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Aaliyah Espinet

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.

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.

Golden Week!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019
What a week!
I stayed in Tianjin for the Golden Week as there was so much I didn’t do since I have been here.
The first thing I did was the Tianjin Eye. It was beautiful, simple and relaxing. If you have ever been on the London Eye, it is exactly the same as the Tianjin Eye. The best time to go is when the sun is setting, it is such a scenic view.
I also went to the Porcelain House (China House). The outside is absolutely gorgeous and unique. It has millions of ancient porcelain pieces from porcelain wares, over 300 pieces of stone lions from the dynasties, and 20 tons of natural crystals. It’s worth a visit!
The next day, I went to a very popular restaurant called Haidilao for dinner. It’s China’s famous hot pot. This is where you basically cook your own food and the service is one of the best I have ever experienced. I highly recommend going to Haidilao when you come to China. It is an experience you must have because it is too good. For example, every single time (no exaggeration) I reached for the iPad to order food on the menu, I felt the waitress’s hand over mine also getting the iPad. I couldn’t even believe it myself. That is only one service experience that may seem unbelievable, but there is so much more, so you have to go!
With my island behavior, I just had to go to a spa. There is nothing more an island person likes to do than relax and be pampered. There were so many new things I tried at this spa like hot ginger knee wrap, fire cupping under my feet, and a man using a scapula to remove the dead skin under my feet. Interesting right? I also got a back massage and foot massage which were divine.
Even though my Golden Week was simple, it was new cultural experiences for me; and you don’t always need to go far for new adventures. Sometimes the best adventures are the ones close to home.ImageImageImageImageImageImage

In With The New and Out With The Old!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

The-Ancient-Cultural-Street Taking-pictures-with-the-locals Meet-Sunny-and-Tessa.-We-were-off-to-the-welcome-dinner. Eating-soups-with-the-chopsticks Image-1-small.jpeg

Meet Sunny (L) and Tessa (M). We were off to the welcome dinner. I’m on the right.

I am not just a tourist visiting China; I am actually living in China until December. From the moment I stepped on China’s ground, it was officially time to kiss my old life goodbye.  Everything that anyone told me, whether good or bad, no longer influenced my thoughts or expectations about China as I knew it was finally time for me to create my own experiences and stories. Even with all the preparations and research I did to ready myself, it only became real when I arrived.

The first thing that struck my curiosity about China was the people. It’s their eagerness, boldness, kindness, and contentment that immediately made me feel welcomed and strangely safe. It stems all the way from the little children, the students, the teachers, the canteen staff to the elderly. Can you imagine yourself hosting a group that speaks a totally different language? This is not a task anyone is easily willing to do but the Chinese students fully accepted us and made it their duty to assist us in whatever way we needed; no matter how little or how big, trust and believe me when I say they got it done for us. It reminds me of the show Paw Patrols when the pups say “No job is too big or no pup is too small.” Also, keep in mind I am speaking about students; they do not have to do this, but this just goes to show their drive to make you feel welcomed.

Where do I even begin with the other citizens of China I mentioned such as the little children, the canteen staff, and the elderly? It is fascinating to see them look at you like you are odd. It’s like a ‘WOW’ moment for them. So get ready because here they come!

Taking pictures with the locals

They will either take out their phones and start recording or take pictures of you, or they are brave enough to walk up to you and touch your hair. I have long braids in my hair so it’s even more interesting to them. They want to touch my braids and take a closer look. Hearing about this was pretty weird, and I thought it was something I would not like; but to tell you the truth, I am honestly enjoying it and having so much fun.

As soon as I see the phones, I am ready to pose for a picture, no hesitation. I am famous in China; I am taking advantage while I have the opportunity. However, I can appreciate it because you can see the genuine amusement on their faces when they see us. It brings happiness to my heart knowing I can share this knowledge with them that there are other types of people in the world.

The Ancient Cultural Street

The teachers and students also made it their duty to learn another language, which is English, and they have this admirable desire to learn more of it. I must say I thought interacting with any Chinese citizen was going to be frustrating, but it is actually an enjoyable experience. Two different cultures are speaking to each other, they both hope each other can understand what they are saying but no one understands each other — isn’t that amazing? What a perfect opportunity to share, learn and help each other.

My friend and I always have a good laugh with the canteen staff when we are trying to order food. We cannot understand each other but a friendly relationship is forming. I am also trying to learn Mandarin. So far I can count from one to ten in Chinese, greet someone, and say I would like to have rice and chicken. Soon I will be participating in tutoring English to the freshman Chinese students, and I am filled with glee to begin.

It is only 3 weeks in, but I would encourage any student to grab this study abroad opportunity to study in China. It is only 3 weeks in, and I absolutely love China. It is only 3 weeks in, and I already put China as number 1 on my list of my favorite places I visited. It is only 3 weeks in, and I can say this is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Cultural experiences have a very funny way of scaring us, but it also has a very beautiful way of making us cherish the memories and friends.

Fun Fact: I cannot eat with chopsticks, but I only eat my meals with chopsticks.

Eating soup with chopsticks

Let the adventures begin! (Pre-Departure)

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

China are you ready for me? China are you preparing for me? The real question is, am I ready for China? 

The time is finally here. One more day. I can’t even believe it is Thursday already and tomorrow for my first time I will be boarding a plane to Tianjin, China. I am overwhelmed with excitement as I prepare for it, as I talk to others about it and as I think about what to expect. 

My name is Aaliyah Espinet, and I am an international transfer student from the beautiful twin island of Trinidad and Tobago studying Hospitality Management. 

At first, I was hesitant about going to China. As it is so far, I can’t speak Mandarin, I don’t have any family there and overall it is a completely DIFFERENT culture. I thought to myself, why would I put myself in such an uncomfortable living environment for an entire semester. It made no sense to me. 

One may think, ‘Then how did I transition from Trinidad and Tobago to Florida to study?’ There are several factors that came to that decision. Easy, I can speak English, I have family in Florida, it’s only 4 hours away from my home country, Florida is also diverse and to top it all off I came with a very good friend from Trinidad and Tobago as well that I can relate to and remind me of home. Florida even has doubles, which is a Indian dish — that’s my favorite! These are little things I cared about and appreciated to feel comfort to study in Florida.  

China on the other hand, is not like Trinidad/Florida.

Staying in my comfort zone is one of my weaknesses, as anyone would know, that leaves no room for improvement. Taking that step to study in Florida has 100% boosted my confidence, elevated my mind-set, improved my organizational skills and just an all-round growth in who I am as a person. 

After acknowledging this growth, it dawned on me that this is the perfect opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and take advantage of what this China program has to offer. I even thought about how beneficial it would be to have a new perspective of the hospitality industry for my future career. Secondly, this would allow me to challenge myself with the cultural differences and appreciate their way of living. 

I’m not saying that there are not going to be times where I wonder why I came to China, but that’s exactly the point: to challenge myself; to enhance who I am. Even though Florida had similar aspect as Trinidad and Tobago, it didn’t change the fact that I missed my home. 

I prepared myself for China by having an open-mind to anything whether big or small/good or bad, I’ll be willing to try and be accepting of their norms and their culture. Also, a great way I have been preparing is researching about the traditions and lifestyles of China. These are the best ways to prepare for a trip like this instead of what clothes you should think you’ll need to pack. I think just as I would like anyone to respect and appreciate my culture, I should do the same. 

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