is Arianna again. This week, I have the intervention of another student. Her name is Gabriela and she is a sophomore student at Fairleigh Dickinson University, metropolitan campus. She is pursuing a Bachelor in Forensic psychologic. Pretty fancy and thoughtful major. Additionally, since this semester we have many multicultural students, Gabriela does not fall behind. She was born in Poland and migrated to the United States when she was a child, so, yes my friends. She is Polish and American and of course she knows how to speak the language of Poland “bródkowy”. So, I will let you know her…

Gabriela Klipo

“My first week in China was definitely eventful. It started off horribly because I missed my first flight and arrived later than the other students, but when I arrived all my worries and stress disappeared, because I was so interested in my surroundings. After arriving at my dorms and getting settled in it, we visited the Panda Center. Other than the Pandas, I loved the bamboos and other plants that surrounded the center. I was also surprised at how clean everything was especially in the city. Even though there are some parts of the city that are bit dirty and have a smell to them, but when looking at the big picture it is outstanding how they treat the city buildings and properties. Since where I come from in Jersey you would see graffiti everywhere and trash spread all over. The traffic is a whole other story: I thought I would never be able to cross the street because of the amount of people, cars, scooters, and bikes that were just flying around in every direction. I finally had to use the crosswalks and follow the lights, but even then cars were still coming my way. The main thing that is praised upon in Chengdu is their cuisine. When I first arrived and had sat down for a meal I was a bit skeptical because the Chinese food that I am used to is completely different than what I was served. At first I played it safe to see how they cook the type of meat that I am used to such as chicken and beef. The taste was definitely not what I expected! The style of choice of spices was something I never had before – especially the spiciness.

Since I come from a Euro-pean family the only spicy things that we eat that I could think of is horse-radish and beets and may-be ketchup or mustard. After a while of being surrounded by these spices and flavors I grew to enjoy the strong spices and flavors such as ginger  (which is included in a lot of their dishes). Their desserts definitely sur-prised me too, but now I can say my favorite dessert is the rose flavored Bing Feng.                                     I hope to explore more of China’s culture and see what traditions and sense of lifestyle I could bring back with me!

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The first weeks of living abroad

Thinking about studying abroad is one of the most difficult, exciting and frightening decisions you ever have to encounter. Being in an environment that is not yours and adapting to a culture and a system that may or may not like you is something that scares many people. However, I believe me and my friends have overcome that barrier and we are enjoying this adventure to the fullest. At first, I think we all experienced certain missteps and some other frustrating situations that ended as a fun experience later.

For example, the first laundry day for me and Kat was quite interesting, we did not know which button we had to push, therefore, our clothes ended up wet. The machine did not squeeze. We had to squeeze all our clothes by hand and it took us 20 minutes! The fun part was the second time going to the laundry, we realize it was a paper hanging on the wall with the instructions in English… At that moment we began to laugh…

Another example is when my friend Onyx stayed outside her room without the key and did not know how to tell the cleaning lady to open the door. Literally, she began to say
“nǐ hǎo ma,  nǐ hǎo ma” pointing to the door. It’s funny because “nǐ hǎo ma” actually means “how are you?” in Chinese. I am pretty sure, that poor woman was very confused.

The second week has been a little quieter. Many of us are more adapted to the system, we know how to travel by subway and we can at least buy food! Good for us that at least we will return chubby to America! In addition, G-meo has helped us a lot to adapt to China. We have taken trips like the panda’s reserve, which was one of the best experiences of my life. They have also taken us to know the city, especially the people’s park, which is huge and we learned that many retired people gather to perform fun activities such as singing, dancing or just having tea.

In general, these past two weeks have been incredible, exciting and full of interesting moments. I think many of us are beginning to fall in love with Chengdu, its people and its culture that, although different from ours, is beautiful.

敬请期待~~

 

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“I’ve seen things that remind me of my childhood [...] in Peru”

Hello! Friends. In today’s blog, I am going to introduce you one of the fall overseas students from G-meo. She is Kat and wrote, how her experience has been so far in this amazing country and city which is Chengdu. She studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, Florham campus. She is currently pursuing a major in History and something peculiar about her, is that she is American, Peruvian and Ukrainian. How cool is that? Pretty awesome! Anyway, I am going to let her share her experience with you!

Katherine Kurylko

“This study abroad experience has been both exciting and strangely difficult. I’ve been traveling to all over Chengdu by learning how to use the metro by means of my new Chinese friends, Olivia and Christina. Every young person I have met has been so inviting.

They free up their schedule and always offer to take us out to see the sites and even help us with mundane things like helping us find a supermarket or connect to the internet.

 

I’ve been also seen things that remind me of my childhood growing up in Peru that are so similar to Chengdu that I still do double takes. The fresh food available at local stalls makes me feel fantastic because they have the mini bananas and quail eggs that are both difficult to find and expensive in the U.S. which I grew up eating as a little girl. The streets are even set up the same way, with stores attached to homes run by family member alongside international businesses. Even the way People’s Park is used by Chinese citizens is similar, with their food street vendors (that double as food artisans) and public music performances by locals fills me with nostalgia and a drive to see if I can find any other similarities.

I’ve also loved people watching here, which I’m not too fond of in the U.S. The women here have such an elegant and sophisticated style that I would love to emulate someday. Everywhere I go I see women riding bikes and just stepping out for the day in clothes that I would wear to church or an interview. Arianna said it best, “we look homeless compared to them.”

Aside from that I’m always floored by the history that surrounds me, which makes sense since I’m a history major, but I get to see others enjoy it alongside me. I’m excited to continue my travels and see what else happens!”

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