Getting used to another country

Getting used to another country

John Vitiello

Meet ... John Vitiello

China Study Abroad Major: History
Location: Beijing, China
Studying: Spending four weeks immersed in the Chinese culture while visiting majestic, historical sites and studying at the prestigious Institute of Chinese as Second Language of Peking University.

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I have never been outside the country in my entire life and being in China is a huge culture shock to me. The first few days of being here were hard to adjust too. When I got here I couldn’t speak a word of Chinese, and I have only had four days of classes — each class is four hours long beginning at 8 a.m.

I will say in the United States it was hard for me to get up early. Here it’s no problem, and I love my class we laugh for a lot of the class, and I really feel like I am learning the language. The view I get to see every day when I open my window is great. There is a small garden where I see people doing tai chi.

China Study Abroad Another big difference here compared to the United States is that everyone rides bikes here, and no one says excuse me if they bump into you. They just keep walking and don’t say a thing. The streets are always packed so we get shoved around a lot. However, ordering food here is a major pain for me. I need to just point to what I think looks good and hope they give me something I can stomach.

The first day the only thing we could find was a burger joint, and it was awful I had to wash each bite down. However starting the first Friday night, I really started to love this place. It’s hard to believe I have already been here a week time goes by so fast here; but I’m learning a lot, and I am starting to think about taking up Chinese as a minor.

Learning Chinese

Learning Chinese is nothing like learning Spanish. It is very difficult. Spanish comes pretty easy to me, because it is very similar to English with pronunciation and spelling. Chinese — on the other hand — they pronounce things much differently than English and Spanish. It’s difficult to pick up, but after a while I’m starting to get it. So far I can remember to write down about four characters; two of them I use to write my Chinese name.

My Chinese name is also very odd. It is Hóu zi, which translates into "monkey." The teacher was asking us what you want your Chinese name to be. No one in the class knew, so she asked me what is your favorite animal? I said a monkey, because it was the first thing to pop in my head. So it became my name.

There are two ways to write in Chinese in characters, which just looks like drawings to me and pinyu — which is written in an alphabetic form for how to pronounce words. Pinyu is easier for me to understand, because it is similar to Spanish with accents over words. Learning Chinese has been difficult so far but, I feel like I am going at a decent pace and its starting to get easier.

Food in China

So far the food has been hit or miss with me. Some is really good, and others is not very good. So far Dr. Jing Lou has taken us to two different places for ethnic Chinese food. The first was Peking duck, which was hit and miss on each dish we had for me. I had almost every part of the duck we ate skin, foot, heart, brain, wing, and then the meat of the duck.

The meat to me tasted like very dry turkey. The foot was very rubbery, and my friend Brian and I loaded it up with sauce that was so spicy we were coughing for a few minutes. Of cours we didn’t know what the sauce was or how it was before we tasted it. The heart of the duck was by far the best part of the meal. It was a little dry, but it tasted like it was roasted and I loved it.

The wing tasted bland, and the sauce we had with it was decent. But, I still didn’t like it. Now the brain my friend Curtis and I picked out of the head of the duck since they gave it to us split in two. It was not good at all. It was mushy, bland, and just felt weird. The desert was fruit, which is apparently very common in Japan. My favorite was dragon fruit. It was very sweet and was amazing.

Now our second ethnic meal was Hong Kong food, which a lot of the food looked great in the pictures and tasted great from what I heard the others talking about. I didn’t, or rather I couldn’t, have almost all of the food because almost every dish on the menu was cooked with shrimp and I am allergic. It was a good thing I looked at the food they gave me, because on the menu it didn’t say it ad shrimp in it. So when I was looking at it I saw some shrimp buried under the noodles, I couldn’t eat it.

Now I did have octopus for the first time in my life, and it was great. It was in some curry sauce, so it was spicy and tasted great. I also had a dish that was cheese, mushroom and beef. I don’t like mushroom. The dish was still pretty good though. I can’t wait to try some more food!

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City This was one part of the trip I was really looking forward to ̵2 and besides some ups and downs of this trip — I still had a great time. Frist thing I want to explain was it was extremely hot that day, very humid, very crowded, and a lot of walking.

I got some great pictures of the throne room, which I had to push through a crowd of 40 people to get into a small door way to get the picture. We weren’t allowed to enter the room. We got to walk in the royal garden where we were got to walk where previous emperors walked and relaxed. As a history major, I can’t express how awesome a feeling that is to me.

Walking in the city despite the heat and the crowd was so cool. I am so happy how many pictures I was able to get. Now the only problem with this trip was outside the city when we were heading back this lady was desperately trying to sell us dragon figurine and some small Buddhas. We got her down to 50 Yuan (that’s about $9). The original price was 190 Yuan (that’s about $30). We were happy my friend Sam and I got her that low. However, we didn’t look at the cash she gave us it looked like Yuan when she handed to us , but later when I went to the bar I realized it didn’t have Chairmen Mao on it and was written in some Slovak language. I have no idea how much this money is actually worth. I feel like it’s worth about maybe $5.

I know now to always look at the cash, and now I know I can get any price a person gives me to get it cut down to 30 percent of the original price all you have to do is walk away.

Lost In Beijing

Yep just what the title says I was lost in Beijing with my friend Sam when we got ripped off by the old woman. We were paying her, and we got lost from our group. However, I thought it was funny that we got lost. Luckily between the two of us we could ask for directions.

We asked a lot of people, but not many even looked at us to help. We were walking around for about 10 minutes when we realized we couldn’t catch up with the group. Luckily I bring a map of Beijing with me every time we go out just in case I got lost. And it paid off thanks to that map and the help of one gentleman who could speak very little English. We managed to find our way to a subway station and took it home.

On the way home Sam and I were talking about how our backs hurt because our beds are harder than steal, and our feet were killing us from walking so much. Then we notice a foot massage place, so we decided to go in for the hell of it. We ended up getting full body massages for an hour for 100 Yuan (about $20), and it was amazing.

Sam also told me, which saved me from embarrassment, that in China you do not tip. It’s almost like an insult. We waved goodbye and went on our way to the subway back to the dorms and slept. I thought it was a great experience, and I'll remember it for the rest of my life.

    — John Vitiello, history major