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Start of Classes and the Holiday

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2020

These past couple weeks have been very eventful and busy! We learned where our classes are, formed groups with the Chinese students for future projects, and I have found quite a few favorite dishes already. I definitely recommend the tomato and egg soup, and the egg noodles if you’re a vegetarian like myself! Also, we got our Chinese SIM cards and bank accounts set up, so we are now prepared for the semester 🙂

I usually take a picture of the menu and point to the one I’d like. I will remember how to say it soon!

The professors are all kind and go out of their way to make you feel involved, and many of the students are very shy (haha). If you can, I recommend studying some Chinese before coming here so that you can connect with people on a deeper level. Apps are certainly useful, but when you speak to someone in their common tongue (even if you aren’t that great at it yet) it means a lot more to them. Furthermore, there are a lot of mistranslations with the apps, so sometimes you may get wacky messages.

The translation is a little off, but it gets the job done.

As I am writing this, three friends and I have set off on a trip with stops in Hangzhou and Shanghai for the holiday. I was very nervous at first since we had not traveled without our wonderful and patient mentors yet, but everything has gone smoothly so far, and I’m glad we took the opportunity to travel! *More updates will come on this during my next blog*

Nearly a month in

By Marriott Tianjin China Program

It has been nearly a month since we first arrived here in China. I feel as if this month has been so long but I know these 4 months will fly by and I will be asking myself where did time go?

I have done so much in these past weeks. I’ve gotten a bank account, made dumplings for the first time, and best of all, I finally saw snow for the very first time!!!!!!!!!!!!! You have no idea how many years I prayed that there would be snow in Miami for Christmas, I just wanted to see it for one second. I got something even better, I saw the first snow of the year in Tianjin. I wanted to stay outside all night just to see the little snowflakes fall, it was so beautiful.

Shortly after that classes started and I started to fall into a routine. Although I have been to China before there are still some things that shock me still. For example the “squatty potty,” I still can not seem to use these with ease. Luckily there are “regular” toilets as well. What really shocked me though was the facial recognition systems China has in place.

In order to get toilet paper at one restroom, we had to show our face into the camera and it generates a piece of paper for us (which would not have been enough for me). That was not the only surprising thing I observed either. On my way here I noticed there was actually a lot of foreigners on the flight. Compared to last time when I only saw maybe 0-1 foreigner on my flight. It seems a lot more people are going to China now more than ever before. One observation that did remain the same was the fashion. This time I made sure my airport fashion was not lacking as opposed to last time I felt deeply ashamed of my attire as I took notice of everyone else with their put together looks.

Considering my topic is fashion for this semester I have been taking note of the fashion trends that I am seeing. For the most part, I notice that long tutu dresses are in and jackets with sayings or words also appear to be worn quite regularly.

First Week in Tianjin

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2020

After a long fourteen hour flight, I finally arrived in Beijing, China. When I arrived, the sun had already gone down, I was completely jetlagged, and in a daze so it hadn’t quite hit that I was on the other side of the world for the first time. As the week carried on and classes started, I began to get a feel for how my time in Tianjin would be. Everyone has been so welcoming, and willing to help as well as curious about us foreigners.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to try many different dishes, both on campus and in Tianjin itself. I’ve found that most canteens have several spicy options, which is perfect for me, and a couple vegetarian options for those who prefer it. I quickly learned that the Chinese culture entails eating in a family style setting, meaning all side dishes are placed in the middle of the table and as you crave an item you reach out with your chopsticks to place just a bit on your plate. This is completely different to the American way of eating as we typically serve ourselves all that we wish to eat in one sitting. I had the chance to take part in this way of eating at the TUC-FIU welcoming dinner, at a Hotpot restaurant, and a Korean Barbecue restaurant. Overall, I really enjoyed it as it felt really intimate amongst a group of new friends.

Korean BBQ

A Whole New World

By Marriott Tianjin China Program

Nǐ hǎo/ Hello

It has been exactly two weeks since I have been in China, and so far I am having a wonderful time! I still can’t believe I’m on the other side of the world!

I’ve been to Downtown Tianjin, via subway and walked countless of kilometers. If you aren’t normally physically healthy, you will be in China. There is a lot of walking done here, so wearing comfortable, reliable shoes is important. I found that stretching in the morning really helps relieve soreness from the day before. Also eating the right foods helps with your body feeling good too! Light, portioned meals is something I see a lot of! But don’t worry, you will still be full. 

We are currently celebrating the Chinese New Year, where myself and a few others have decided to make the most of it by going to Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing. Traveling to these different cities has helped with not only my physical health, due to all the walking, but my mental health as well. 

