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Marriott Tianjin China Program at FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management

The End of A Chapter; The Start of A New Beginning

By Marriott Tianjin China Program - Fall 2017

“It’s not goodbye it’s see you later”. This is best way that I can overall express my feelings about departing for what has been my home for the last 4 months. I will never forget my first semester at Florida International University, when I started as a transfer student from Broward College and how I came in not knowing anyone and was overwhelmed by this enormous university. My mother used to drop me off at the Biscayne Bay campus at 6 a.m. since I didn’t have any transportation. The campus was a ghost town. I remember sitting by myself on the sofas in the Carnival Student Center, and thinking about my future here. It was in that moment that I promised myself that I would make a name out of myself, leave my mark, and take advantage of all the amazing opportunities this university had to offer. When the Marriott Tianjin China Program was presented in my IT class I felt like I was the only one in the room and that this was a life changing opportunity I had to take.

How did you do it Kim?

Before I begin to explain the difference this program made in my life, I believe that talking about how I could make this opportunity happen is just as important.  I want other students to remove the obstacles and excuses that they have made for themselves; this was also the most asked questions I got from my family and friends. As a college student, we are anything but stable in where we want to be in life, and that’s part of the adventure itself — learning how to figure it out. One of my biggest concerns in doing anything in college was the financial burden that it may cause me. I knew that if I wanted to do anything, I had to work very hard, make sacrifices, and excel in my academics. I was working at Chili’s restaurant 4 days a week and was a full-time student going to school three days a week. Paying bills, helping at home, saving money, and studying were my priorities. With my current academic standing I began applying to all the scholarships that I was eligible for. Of course, there were days that I was frustrated, stressed out, and exhausted but I always reminded myself why I was doing this. One evening when I was working at the restaurant, I received an email from FIU AcademicWorks [FIU’s Scholarship Database] stating that I was the recipient of the Carnival Bridge Scholarship. I was overwhelmed with the joy that I could make the Marriott Tianjin China Program come true. Sometimes these opportunities may seem impossible to achieve, but they are not. With drive and focus, I believe all students can achieve these opportunities, and I encourage those who have had their doubts to reconsider these obstacles and excuses and focus on their dreams.


I can honestly say that moving to China was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. Being comfortable or settling in your everyday life may seem safe, but it does you more harm than good in my opinion. Being stuck in the same routine, working in a job that makes you unhappy, and living in a town that you are used to can prevent you from self-growth and removing yourself from your comfort zone. China was the change I needed because it was so vastly different from what I was used to. It forced me to adapt to my current living situation, having to make new friends and dealing with my emotions and feelings in a positive manner.

During this study abroad, I met amazing professors and Chinese students that I worked in group projects with. I joined In- Club, an English speaking interactive club, that hosted several events on campus. I was an English tutor for the speech and writing center, where I was not only able to help these remarkable students perfect their English but I made new friends. I had dinner at various school canteens where I tasted amazing Chinese cuisine such as hot pot, noodles, dumplings and more. On the weekends, I could travel with my close friends. Overall, I traveled to seven different cities across China. There were moments in which I missed my family back home, but I was extremely grateful for the international family I had made. There is no proper way to prepare yourself for these adventures, no matter how many videos or books you read. It is an experience within itself that every person should experience for themselves. China and its people will forever hold a special place in my heart. I hope these blog posts have helped students to have a better understanding of my experience. If you have any other questions and wish to contact me in the future please feel free to email me Till the next adventure!



A Chinese Thanksgiving

By Marriott Tianjin China Program - Fall 2017

In American culture, there are specific holidays that hold a special spot in our hearts, one of them being Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is held on the last Thursday of the month of November and it is a holiday that bring family and friends together to share what they are thankful for as they feast on traditional American Thanksgiving cuisine. The thought of spending Thanksgiving away from my family and friends was at first hard to take in, especially since I have never spent one without my family. Thanksgiving is not celebrated in China so I was afraid that this holiday would be forgotten. Thanks to the mentorship program set-up in China, we could celebrate Thanksgiving!  The mentors planned a party which had a variety of activities such as karaoke, pool table, video games, and traditional American Thanksgiving cuisine.

