Li Shen O., China – Peking University (Communication & Chinese)

ACADEMICS

  1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB? Whilst abroad I mainly took classes to complete my Chinese minor. This included a full schedule of language courses and content courses. These courses were, Advanced Written Chinese, Advanced Conversational Chinese, China & Media Matters, China Business & Society and China Worldview & Global Affairs 

  2. What was your favorite class abroad? My favourite course was China & Media Matters as the content covered fascinating topics such as censorship, chinese popular culture, social media, journalism, broadcasting and more. We had the privilege of having influential Jaime A FlorCruz, CNN’s Beijing Bureau Chief and correspondent, teach our class. He is a notable and influential contributor to Chinese media and society. During this class, we had the unique opportunity to visit the CTGN and CNN headquarters in Beijing. 

  3. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad?  If so, tell us about your experience. I worked with the UCEAP Beijing Office to secure a Marketing and PR Internship with Huawei. Huawei Mobile Services is a Chinese telecommunications devices and services company that has experienced exponential growth and has quickly become one of the largest telecommunications device manufacturers in the world. My internship duties included brainstorming marketing campaigns, conducting market research, writing reports on US tech companies, editing press releases and overseas media releases, translating copywriting, providing feedback on social media and marketing campaigns based on my global background and attending regular meetings, events and shoots for video advertisements. Through completing these duties, I achieved my internship goals and have gained a deep understanding of the global tech market, market research, team collaboration and Chinese company culture 

    China_Ooi,LiShen_Huawei

HOST INSTITUTION

  1. How would you describe your host institution? Peking University is HUGE. I definitely did not explore all of it even within a year! There is a beautiful lake (Weiminghu) in the middle of campus that looks like a national garden. 
  1. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join? Yes there are many student organizations which you can add to your WeChat groups and there is a week after school starts where all the clubs table. One of my friends joined a rollerskating club and learned how to roller skate around campus!
     

HOUSING

  1. Describe your housing situation. I lived at Zhongguanxinyuan (ZGXY) or more commonly known by exchange students as the Global Village. The Global Village lives up to its name as you will find students from all over the world living here, even North Korea! The Global Village is housing for international students and I made most of my friends here.

FOOD

  1. Where did you eat most of your meals? I ate most of my meals through waimai, an app you can download to order food. It is one of my favourite examples of convenience and innovation in China. I could use this app to order anything I felt like eating (boba, noodles, hotpot, pasta etc.) and it was delivered to any location. (dorm room, classroom, nail salon etc.). On campus there was also a huge range of food at very low prices ($1.20 for a huge bowl of beef brisket noodles).
  1. How much was an average meal?  Do you have any budgeting tips for future students? The street food was dirt cheap ($0.10-$2) and the restaurant food was also very affordable. It was around $10 per person for a huge KBBQ feast. However, because everything is so cheap it is easy to eat out everyday which adds up a lot.

  2. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals? Yes. I don’t think it would be that difficult for vegetarians as Chinese cuisine includes a wide range of different veggies (lotus root, bokchoy, enoki mushrooms and more!). I had friends who were vegetarians who didn’t have an issue with the amount of options they had but I think it would be impossible to stay vegan as almost all restaurant options have some form of animal product included (eggs, milk, etc.).

  3. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad. My favourite dining experience abroad was when I convinced my friends to wait 3 hours for Thai-inspired hotpot when we were traveling around Shanghai. It was the highest rated restaurant there on Chinese yelp (dianping) and the fusion of my favourite cuisines was calling my name (Chinese x Thai). It was a long wait BUT we all agreed that it was worth it!
  1. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back? There are way too many to list. I miss everything about the local food and drink… but my top favourites are Haidilao hotpot, spicy enoki mushrooms, tea eggs, xiaolongbao (Shanghainese dumpling) and more! I also miss the social aspect of eating where I was able to share my experience with all my food lover friends!


