China, China (ACES/ ENG), Uncategorized

Lucy Dunderman, Zhejiang University, ACES/Engineering China Summer Research and Cultural Immersion Program

The great thing about joining a lab team was the vast amount of experience I was able to gain. Almost every single day, I either observed or joined in on different experiments that the team was working on. Even though we had to sometimes use a translator app, they worked hard to explain what the experiments we were doing was and how it benefited the study. At the end of the program, I had the chance to go and help collect samples in Huzhou. Being able to go to the field sites and witness first-hand the areas that I had been researching changed my perspective of the study.

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This is the reason why I travel. One can read all about a trouble area and develop solutions, but being able to obtain the local perspective will allow one to truly understand what needs to be done to help an area while respecting their ways of life.

The students I worked with were from all around China: Henan, Guangxi, Sichuan and Xinjiang province, along with Ningbo in Zhejiang province. In just six weeks, I was able to learn about vast amount of cultures and lifestyles from all over China thanks to my graduate students. Every now and then, we would take a break in the lab for them to teach me random parts of Chinese culture that one would not read in a textbook. This ranged from Chinese tongue twisters to different foods to popular music. The cultural exchange was not one-sided. I had the opportunity to teach the graduate students about American culture. There is a very different perspective about America abroad, both positive and negative, so it was wonderful to be able to show them an American perspective, especially during a time of political history and grief, following the largest mass shooting in the United States. Outside of the lab, my graduate students showed me parts of Hangzhou that I did not get the chance to see during the program trips. They took me to restaurants that hosted food from their hometowns (the Xinjiang food was my favorite, but I couldn’t tell the student from Ningbo that after he showed us his hometown food) and I was able to see how beautiful West Lake is at night.

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The cultural knowledge I gained from this program has been invaluable. My global perspective has grown to encompass another culture. The connections I made during this trip with my graduate students, professors, and fellow program attendees, are lifelong connections.

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China (ACES/ ENG)

ACES/ENG Cultural Immersion and Research: Part I

May 25, 2016

Hangzhou, China

So I’ve been in China for a bit over a week now for the ACES/ Engineering Study Abroad program and it is definitely different from what I was expecting.  Before the trip, many would tell me about how awful the smog was in the country, how “extremely different” the culture is, how hard the language is to learn, and how difficult it would be to find safe food I could eat because of my peanut allergy. All of these statements were wrong in their own ways. Culture shock never truly hit me since daily life is not as different as I expected it to be. On top of that, the group and I surprised ourselves with how quickly we could learn Chinese. So far we can all count, order food, make purchases, ask where bathrooms and objects are, and read some basic characters. Additionally, having a peanut allergy in China has, so far, been just as much of a hurdle as it is in the US.  Today was also the first day I could successfully vocalize that I had a peanut allergy without help and ask if the food I wanted had peanuts in it. It was an exciting step towards vocal independence!

In addition to cultural and safety adjustments, we have also visited Shanghai and Beijing to learn more about city life, and history. Within the first few days, we visited the Shanghai TV Tower, Yuyuan Garden, a history museum, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Old Beijing, and the northern section of the Great Wall. The sights were beautiful and a great set of first stops for what is my first time outside of the United States! I also was able to meet up with one of my friends from UIUC who lived in Shanghai. He took us to a Karaoke Bar and a snack market!

All in all, it was a great first part of the trip! Sure, a bit of homesickness set in, but luckily the group who came with me from UIUC is some of the best people I could have to join me on this adventure! I can easily call them all friends now. This week, I begin research at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou on the topic of Bio-gas energy production using applications of cellular biology! Wish me luck!

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The group in Shanghai! (Yufei, Me, Ryan, Lucy, Juliet, Michelle, Sandy)

Family and friends back home; I’ll see you in a month!

~Allen Bell

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