China: 4 Weeks in the PRC

Have you ever wondered what 4 weeks in China would feel like?  According to Ryan Ashbaugh, a month in the PRC with INTO China is nothing short of amazing, and challenging in all the best ways.  He explored secluded parts of the Great Wall, discovered hidden gem eateries, and studied at a top Chinese University with people from all over the world. Read on as Ryan shares with us his experiences of a summer spent traveling throughout China.

If you feel inspired to have your own Asian adventure, apply for a scholarship to travel and study in China today!

“If you were to ask me what some of my favorite moments were from the INTO China Summer Program, I’d have to sound cliché, but honest and tell you: “all of them.” A full month in a foreign land may seem like an eternity, with plenty of time for things to turn sour, but in my experience, those 4 weeks flew by in a flash, jam packed with laughter, color, taste, photos, crowds, smells, cab rides, culture, and skewers.

Week One: Expect the Unexpected

Our first taste of the People’s Republic of China was in Beijing. Our group of just over a dozen students, from all over the world, spent the next Friday, Saturday and Sunday exploring all of the sights you would expect to see, such as The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and The Temple of Heaven, but we also took some time to see, taste and hear some things that you might not have found on a Lonely Planet blog or an episode of Globe Trekker. For example, the local representatives from INTO China recommended we have dinner at a restaurant called “A Thousand and One Nights” an Arabian restaurant we would never have thought to seek out, much less be able to find in downtown Beijing on our own.

Week Two: New City, New Adventure

From Beijing, our group set off to Dalian, a “small city” of just under 7 million in the Northeast, where we would embark on our cultural immersion program at Dongbei University of Finance and Economics. Unlike Beijing, which has a great number of bicycles due to its relatively flat cityscape, Dalian required a taxi or bus to get around, because of it’s hilly and sprawling layout. This was perhaps the best feature of daily life in Dalian, an abundance of taxicabs at a very affordable rate. A ride from campus to the main city square, about a half hour ride, cost less than $10 USD. Such cheap and reliable transportation enabled us to explore virtually every aspect of the city, from the beach to the nightlife to the Old Russian District.

Weeks Three & Four: Being Able to Speak Mandarin.. a Little

After two weeks of living and learning in China, we had all adjusted to the culture and language enough to comfortably take on tasks by ourselves like directing a cab driver or shopping for everyday items. I remember one of the first phrases I mastered was “Duo shao qian?” or “how much does it cost?” This phrase soon evolved with several follow up phrases such as “that’s too expensive” and “can you make it cheaper?” It did not take long to learn that virtually every item for sale, other than food and goods sold in chain stores, had to be haggled for. This dance of numbers and cheesy smiles is one that all people in China conduct every day, for many purchases, but as a foreigner, you had your work cut out for you as most merchants viewed tourist as easy prey. For example, a bottle of water at a tourist attraction may cost a foreigner about $1 USD, but for the average Chinese tourist, the same bottle of water could be had for less than 20 cents, with some friendly encouragement. By the end of the fourth week, we all felt like we had found our place in Dalian. Unfortunately, just as we had begun to feel as though we belonged, it was time to go home.”

Inspired by Ryan’s journey? Apply for a scholarship to have your own Chinese adventure!  Abroad101 has partnered with INTO China to give away $15,000 in scholarships this month.  From a summer language and study program, to a Master’s degree, apply before February 15th for your chance to win!