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Mario Urgiles

China…Ohh..My China =)

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2020

I loved my winter break back in the states with my family. I missed them greatly, especially my twin and mother. Those few weeks along side my family were precious.

One of the major events I’m grateful of witnessing was my twin brother’s wedding (he was waiting for me to come back from China). Of course, it was something truly special to be a part of (I was the ring bearer; I did a great job if I say so myself ). Mr. Disney got hitched, I feel for him (lol, I’m happy for him!), but at the same time, I missed all my Chinese classmates, true lasting friendships that have been forged by whips of academic work.

I’m happy of returning but also sad to leave my beautiful family. Eh, they have one twin; they don’t need double trouble… I always miss them…my $5 Smoothie King. Anyways, I know Spring 2020 will be filled with new experiences and friendships to remember for years to come.

Stay tuned for future posts!

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!

Campus Insight (Part 1)

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

Arriving back campus was an extraordinary experience. TUC students starting to flood the campus streets, warm weather, and excitement in the air as freshmen arrive for their first year. But before the beginning of classes, you can see the military training of Chinese students all around campus in full swing. (Picture below)

Classes started and I got to meet my professors and fellow classmates for the second semester! Each class I chose has different professors than last time, so I was extra enthusiastic. I found the materials very interesting and also that a lot of the seniors graduated and I’m in classes with more juniors this semester. Slowly but surely they’re warming up to me *Wink*, and if not, I approach them and ask for their WeChat (Juniors especially are more shy, because they believe that they have poor English). Once we add each other and I speak to them, the ice is broken for the most part. I look forward to working with many of them in group projects or asking them for suggestions of restaurants.

Walking down the campus streets you can easily get amazed by the amount of students in their own world but subsequently intertwined to one purpose. A sole purpose to obtain knowledge and gain experience of living away from home to better themselves — from physical exercises such as soccer, basketball, ping pong, riding bikes, or simply walking around the track course; or buying fruits at the local produce store, to printing at the corner shop, picking up or sending packages from the postal service station, and lastly buying snacks and essentials from the numerous corner stores. It’s a campus full of life, curiosity and potential!

One of my favorite places is the humongous library placed in the heart of the campus. You can find me, for the most part, at the 5th floor in a private room (Newspaper room) in the evening on weekdays and early afternoon on weekends. (Pictures below)

GPT (Golden Panthers Tianjin) host several events during the semester and their first one was held recently. It was a lovely tea party with international students, freshmen, sophomores (getting involved), and juniors that have entered the FIU program. The topic was garbage certification (reduce, reuse and recycle), an emphasis on the importance of keeping the earth safe from improper use of rubbish.

Interacting with the Chinese students is always very fun for me. Their efforts to understand and speak English is admirable. Our curiosity for each others’ culture keeps the environment spicy, I don’t know how else to describe it. I’ve experienced incredible bonding moments, and I even played games where International students (me) had to speak Chinese, translate ecosystem, recycle, etc. in Chinese. My group was very helpful, and surprisingly, I did well as a matter of fact. Hmmm… we ranked 4th of 4 groups (hey! don’t judge). I made like 10 new friends that day, tasted black tea and green tea with fruits — definitely a day to remember! I look forward for the upcoming events!

Stay tuned for an insight to campus life in my upcoming post!

Departing for Season 2 (The Return to China)

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

Hey everyone! Some might know me from my previous blogs (Marriott Tianjin China Program Spring 2019 semester) and others I am just meeting for the first time. My name is Mario and as you may have guessed, I studied last semester in the Marriott China Program for the Spring 2019 semester.

I’m currently a junior in FIU and love trying news things, especially out my comfort zone. And let me tell you right now, studying across the world in China would definitely fall into that category! I’m looking forward to creating long lasting relationships with the Miami students that will be accompanying me in this journey and also with the Chinese students studying in our program. I am very excited and curious of the new encounters I will face in China and how I will solve/manage them.

I encourage you to read last semesters blogs ( ) in your spare time to ease some curiosity or interest you may have.