One tip to mentally stay healthy is not let little things people say or do affect you. Some days people will do/say something that you may not like or agree with, but you have the choice on if you want that to affect you. Being a black female in China with braids, has gotten me a ton of questions and stares that I try to answer as politely as possible. I don’t let it affect me because it’s a different culture, so I have to mentally keep reminding myself that the native people don’t see someone like me quite that often. It is however, still weird when people blatantly stare and take pictures. It’s a part of the journey, and I take it all in stride. Having a positive outlook can really help your overall day! 

Another tip I have, is to read/write daily, before getting your day started, and at the end of the day. Whether that be reading the Bible, reading or writing a motivational quote, or even journaling. I find that it really helps set and end your day on a positive note. I personally read my Bible in the morning and journal my day at night, so that the next day, I can look back and see how I felt about my day, and see how I can make my current day better. 

Overall, these past two weeks have been eye-opening on my personal growth journey, and I’m excited to be here! I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time here will hold. Until next time! 

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!

New Adventures Loading….

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2020

It’s the night before my flight to Beijing and I cannot believe how fast the last four months have gone! I can only imagine how fast the actual experience in Tianjin will go.

Hello! My name is Kiara, and I am Junior majoring in International Business at Florida International University. I’m really excited to learn a bit of how hospitality works in Tianjin and see how it correlates with my major. I was born and raised in NYC, the melting pot of cultures, so I can’t wait to see how Tianjin has been influenced by the western world.

Over the last couple of weeks my family has made sure to feed me all my favorite Spanish dishes so I won’t miss them too much. I absolutely love exploring different cultures through their typical dishes as I feel it’s a piece of one’s culture that can be taken wherever you go.  I’m intrigued to find out how people prepare their foods, what foods are traditional for holidays, and what dishes are staples in every home.

I am forever grateful to be a part of a University that creates such great opportunities for its students. Stay tuned to see all the incredible foods & sights China has to offer!

“The World Is A Book And Those Who Do Not Travel Are Only Reading One Page”

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2020
left to right: my sister (Randi), younger cousins (Cameron, Shannon, and Knoxx), myself
left to right: younger cousin (Stonie), sister (Randi), myself, younger cousin (Ocean)

Above are some of the people who mean the most to me in this world! There were a lot of tears shed while saying our goodbyes, but after promising to Facetime and text as much as possible, I felt better about the temporary split. My family and I are SUPER close, especially my sister and I, so I know that the separation will be tough. However, I also realize that this is a huge step in my life, so I intend to embrace the experience and bring back stories to tell them that might inspire them to study abroad one day, too.

Distance from my town to Miami

The drive down south took quite a while, and it was our first time ever visiting such a large city! My hometown is extremely small and primitive when compared to Miami. I couldn’t believe there were so many pedestrians everywhere, and people drove much faster than I had expected given the number of vehicles in close proximity. My hometown consists of a meager 2 gas stations, a Dollar General, and the woods–you can imagine my shock and how many exits we missed. Admittedly, I am a bit anxious to visit China, because I know that the cities will be similar to Miami, and likely even more intimidating. It will definitely be an interesting experience!

As for a little information about myself, I am a 20 year old Senior at FIU. This coming Spring will be the last semester before I graduate with my B.A. in East Asian Studies and minor in International Hospitality! Way to end things with a bang, am I right? While I am here, I plan to find inspiration for my writing–one of my hobbies. I can’t wait to immerse myself in China’s language and culture, and build a foundation in the field of hospitality as well. Since I come from a rather small town, this semester abroad will undoubtedly allow me to grow as a person and see the world through a broader lens.

Cheers to a New Year!

Amante Tolbert

Goodbye Rainy Miami, Hello Cold Tianjin

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2020

Hello! My name is Nicole Garcia and this is the first trip I am taking without my parents, and this is also my first time to travel to Asia! A few months before the trip, I started purchasing winter clothes, medicine, etc. I will be sharing my journey and experience alongside with my twin sister, Angely, who I am very happy to share my experience with.

Since my theme is small victories, I will be sharing my experience pre-departure of the trip. After submitting all of the important documents, I began purchasing necessities for the cold weather in China. Now, looking for the right winter coat was the hardest for me to find. Since I live in Miami, it is not very common in buying winter clothes since we are known for having hot or rainy weather. But luckily, after searching for weeks, I was able to buy most of my winter clothes and coat online, what a victory! I was able to pack 2 checked bags and my backpack (as a personal item) and I am ready to go and start the New Year in China!

A Shining New Year

By Marriott Tianjin China Program

It is officially 2020 and in less than 2 days I will be starting the year off in another country, China!

I remember in 2016 I told my friends I wanted to go to China. I even went up to a Chinese student while I was at the University of Miami and said “I love China” in my cringy mandarin. Surprisingly, he did not run away and actually seemed happy and asked where in China I wanted to go. I said Beijing and in 2018 Beijing is the first place I landed. It feels so weird seeing things I once thought about come to reality. I always wanted to go on a plane and ended up going on not only one but 6 all in a span of a month to go halfway across the world to China. This time I will be making that journey again, thankfully not as many flights, and for much longer than before.