HOST CITY

  1. Describe your host city. Beijing is a vast city where the possibilities are endless. The city always surprised me – There is an interesting juxtaposition between old Beijing buildings (hutongs) and the brand new skyscrapers. There are many historical locations you can explore such as the Summer Palace, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and more! 798 Art District was my favourite place to visit as it was the only place in the city with street art and galleries. There are endless cafes, karaoke bars, clubs, malls, and cultural sites you can explore. Sanlitun is the place to go for clubbing and Wudaokou is the “college town” where you would find many students frequenting restaurants and malls.
  1. Was it easy to get around? Not really. Beijing is HUGE. You can’t cross the roads as they are too wide and have many lanes. I remember climbing many overhead bridges! The subway stop is 5 mins from the University but it normally takes an hour to get anywhere you want. On top of that, I found myself standing most of the journey as the trains get too crowded. I would normally get DiDis (China’s version of uber) and it would only cost around $15 for an hour long ride. The traffic in Beijing is also horrendous! 
  1. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students? I felt very safe in my host city but I would advise future students to stay away from black taxis (unmarked taxis with no meter) as they often overcharge and cheat you. Additionally, I would warn students about accepting free drinks in clubs.

  2. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city? My favourite memory from my time in Beijing was attending a music festival and camping on the Great Wall. We hiked the wall during sunset, set up camp, ate DIY hotpot and danced under the stars! The next morning, we saw the sun rise over all of Beijing which was a spectacular sight to see.

China_Ooi,LiShen_CampingOnGreatWall

HOST CULTURE
 

  1. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad. The main cultural differences I experienced was the lack of awareness regarding personal space. The locals would often cut in line, yell on the phone and push you on the train. The bathrooms are also a HUGE difference compared to the West. Even in high end restaurants, there were squat toilets. All around campus there are also only squat toilets so prepare to gain some strong glutes! Smoking cigarettes is also a huge part of Chinese culture so people would often smoke in restaurants, malls and other public places.
  1. How did you handle culture shock? I did not experience severe culture shock as I lived in Asia for 5 years and regularly visit my family. However, I believe the best way to handle any discomfort or shock by embracing it! My friends would often say ‘just China things’ when we came across situations that differed widely from the US.
  1. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture? My favourite aspect of my host culture is the food, shopping and the local people. I forged friendships with my manicurists and massage therapists (massages are $8/hour!!!) who only showed me kindness throughout my entire year. They also helped me practice my conversational Chinese and it was through interacting with locals like them that increased my confidence/language abilities.


TRAVEL
 

  1. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad. My roommate and I traveled all round the Philippines during the May break. Whilst there, we swam with whales, hiked waterfalls, lounged on white sands, snorkeled with rainbow fish and more! One night, we decided to swim in the ocean at 1am and as I moved my arms in the water, I realized my whole body was glowing! We had unexpectedly swam with bioluminescent fish which lit up the ocean like glowing specs of glitter. We swam under a sky of shining stars which made the unexpected experience even more magical.


REFLECTION
 

  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal? My biggest fear was making friends and enjoying my alone time. I ended up making some of the most influential and supportive friendships of my life when I was abroad. I am still in touch with all my friends even though we live on different continents. Additionally, I learned how to love my alone time and regularly would take day trips to explore the city by myself.

    China_Ooi,LiShen_gate
  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad? Leaving 😦  Also – not knowing the language that well made it hard for me to express myself.
     
  2. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad? Being abroad has changed my entire perspective and trajectory in life. I was feeling very lost before I studied in Beijing – as cliche as it sounds, I really did find myself through studying abroad. I experienced 5 years of self growth and discovery in the span of 1 year – I am more self aware, responsible and motivated now. Additionally, I participated in two internships at Segway and Huawei which solidified my passions for the tech industry and created a path for my aspiring digital marketing career. My entire resume is from UCEAP opportunities and I would 100% not be getting any interviews of job prospectives now if I had not gone abroad.
  1. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students? Just do it! It will be a life-changing experience. You will travel the world, meet unique people and create lasting memories that will make you smile whenever you think of them. UCEAP changed my entire life and perspective! I would not be who I am now if I had not made the scary decision to go to a foreign country where I knew nobody!

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