Let me see…Passport, back pack, clothes ( lots of clothes ), shoes, American shampoo, formal suit (presentations/guest speakers), laptop, and of course, I can’t forget my pillow (the dorm gives you one but not the same in my book, yeah…DON’T JUDGE). My bags are packed and ready to go! Now the pre-departure thoughts kick in, hmm.. a whole semester away from my family…everything in Chinese…Can’t drive to Smoothie King anymore for $5 Fridays (I’ll miss my Mango Fest smoothie).

But then I remember the amazing thing in China – a huge variety of foods to choose from by ordering cheap takeout (order takeout on your phone, arrives in like 20-30 mins) that fills you up easily. The different dishes provided in the numerous canteens or restaurants accessible to you (I’ll cover more about student life in upcoming blogs). The new people you will meet along the way through your semester, students, faculty, & strangers wanting to take pictures with you (100% will happen at some point); and of course, the random stares, but overall you can know for sure it will be an experience not easily forgotten.

16 hours and 45 mins I’ll arrive in China once more!! Until next time! =)

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!


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.

Shanghai/Hangzhou Spring Break!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019


Yup, except without the beach and 90F degree weather. Instead -5C (23 Fahrenheit) weather complemented with wind that a Miami guy like myself is not used to experiencing. A group of us decided to travel and stay in Shanghai for one week of the two week break. And I finally got to experience my first bullet train ride to Shanghai for 5 hours from Tianjin. Let me tell you, those trains go up to 350 km/h (217 mph), passing thru rough mountain paths until stopping in the few train stations between our destination, which is crazy in my book. I loved it for the one hour I stayed awake until I knocked out.

Arriving at Shanghai I was so excited to explore one of China’s renown cities. We found our Airbnb in 15 mins by subway train from the main city area and ate dinner at a restaurant by the corner. The picture above shows us devouring every plate after a long train ride. I would also like to mention that it’s common to share dishes in the middle of the table. We got to try at least 8 different types of dishes. My favorite was the one in the middle with green pepper. Don’t let it fool you; spicccy…

We walked and took the subway to most of our locations; ironically most places were to eat at different restaurants, but we kept in shape. We visited the Shanghai Museum which was super interesting, maybe because I love history (think about it, this moment right now, history; cheesy but true). And to learn about another country’s history is fascinating, especially one that is thousands of years old. The last Dynasty (Republic Period) ended in 1949, WW2 (World War 2) ended in 1945, which makes it unbelievable their history. The picture above is the uniform of soldiers in the Han dynasty period. My goal was to find out where Mulan was born from but unfortunately was unsuccessful. I only found a kid’s book in the gift shop stating “Mulan was a great warrior from the Northern part of China,” and blah, blah that she took her father’s place in the army. Disappointed, I wanted to know what city she was born in and just got played. Overall, I still like the museum, they even had a section explaining the recent short history of the Shanghai Disney that opened in 2016.

“The Bund” of Shanghai is a sight to see for sure. Seeing it up in such a modern city atmosphere is simply breathtaking. I got the opportunity to explore more giant malls in the area with some restaurants in the French district. Then, after searching endlessly, I found my favorite (Ceviche) which is a seafood dish from Peru. I reserved a night (ranks 50 of 16,558 restaurants in Shanghai on TripAdvisor), took a DiDi (like Uber), and enjoyed the most elegantly styled ceviche in my life. (see picture below)

Disney! Being the year of the pig, Disney has the pig from Toy Story displayed by the front gate, which I found hilarious. One of the sole reasons why I traveled to Shanghai had arrived. Ohh it hit me right in the feelz when I entered that gate. I was like, I’m going to try it all and see it all (inner child emerged at times randomly). The parade was by far my favorite experience, I finally got to see Mulan and other movie characters not really broadcasted in the states like Toy Story and the Seven Dwarfs. I also got to see a Tarzan live show. Afterwards we headed to try out the rides like TRON (roller-coaster), Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Rex’s Racer and Pirates of the Caribbean (story-line ride but in Chinese). It was truly magical that day; not only did I get to experience first hand a theme park internationally but also their service. The Chinese Disney cast members did not disappoint, they were very welcoming and helpful. (see picture below)

Visiting for one day, Hangzhou, a city near Shanghai, was a more slower, peaceful, and less crowded experience. We walked a fair amount to get these two pictures (below) – I hope you enjoy them.