As the days quickly go by I start to feel a roller-coaster of emotions. I know I will have to readjust and get used to the fact that I will be oceans away from my home, my comfort zone. Despite having been to China before, I realized I still hold some misconceptions about China which I hope to get rid of after spending a whole semester there. I just have to let people’s opinions about China stay their opinions and not my own.

When I first told one of my friends I wanted to go to China in 2016 her mom told me “Why go there, it is dirty and full of pollution.” At times I also ask myself this question, but not because I hold the same thoughts but because I would have never thought I would be going there. Now I am blessed to have the opportunity to go again and hopefully this semester I find out what my purpose for going is.

Happy New Year and see you all in Tianjin!!! Also, I found some good videos about Tianjin and food, (What it’s like to be a vegan in China),

New Year, New adventure

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2020


Nǐ hǎo/Hello,

My name is Jaylah Goldson, and I am a junior at FIU. This is going to be my second semester at BBC / Tianjin China since I transferred from Broward College. I am very excited to study abroad, as I never traveled this long and far by myself. This is a great opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture and advance myself in my major in hospitality management.

This past year, I have dedicated a lot of time to my mental and physical health. Taking the steps to participate in this study abroad program was all in part of my continuous personal growth journey. This semester abroad will allow me the opportunity to challenge myself and think in a completely different way.

In preparation for this trip, I have dedicated time when I wake up, to do yoga or write down how I am feeling and what I want to get done for the day/week. I found that writing out my thoughts and planning my time efficiently, really helps settle any nerves I may have and helps me focus more. For yoga, I find a quick 10-minute video on the different poses and stretch out my body before I sit down to write anything. Personally, doing yoga clears my mind and helps relieve and extra stress I was feeling the night before.

Keeping with the theme of better health, I have researched A LOT on how the Chinese eat and drink. Room temperature water, teas, a lot of fruits and vegetables and overall eating light, proportioned, healthy meals. I have been incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my diet to help get accustomed to that way of eating. I’m still a sucker for sweets though!

I am very excited about this new experience. I have researched a lot, and I know I am mentally and physically prepared for China. While I will miss my family and friends, they are all excited about this new journey, just as I hope you are. Come along and follow me on this trip of staying mentally and physically healthy. Are you ready? New Year, New Adventure. Taking off in 4…3..2..1…

The Start of a New Decade.

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2020

I never thought that I would be going to Tianjin so quick and early for my second semester at FIU. Having just recently transferred from Miami Dade College, FIU welcomed me with open arms this last Fall 2019. Now, I have the opportunity to study abroad, and might I say, I am very excited and nervous at the same time! Hello! My name is Angely Garcia, I am currently a junior and I am a general Hospitality Management major here at the FIU Biscayne Bay Campus. 

Coming from a family of Cubans, we are notorious for having our families together, making it hard to leave the nest, but surprisingly my parents were very excited for me to have this new experience and explore a new side of the world that nobody in my family has been to. But, I will not be alone in this adventure. My partner in crime, also known as my twin sister Nicole is also a student and a hospitality major here at FIU! Together, we will be exploring, experiencing, and sharing a room together! (Because we’ve been together for the last 20 years!) Although I will be missing my parents and older sisters here in Miami, I am grateful that I have my twin with me.

When I tell you that I have done a lot of research, I’ve done A LOT. Initially, I was planning to take just one checked bag, a carry on, and my personal backpack. But after doing a “mock” packing session, I concluded that I did not have enough space for the stuff I wanted to bring. So instead, I am taking 2 checked bags and my personal backpack. One may never know what can happen, so it is always good to be prepared!

Now with the New Year about to end and my flight right after that, I am very excited to embark on this new journey in a brand new year!

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!

There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story…

By Marriott Tianjin China Program

Words cant describe how happy and grateful I am of everything I experienced and learned on this study abroad. I have completed a few study abroad with FIU. But this trip was by far the best one! China is everything I didn’t expect. Every bad image or scary feeling I had about the bathrooms, the food and even the people was proven wrong. I loved the food as well as the people, and well the bathrooms taught me to always be ready and now how to handle myself. Not going to lie, it was not easy living in China but it is an experience I will cherish forever.  It was hard communicating, but people were so willing to help it was never impossible to complete something or go any where. To get around town we used Didi which is like an uber. To pay instead of using our cards we used Alipay or wechat. But we can only use them if we had a Chinese bank account. And the only bank that allowed us to open on was the China Commerce bank.

