NYU Gallatin Travel Blogs

Reflections from Students Traveling on Gallatin Programs

Category: China Fellowship (page 1 of 2)

Bryant Payne, China Fellowship, Shanghai, China

The golden roofs of the Forbidden City on the smoggy backdrop of Beijing

The golden roofs of the Forbidden City on the smoggy backdrop of Beijing

During my third weekend at NYU Shanghai, my peers and I traveled to Beijing to learn more about China’s political center: Beijing. The city was hot and humid: a strange combination in Beijing’s near-desert climate. My classmates and I were quick to take water breaks and duck into the shade during our busy touring schedule.

I’d been to Beijing once before the Beijing Culture Trip, so most of the tourist sites weren’t anything new to me. I actually found myself summarizing the tour guide’s speeches to any friends who were interested in the city’s history, but to impatient to listen to anything less than an abridged version. But even though I’d seen Beijing;s tourist attractions before, I couldn’t escape the charms of the Forbidden City. Walking beside the marble dragon, it’s not difficult to imagine a young emperor and his entourage passing deliberately through each gate, adhering to each tradition. And due to restorations being funded by the Chinese Government, many parts of the palace were like new. I can’t fully describe the power of the Forbidden City, but in spite its sweltering summer heat and enormous crowds, the old palace fills me with joy and wonder.

The area between two of the palace’s many heavenly gates

The area between two of the palace’s many heavenly gates

Beijing and all its history is wonderful, but my favorite thing about traveling to China’s capital stands far outside the city: The Great Wall of China. In my opinion, no visit to Beijing is complete without a trip up the Great Wall. The Wall is ancient and even dangerous in some part, but seeing its brilliantly engineered walkways, gutters, and watchtowers is quite humbling. During my visit with NYU Shanghai, my friends and I challenged ourselves to traverse the Wall as quickly as we possibly could. We managed to climb up 14 towers and return in an hour and a half. Our legs were shaking by the end of tbe sprint, but the spent energy had left us with great pictures, and even greater memories. I’ll always remember my time with my classmates on the Great Wall of China with smile.

The Great Wall of China stretching up and over a mountain

The Great Wall of China stretching up and over a mountain

Bryant Payne, China Fellowship, Shanghai, China

While I’ve devoted a large portion of my time here in Shanghai to practicing my Mandarin and doing homework for Intermediate Chinese II, the most interesting and fulfilling bits of knowledge I’ve gained on my trip have come from my other NYU Shanghai course: US-China Relations.

My Gallatin Concentration, like any other student’s, is an ever-changing concept. It is however rooted in the study of governments from all over the world, and their interactions. US-China relations has informed my concentration more than I could have ever hoped for. Not only were the lessons wonderful (my professor was very knowledgeable, and even more charming), but Shanghai itself is a model of international relations. Take for example the Bund, a 5 km stretch of buildings from the old British concession. For decades, the British were intimately involved with the economics of Shanghai, and the west bank of the Huangpu River was their base of operations. Today, old British Embassies, banks, and other buildings fly the flag of the People’s Republic China, proudly displaying Shanghai’s heritage as both the conquered, and as conquerors. And directly across the river from this poetic display is the new Shanghai: Pudong. The city’s financial center shines brightly (too brightly if you ask me. It’s worse than Times Square) to let the rest of the world know that it will not conquered again.

Pudong on a Saturday Night

Pudong on a Saturday Night

 

A British Clocktower

A British Clocktower

Shanghai’s historical attachment to western nations can still be felt today. Of all the cities in China, Shanghai is the most like New York. In addition to obvious similarities, like the population’s comparative wealth disparity and glitzy nightlife, there are more covert ones, such as the architecture’s ability to tell history. Just like in New York, the buildings in Shanghai reveal more than meets the eye. There are buildings in French style, Russian style, Spanish style, Italian style, American style, and obviously British style all throughout Puxi (land west of the Huangpu River). The buildings in the International and French Concessions reveal China’s history with western imperialism, and evoke memories of war and exploitation. At the same time, they also bring Shanghai’s population closer to the rest of the world. Moreso than in other cities, Shanghainese people immerse themselves in international cultures. In Shanghai, there are stores and restaurants from all over. I even ate at a Turkish place. The people of Shanghai are proud of their international roots. Though most of China criticizes them for their elitism and “lack of culture,” the Shanghai I see is simply more open to the world, and less fixated on the past. Those are the traits I adore. Maybe it’s because they remind me of home.

The Bund from above

The Bund from above

Wish the flags could be seen more clearly…

Qing Ma-Gallatin China Fellowship: China’s Transformation from Socialism to Capitalism: Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics

My concentration in Gallatin is entrepreneurship and cross cultural communication between China and the U.S. Born in Shanghai and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, my passions lie in building cultural bridges, promoting positive community and driving economic growth between China and the U.S. NYU Shanghai is the place to practice my passion into action. Continuing one of the topics that I discussed in my last blog post about “order and censorship in China”, the main point that I want to reckon here is “freedom”.

