China mountains with fog

This is the second installment to my study abroad trip. Weeks after my graduation from The University of Akron I ventured on a trip with the College of Business. A group of students and one professor spent three weeks abroad in East Asia. In the first leg of our trip, we spent two weeks traveling all over the People’s Republic of China. Then we hopped a plane for South Korea.

The first city we hit was Old Shanghai. These photos were taken in the Yuyuan Garden. This garden was first built in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty. It’s old world charm brings a stark contrast to the new Shanghai you’re probably familiar with. The garden is full of beautiful koi ponds, stone walls and dragon statues.

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Next stop – Shanghai. Shanghai is a Chinese city located on the eastern coast of China. It’s a major shipping hub due to it’s ideal location and has a population of over 24 million people. The city is huge and modern. I’ll find skyscrapers, malls, luxury retailers and dealerships, banks, and the stock exchange. Even though Shanghai is very globalized, I loved seeing the culture shine through. I snapped these photos as I walked down streets and past alleyways.

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Shanghai’s skyline is very distinct. Probably the most recognizable piece of architecture is the Oriental Pearl Tower. This communications tower has a hotel, fifteen observation decks and a rotating restaurant. All of the landscapes were meticulously manicured and the city was immaculate.

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China has 1.38 Billion people. They are a major player in world affairs. While they embrace Western culture, China is very much still communist. It was covert, but after a while you start to notice things that are off. For one – no Facebook! Things may have changed, but when I was there Facebook was blocked. In fact, my internet connection was pretty shoddy the entire time. Our native travel guide came with his own personal assistant who didn’t speak any English. But probably the biggest display of communist rule was when we went to Tiananmen Square. Troops of armed men march up and down the square. Tiananmen Square has been known for a few violent events. Most recently, the protest for democracy in 1989 that lead to a massacre in the square.

Tiananmen Square China

After visiting the square we went to a shrine. Actually, we went to a lot of shines in China! It was getting hard to keep them all straight. There’s a Chinese tradition where you write the names of your family members on a ribbon, tie it to a statue, and it sends peace and prosperity their way. I need like ten! China has a long history of religion and is considered the cradle to a variety of the most enduring religio-philosophical traditions of the world. Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhiam constitute the three teachings that have shaped Chinese culture.

Burning candles

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Finally – Food right! As you could tell from the tittle, I love food. That’s practically what my blog is about. Going into this trip, I was so excited about learning a different culture and experiencing everything it had to offer. I even went to an authentic South Korean restaurant in Akron, Oh to prepare. My roommate April and I watched every episode of Bizarre Foods. Like, we were ready. And then I got to China, where I was served turtle soup. I really tired to taste everything. The fish was actually pretty good. But I’ve never been so excited to see a KFC in my life! A week into the trip I got dysentery and stuck to veggies, bread and rice for about a week. If you’re expecting Orange Chicken, Lo Mein, and a fortune cookie – think again.

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Pandas! My spirit animal. We drove up into the hills to find this panda reserve. I wanted to take one home with me – If only I could get it through customs.

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I couldn’t talk about China without mentioning the pagodas. We climbed so many. A pagoda is like an ancient Chinese Stairmaster! It’s a tall structure made of brick or stone. They have windows on all sides and a spiral staircase inside. The pagoda is known for their incredible views. Most have 3 to 13 stories (almost always an odd number). Your legs will thank you by the end.

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This site was incredible. I’ve heard about the Terracotta Army, but you can’t comprehend the magnitude until you’re actually there. There are several of these excavation sites where the soldiers were discovered.  The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the army of the first Emperor of China. They were made around 210 BCE and were created to protect the emperor in his afterlife. It wasn’t until 1974 that the soldiers were discovered. Once it was all uncovered there was an estimated 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, and 670 horses. These soldiers are a huge attraction drawling people from all over the world.

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Our last stop was Beijing – the capital of China. Out of all the major cities I’ve been to, I can say this was the smoggiest. I could feel the dirt just resting on my face. Other than that, it was a pretty cool city. On our last night in the city we had a group dinner. Let me tell you, our host and his assistant could put away some alcohol! It was a custom in China that the host of a dinner party would go around and take a shot with each person at the table. All 100 lbs. of that assistant could drink me under the table. After dinner with our Chinese travel guides we hopped a cab and went downtown to party.

The first place we went to was a secret speak easy club. We were taken to a hotdog stand connected to an arena. I kid you not! I though this was the point where we get Taken and Liam Neeson shows up to save us. We walk down a staircase and the wall shifts to reveal this upscale lounge. It was pretty sick! Then we went to a night club. Surprisingly, they listen to the same kind of music we did. Rap, hip-hop and pop. Luckily we all made it home safe and sound by the end of the night.

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My Trip was amazing. Someday I hope to go back and encourage anyone who’s thinking about studying abroad to go for it. You won’t regret it.


Learn about my trip to South Korea.