I thought I loved Amazon but nothing like my love for Taobao!! And as for the food, my favorite was Haidilao hotpot. On campus the food was also amazing. Specially canteen 2, they made me a special chicken fried rice and I no longer had to tell them how I wanted because they knew!!  Life on campus was amazing, you would always see a friendly face and even thought the first week the gate of the main entrance seams crazy far. We learned to enjoy each walk or bike ride to it!

This trip also made me grow in my degree with my amazing profession. Specially Yungfei Li, my senior seminar professor; I truly learned to love her as a person and as a professor. But I also grew in culture and in my personality.

China not only taught me an amazing society, but also revealed to me a lot of personal facts I had no idea about myself. I have truly fallen in love with the Country, the people, and the strength I have found within myself. We had countless adventures, some good and some teaching opportunities. I have learned to live in the moment and to adjust because not everything can go as planned, sepecially when people do not understand you or you do not understand how things are done. A simply trip to the movies can be a tricky mission in China, but nothing stopped me from keep trying until I figured it out.

Additionally, I am Catholic and I found the most amazing church ever, they have an english group and mass every Sunday. This made me feel at home and honestly one of the best masses I have gone in my life! I truly thank FIU Hospitality for this opportunity and TUC (especially the GOLDEN PANTHERS CLUB) for receiving us with open arms!

China has been an amazing opportunity I would recommend to all! Just make sure to go to Delight City and eat in any restaurant – they are all delicious but especially Haidilao. Go to Happy foot bath, which is a spa by campus, visit canteen 2, and go to Joseph Catholic Church (even just to see it, it is a work of art!). And of course TRAVEL! China has so much to see and so many amazing cities rich of culture and love. I would not have changed anything in my trip, for anything in the world! I had an amazing time, but as all, it has to come to an end. Even though I cannot believe it’s over, it’s time to go home and just in time for the holidays! I had a great time and made friends I can now call family❤️.

Fam picture in the first snow!

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.

Last Days

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019


Now is the time to look back and see how time flies. I had a good time in China and I learned more than what I thought. A wonderful country with great people that are willing to help and make you feel at home. So many memories that I will never forget. The architecture, the hospitality, and the Chinese culture has so much to offer and to learn from. If you ever come to China, please go to Haidilao. For me, the best restaurant in the entire world. If you are part of the hospitality industry, you will understand why I love this place so much. the attention to the details is mindblowing and the food is amazing.

In terms of school, my semester had several difficulties due to health issues, but I was able to study hard and get good grades for my classes. It is very interesting to be learning surrounded by Chinese students. Also, if you ever take senior seminar, please take it with Yunfei Li. even though is not an easy class, I believe that among all my hospitality courses, this one was the one where I learned the most. She is incredibly experienced, and her way of teaching is very interesting so you will never be bored in her class.

Now that I am graduating, I am pretty sure that I have some qualifications than others doesn’t and that is key to get your desired job. There are so many things that you learn when doing a study abroad, that you will never be able to learn in a classroom at the Chaplin School of Hospitality. I am thankful for this opportunity and I’m ready to share it with my family and friends. Now it’s time to go back to where it all started. See you tomorrow America!

48 days until departure…

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Spring 2020

In just 48 days, 7 study abroad students will embark on a semester-long adventure to the Marriott Tianjin China Program.  Stay tuned to read about their adventures on the following topics:

Amante – Language & Art
Angely – Cultural experiences
Jaylah – Being physically/mentally healthy abroad
– Food
Mario – Language & Student life on-campus
Nicole – Small victories:  Accomplishments in your new life abroad
Summer – Fashion

Two moths later…

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019


Its been two months since we started the program and I have learned so much about China and about myself. the first weeks were adaptation and everything was new. then, I had the opportunity to travel and now I’m used to the culture. Now that we are halfway there, I start to wake up feeling like at home. China doesn’t celebrate Halloween as we do. Moreover, we wanted to do something for Halloween and there are a few international restaurants like the Hard Rock Cafe where they have this kind of celebrations to attract not only tourist but locals that want a western experience. From a hospitality point of view, this special celebration makes you feel at home and there are enough international people in Tianjin that are willing to celebrate at a western restaurant. The food was good but the service really slow. Even though they had enough employees, the language barrier made it a little difficult to communicate, the music was very loud, and there are some special requests from customers that made it very difficult for them. The average price for an entree and a drink was about 130 RMB and is usually what you pay at a good restaurant. now,  when you compare a 130 RMB  dinner vs a 20 RMB dinner on campus, you feel that you will be broke in less than a week. We have managed our money wisely now that we know the average costs of leaving and the price of some goods. Compared to the first days when everything looked cheap, now I am more aware of what the price should be like. It is going to be very hard when I go back to Miami and instead of paying 2-4 bucks for a meal on campus, I will have to pay 10-15.  I am looking forward to enjoying the other half of the trip and make the most out of this experience.

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.

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