Sunday, January 30, 2011

Back from Mainland

I am back from an amazing two weeks in mainland China. I spent a few days in Xian, almost a full week in Beijing, and five days in Shanghai. Arriving in Hong Kong was a huge culture shock, but nothing compared to mainland China. After spending two weeks in China, suddenly coming back to Hong Kong and finding my way around didn't seem so hard.

It is difficult to describe all of my two weeks in a single blog post, so the best way for me to describe my trip will be highlighting a few aspects of each place I visited.

Xian Highlights:
1) Visiting the Terra cotta warriors
-over 8,000 life size warriors were destroyed during the farmer's uprising, many of which have been pieced back together, while others still remain in thousands of pieces.
2) Riding a tandem bike on top of the city wall surrounding Xian
3) Exploring the village of Huxian
- an hour outside of the city wall, this small village is home to 1,000 local people who make noodles from winter wheat

Beijing Highlights:
1) Wandering through the Forbidden City and seeing traditional Chinese architecture
3) Visiting the Birdsnest and water cube at the Olympic village in Beijing.
4) Participating in a tea ceremony where we tried a number of different teas.
5) Sharing a meal prepared by a local Chinese family in their home.

Highlights from Shanghai:
1) Visiting a river town outside of the city where some students enjoyed trying the stinky tofu.
2) Learning about the financial district and the new construction within the city.
3) Exploring the city at night, allowing me to see the interesting buildings and city skyline.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Off to Mainland!

It's Friday morning over here in Hong Kong and I'm packing up the last of my things. Today my program is leaving for mainland China! Our trip with consist of 2 weeks of traveling, to Xi'an, Beijing, and Shanghai. Spending in a few days in each city, our goal is learn more about the markets in China, the people of China, and China's history. While traveling, the bus rides will become our classroom as we take a course called China: Past, Present and Future.

I'm off to find some breakfast now with the roommates, dumplings perhaps??

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hello Hong Kong!

I made it, helllllllo Hong Kong!

Thinking back to when I started my application to study abroad, I never actually imagined what it would be like to finally be here.

After a what seemed like a never ending flight (over 13 hours!), we took a bus to our apartment building in the Hung Hom district area of Hong Kong. Hung Hom is located in Kowloon, which is across the water from Hong Kong Island. Our apartment resembles a skyscraper you would find in New York City. My apartment is on the 16th floor and overall my program occupies 10 different apartments in the building. The apartments have 3 individual bedrooms, a kitchen, common area, and two bathrooms. The apartment was a pleasant surprise, everyone always mentions how small housing the housing is in Hong Kong because it is so expensive, so I was preparing myself for the worst. On Tuesday, we spent some time with student ambassadors from the university where I am studying here in Hong Kong and one of the girls I spent a lot of the day with mentioned to me that she was living with her two sisters in an apartment that is only 200 square feet so I think we got pretty lucky in terms of our apartments.

The student ambassadors were incredibly helpful, the met us at the MTR (subway system of HK) and showed us all the places within the station that we may need during our stay here. We then traveled to City University together where they gave us a tour of the campus.

Later that day we went to the Jumbo Floating Restaurant for dim sum. Dim sum is a meal in Hong Kong that means "to touch the heart", meaning the food served is meant to be so good that it will touch your heart. Well, this meal definitely touched my heart. It was delicious, we ate pork dumplings, vegetable dumplings, shrimp wrapped in noodles and many other traditional dim sum foods. The local students helped us not only to use the chopsticks and how to eat, but also how to say thank you and be polite at the table.

The afternoon ended with a trip up to Victoria Peak. The peak looks down over Hong Kong and the harbor and had one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. We viewed the peak during the afternoon, but later during my stay here I want to view the peak at night which I have heard is amazingly beautiful as well.

It has been an amazing first few days, I can only imagine how great the rest of the semester will be.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Decision to Study Abroad

I am the youngest of three girls in my family and it goes without saying that whatever my sisters did, I wanted to do too. I waited patiently through my sisters experiences ranging from losing their first teeth to high school proms. I also watched both my sisters, Aubrey and Lindsay board planes before starting their study abroad experiences.

Like my sisters, I have always wanted to study abroad. My family frequently travels and in high school I had my first experience in a foreign country. I headed off to Ireland, my first European experience that has led to an incurable case of "the travel bug". In my head I am always planning my next trip, wondering where it will take me.

My decision to study abroad therefore is largely due to my interest in travel and what other parts of the world have to offer. In deciding where to study, my thoughts initially went to Europe, thinking I could jump from place to place on weekend excursions. With a little more thought and discussion with family and friends, I landed on Hong Kong.

Through Syracuse University Abroad, I will be living in Hong Kong January 9th - May 24th. The program divides my semester into three separate components. The first two weeks are spent in what is considered a "Signature Seminar", where the students in my program and myself will travel to Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian. The next ten weeks are spent taking courses and the final five weeks I will be participating in an internship or independent research.

With just a few days left before I buckle my seat belt for the 16 hour flight, I am incredibly excited. This experience will be like none other and I can't wait for it to start!