This Thanksgiving has made me extremely grateful for my family abroad. I knew that traveling to China would be life-changing, but I never expected to create such unique bonds with the students and mentors. The mentorship program went above and beyond with making sure we celebrated this holiday as a family. All the American students were deeply touched and grateful to have a group of individuals that care about us so much. I was extremely impressed when I saw that the mentor program members were preparing traditional American cuisine such as turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and vegetables along with other dishes. I would have been thrilled with traditional Chinese food, but the fact that they did this was remarkable. Having these dishes brought back memories of my mother’s cooking. Overall, my experience this Thanksgiving was one that I will ever forget. It reminded me that regardless of where you are from or whether there is a language barrier, or diverse cultures, family and friends can unite and be grateful for one another.

Tips when traveling to the Happiest Place in the East!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program - Fall 2017

I knew that traveling to China was going to be a life-changing experience because of what the country has to offer when it comes to culture, cuisine, it’s people, and tourist attractions. Together ten adventurous, international students came together and began to plan their next adventure to Disneyland in Shanghai, China! Shanghai Disneyland is truly unlike any other Disney resort I have been to!  Its delicate attention to detail, unique attractions, and overwhelming magical atmosphere made this trip truly memorable for years to come. Below are my overall tips, suggestions and firsthand experiences to enhance your trip when traveling to the happiest place in the east.

Purchasing your Disney land ticket:

Our Disney adventure was scheduled to happen on a Friday, and we wanted to avoid having to make any unnecessary lines to save time so we purchased our tickets online on the official Shanghai Disneyland website. The website was user-friendly and made the process very easy. After creating your personal MyDisney account, adding your passport number, and credit card number, you have the option to receive a text message or email confirmation to present at the ticket office. Please make sure to bring your passport when presenting your confirmation number. The ticket price for Shanghai Disneyland was 357 RMB which is $55 US dollars, an extremely economic ticket price compared to Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida which is $100.

Disney Land Mobile Application:

I would recommend downloading the Shanghai Disneyland application beforehand for further assistance and information throughout your day at the theme park. The application was useful to see the current wait times for the attractions (which helped us decide which attraction to go to next), the park map, and dining options. Another amazing option the mobile application had was the fast passes.  Because we were a group of ten, we were able to scan all our park tickets and secure 10 spots for one of the attractions. When we arrived at the attraction at the time we were scheduled, we rode the attraction within 5 minutes, while the regular waiting line was over an hour. Fast passes are free, but they run out very quickly so try to secure yourself a spot.

 Arrive Early:

 To fully take advantage of your Shanghai Disneyland experience, I highly suggest arriving early. Take into consideration the traveling time whether it be taxi, subway, or shuttles and walking to the park entrance. Normal operating hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. By arriving early, you can easily enjoy a quick breakfast in Starbucks, that is located near the park entrance, which is what did.  We wanted something quick and semi-filling because we knew we wanted to enjoy Disneyland treats throughout the day. Lines will be guaranteed throughout your day trip, but with an early start you can easily glide your way through the ticket box and begin your day.

Eat, Eat and Eat:

Take full advantage of all the delectable Mickey Mouse-shaped treats that are all over the park. I personally ate like no tomorrow, eating personal favorites such as candy apples, Mickey Mouse pretzels served with honey mustard, Donald Duck waffles with ice cream, corn dogs, veggie burgers and so much more. In my opinion eating all of these magical treats completes the Disney experience, so please disregard your diet and enjoy.

Top attractions:

Shanghai Disneyland offers a variety of attractions and, as a group of thrill-seeking college students, our hands down favorite attractions were Tron Lightcycle Power Run and Pirates of the Caribbean. Tron Lightcycle Power Run is by far one of the most modern and unique rides that I have ever been on. In this ride, you are hunched over a futuristic speeding motorcycle and zoomed off at high speeds into caves covered in neon lights and in a blink of an eye you are speeding through the outside dome where you can see all the tourists staring up at you. You can literally ride Tron 7 times back to back from how addicting it is.

As a personal fan of all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, I was extremely excited to see how Disney would create this into an attraction. Pirates of the Caribbean is an animated ride that takes you on a adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow. The animation created for this attraction is breathtaking, making you believe that you are no longer in Shanghai but that you in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean battling Davie Jones and his crew. Pirates of the Caribbean will leave you feeling brave and heroic after the quest. These two attractions are a must in Shanghai Disneyland and I highly recommend getting fast passes for both attractions.

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