After Hangzhou, we traveled back to Shanghai and soon after back to Tianjin (campus). It was a unique and unforgettable opportunity to visit those two incredible cities in China. Lastly, Valentine’s Day over here 7,793 miles away from home was special as well. I wanted to make sure everyone felt appreciated so I left a little surprise to wake up to at their doorstep: a flower and a handwritten note uniquely describing for each one of them experiences, inside humor, and appreciation to be on this journey with them.

Keep walking with me thru this journey, until next time!

First weeks in China!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

Finally, after numerous hours of flight ( four movies, one bathroom break and several random power naps) I arrived in China. We were warmly welcomed by the GPT (Golden Panthers Tianjin), who traveled with us to the campus. And while traveling from Beijing to Tianjin, I realized I’m in for a true journey in a country where the language (everything is Mandarin, some English on signs as courtesy like McDonald’s and KFC), practices (smoking is very common), and traffic laws (think of street lights and turning signals as ONLY suggestive, not used ) are completely different.

Within the few days after we arrived, the GPT students helped us buy groceries, set up bank accounts, and download apps needed to be able to pay for everything.

The start of classes was basically the same as Miami in preparation. Now, of course, after several introductions in class or around the campus, the first school week ended. To start the weekend, Shiv (another FIU study abroad student from Canada student that is here for his second semester) introduced us to a Mexican restaurant called “La Bamba” for dinner where we had a great time. Eating quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, etc. while listening to Shakira songs and other latin music gave most of us a piece from back home. Then we left for a unique experience to sing our hearts out to Queen, Bruno Mars, Wrecking Ball, Despacito, etc. in a KTV (karaoke) room for a few hours. I have videos but my phone can’t send for size purposes (I’ll try to post them later on if possible). Definitely a very special weekend with the “squad.” I’m so happy to be sharing this journey with them all.

Last week, I wondered off and grabbed a DiDi (like an Uber) to try McDonald’s fried chicken. Yes, you read correctly, fried chicken. After some guidance by an employee at the self-order digital machine, I ordered my McChicken with two fried chicken pieces as a side, a Sprite, and a McFlurry. Let me tell you, I’ve never been a McDonald’s kind of guy but that was 9 out of 10 (not a 10 because no soda refills in China). After lunch, I just walked towards a nearby community park. I watched a game of Chinese chess (they didn’t notice me watching, ninja), and adults, elderly and children playing in outdoor activities from flying a kite to badminton. I can’t help but feel a connection to them in such a peaceful and cold day (60 Fahrenheit). It helped me open my eyes to how big our world is around us. In a random community park in China, I realized how slow and harmonious a place can be in a set moment. That experience will help me appreciate and understand the international differences I will encounter in our industry.

That’s it for now, tune in for my upcoming challenges and unique experiences on my next post!

Pre-Departure: 3 Days!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2019

Hi, everyone my name is Mario Urgiles, and I’m a sophomore at FIU. I just finished my first semester last Fall 2018. I transferred from MDC where I received my A.A, and now in 3 days I’m flying across the ocean thousands of miles away from home. I still can’t help shake off the surreal feeling inside, still in disbelief the opportunity given to me to study abroad. And for that I’m grateful – four months of experiences that will stay with me for a lifetime.

Coming from a Hispanic family is a blessing and all, except when it comes to being away for long periods of time. Well, let’s say the mom is not so happy seeing me leave. You get that occasional “Ay mijito, no te vas tan lejos. There’s great places to study here.” And of course, the twin brother; my partner in crime my entire life. The bond between us is special, weird like I can understand/communicate with him without even talking and that goes with feelings. It’s weird, but yeah never been away from him for so long either. It’s a challenge that I look forward to exploring. The worst thing is that he won’t be here when I arrive back. He will be studying in DCP (Disney College Program) for seven months. So yeah, my departure is bittersweet because I know I will enjoy my time over there but when I come back everything is different.

After endless hours of researching and packing the correct luggage, I’m ready to depart to China. The thought “Eh, everything is made in China so I’ll just buy that over there if anything, it’s probably cheaper too” has echoed in my head with every piece I packed.

Anyhow, my pillow and I are ready for the 14-hour flight to China!

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