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Jennifer Gonzalez-Abreu

Where has the time gone?!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program

As the departure date approaches, the more I feel that this trip wasn’t long enough. Of course, I’m excited to see my friends and family but Tianjin has been feeling like home for a little while now. The group has also become close friends and we often talk about hanging out once we’re back in MIA. We have gotten so accustomed to life in China, and it feels great. Being in China is a refresher from “real-life”. One thing I do miss though is feeling the Holiday spirit around this time in the year. Although, I have gotten to experience the seasons, which obviously doesn’t happen in Miami – haha.

With our short amount of time left, we have been trying to travel as often as possible. Since we returned from Thailand for Golden Week we have gone to Beijing (two weekends in a row) and this past weekend 3 of us went to Hong Kong and Macau. I absolutely loved Hong Kong and Macau, their ambiance is very different and more westernized I would say. I was able to meet with a friend in Macau that showed us around and took us to their annual food festival. Next weekend we will be traveling as a group to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Army.

I keep living in the moment and enjoying our time in China, even though our time is soon coming to an end

This experience has been more than expected.

I recommend this Study Abroad to every student that has the chance to come.

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Golden Week in Thailand

By Marriott Tianjin China Program

Golden Week, China’s National Day holiday, finally arrived!

Ever since I first heard that we would have a week off in October, I knew that I wanted to spend that week exploring Thailand. Our group spent weeks researching to find what we wanted to do and see in Thailand. We came up with our own itinerary where we would be able to see from the north to the south of Thailand. Our itinerary consisted of visiting Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Phi Phi Islands, and Krabi.

We stayed in Beijing for 2 nights so we could fly out to Thailand from that airport. Beijing is always a good time! On our way over to Bangkok we had a little unfortunate event happen to us.  Our first flight was delayed causing us to miss our second flight. The airlines provided lodging for us while we waited 9 hours for the next flight out, but it caused us to miss a whole day that we had planned for Bangkok. This was probably the only low of the trip.

In Bangkok, we saw the beautiful Grand Palace and the Wat Pho, and of course rode in the back of a tuk tuk (their local taxi). Then we took a 14 hour sleeping train to the city of Chiang Mai.  It was only 15USD and even though it was long, it wasn’t a bad ride.. it saved us some money on lodging for the night. In Chiang Mai we rented scooters for 8USD to ride around the city.  We did a lot of shopping for dirt cheap, and the best part….we hung out with elephants at a sanctuary for a whole day!! This was one of my absolute favorite experiences that I have ever had! Elephants are such majestic and intelligent animals and it was amazing to be able to feed, bathe, and play with them. (Side note…Do NOT do any tourist activity where you ride an elephant, its terrible for them!) Then we moved on down to Phuket where a local Buddhist guide took us to see the Big White Buddha and taught us about the Thai perspectives in Buddhism. We got to pay our respects to a Monk who was at the temple, and he gave us each a bracelet as a token of his appreciation for our interest. It was an experience that I’ll remember. The next stop was the Phi Phi Islands. We arrived through ferry, and I could tell that I already loved this island and its laid back ambiance. Phi Phi offers beautiful beaches, views, and great food and night life.

On the second day here, we did a sleep aboard boat tour to the famous Maya Bay from the movie “The Beach.”  My experience here was unreal! During the day the beach is packed with tourists however, the tour we did is the only boat that is allowed to stay docked on the island overnight. We were the only people on the island, where we enjoyed the beach and had dinner, jumped in the ocean at night to swim with bioluminescent plankton, then slept in the open rooftop of the boat watching the stars only to wake up in paradise and have the chance to snorkel and kayak. Then our final stop was Railay, Krabi. Here we relaxed and I got a traditional Thai massage; those ladies do not play. They use their whole body to massage your body, it hurt a little at times but it mostly felt good.

Thailand being amazing is an understatement… 1 week just wasn’t enough, I’ll definitely be back for more!

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3 weeks in..

By Marriott Tianjin China Program

Arriving in Beijing…

2 flights and 18 hours later and we are landing in Beijing, China on a Saturday morning! I’m carrying a 30lb backpack and two additional pieces of luggage through the huge airport to find the FIU staff awaiting our arrival & welcoming us to China. We took a shuttle to Tianjin that took about 2 and a half hours and finally we arrive to our dorms.

When we walked into our dorms my first thought was that the appearance was a little off than I was originally expecting, the rooms were a bit bigger than it seemed in a picture I had seen but the room was also in need of some maintenance (as well as the rest of the FIU building I must admit). The next day we went to a store called “Metro” which is similar to a Costco; we bought everything you can possibly need such as towels, toilet paper, bed sheets, cleaning supplies, washing detergent, etc.

On Tuesday morning I started class! I was so nervous to feel like the outsider in class but the professors and students make you feel comfortable. The Chinese students are very shy at first but they all want to be your friend and be helpful in any way possible – they are truly amazing. Learning in this environment is slightly different than in FIU back in Miami but it gives us an insight on the Chinese culture and their way of being.

I have already made so many Chinese friends that help with absolutely anything you can possibly need; They help us order food, call a taxi, order things online from their form of Amazon.com, take us out to local restaurants, etc.  The language barrier would have to be the most difficult part of the experience for me so far, so if you ever decide to visit China, try to learn some basics! Now that I’ve been here for 3 weeks, I know some basic words and it is helpful.

As a group (the American FIU students) have already visited Shanghai and Beijing within our time here in China. I am absolutely loving China and the culture it has to offer. One thing that has been great as well is how close our group has gotten. 3 of the American students’ birthdays have been here and we have all celebrated together for them, we’ve had a spa night in one of our dorms, we always have lunch and dinner together, and just help each other out in general. Good friends will come from this trip.

Does it get tough sometimes? Well yes! Simply because of the differences in lifestyle and customs that we have, but it is all part of the learning experience and trying to immerse yourself in other cultures.  I’ve been here for 3 weeks and not once have I had a regret about coming; you just have to adapt to your surroundings.
Overall, I feel that I am learning so much both in and out of the classroom and I appreciate the differences because it makes me more appreciative of some things we have back home, as well as culturally acceptable. The best advice I can give is to not compare them; China and the US are very different and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  You just have to stay open-minded and optimistic through your journey in this exotic country.

– Jenny –

Our dormimg_5610Summer Palace, Beijing
Food from the canteen on campus The Bund in Shanghai

A couple of my helpful Chinese friends

8/15/2016 – Pre-departure thoughts…

By Marriott Tianjin China Program

In a couple of days I’ll be setting out to biggest adventure of my life yet.  ✈️   I will be living in China for 4 months while studying Hospitality and Tourism Management at Tianjin University of Commerce.  I can’t wait to be impacted by China’s intricate culture and to learn side by side with the Chinese students!

This is the first time I will be apart from my family for this amount of time, living with a roommate, and being away from my puppy lol!  I’m feeling both excited and nervous for this journey as are my friends and family.  Even though this program is all I have been talking about since January, it seems that it’s finally becoming real and the emotions are running deep.

Overall, I am so excited about this experience & grateful for the opportunity!! I hope what I learn about the Chinese culture can set me aside as a global citizen, and I hope to learn more about myself throughout the way.

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