 

I got asked these questions from my friends in the states very often: “Can Chinese people have their own voice? Does Chinese Communist government arrest people if the people say anything bad about them? Do Chinese people protest?” From what I saw in China this summer, the question that to which extent does freedom exist in China should be answered under two context: one through a political lens and the other through an economic lens.

 

Through a Political Lens

Politically, China is still Communist as ever. The government still controls its society. For example, every bank in China is state owned. This means that the government decides which bank can get the most loans and benefits. Another example is that Chinese media is wholly state-owned too. Chinese media filters out unfavorable images and offer uniformed favorable news. However, in terms of people’s freedom of speech, I found it is actually common for Chinese people to talk about politics nowadays. During my days in Shanghai, I found Chinese people love to talk about politics, especially over dinner tables. It has become a popular culture for Chinese people to express their opinions and discuss their government with friends and families. Just like Americans, Chinese people complain and make jokes about their government too. Some popular topics among Chinese people are corruptions in the government, fear of housing bubbles in China, and China’s bad air pollution.

 

Through an Economic Lens

Porsche sold more cars in China than in the United States. Grew by 12%, China became Porsche’s number 1 single market for total deliveries of 65,246 in 2016. It seems like there are a lot of Capitalism in China, a country that calls itself communist. How communist is China nowadays?

 

I found that China, the knowingly communist country, is not as communist as the rest of the world think it is. From Gucci’s giant, eye-catching billboard on West Nanjing Road, to a series of illuminated screens for ads along Shanghai Metro’s tunnel wall, to a cashless Chinese society created by the Chinese social media app Wechat, I saw element of capitalism and consumerism in Shanghai everywhere I walked by. China is eager to adopt capitalist ideologies and methods in a hope to stimulate economic growth and build up Chinese confidence.

 

However, China is different. Thirty years ago, Deng Xiaoping, the leader of Chinese economic reform changed Mao’s policy of “Four Modernization”(agriculture, industry, science and technology and military) to “Reform and Opening and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. Doing business in China is so much different than doing business in the US as China has enormous cultural roots that serve as base for Chinese characteristics. Building interpersonal relationships with clients, fostering trust and keeping a good record of reviews and recommendations are essential for doing business in China. Chinese cultural roots define the nation’s identity while evolve over the millennials which allow for fast adaption. Chairman Xi now introduced the idea of Chinese Dream. The dream of Chinese citizens in the 20th century is to be able to buy things that they “wanted” not just the things that they “needed”. In Shanghai, you can see foreign brands everywhere.

 

China’s economic reform to a capitalist society along with its rapid economic growth in the recent 10 years provided its people much more freedom and resources than it did before and made it possible for its citizens to buy what they want.

 

Qing Ma-Gallatin China Fellowship-2017: China, Its People, and Metro Stations: Order in Disorder

When people heard that I was going to study abroad in China, they joked: “Oh you are going to study at home.” I laughed with them. But I knew in my heart that my experience in China would be more than “living at home” because I have not been living in this country for more than eight years now. As I spent the majority of my teenage life in America, many of my memories for the country had faded away as days went by. Thanks to the Gallatin China Fellowship, I was able to come to Shanghai this summer and pick up my childhood memories with the local people here. Yes. People.

I was prepared to see a lot of people here because my childhood memories of crowded Shanghai streets were still in the back of my mind. However, little did I know that there were way more people here than I could ever imagine, especially in the Century Avenue metro station near NYUSH campus and the Hongqiao railway station. The Chinese idiom “people mountain people sea” (人山人海), which is equivalent of “a sea of people”, seems to be the perfect way to describe the crowd scene. You can get a sense of what I am talking about from the photo below. 

Shanghai Museum

Angela Yu
China Summer Fellow 2016
China

peach vase artifacts traditional vaseswoodprint of a duckgolden artifact

南腔北调: Accents

Angela Yu
China Summer Fellow 2016
China

The Chinese language class I’m taking is called Elementary Chinese for Advanced beginners, meaning that it’s a course for students with a Mandarin-speaking background who never formally learned to read or write in Chinese. Though I found the class to be a good fit for my level in Chinese, I found it to be a strenuous class. Since I grew up with Taiwanese parents, I never learned how or when to curl my tongue when speaking Mandarin. Because of this, I spend most of my time in class incessantly and needlessly curling my tongue at every word that begins with “c” “z” or “s”. Hopefully I will be able to master this one day. Since the class is tailored to those of a Mandarin-speaking background, many of the passages in the textbook relate to being a huayi (Chinese born overseas). I particularly appreciated a passage about accents, and how ultimately, as long as we get the point across when speaking, having a different accent is fine. However, the moral of the story abruptly ended being that you still had to speak Putonghua in class (standard Mandarin).

My teacher Wang Laoshi also showed the class a video in class of an actor speaking Mandarin with 18 different accents. Some accents were so different that I wouldn’t have believed they were speaking Mandarin if I wasn’t paying much attention. I was surprised at just how many accents there were, and how specific and unique each one was. Chinese accents should be an entire class. Looking back, it seems obvious that a place as large and diverse as China would have multitudes of different accents. In Taiwan, I am usually ousted at once as a huayi when I speak Mandarin with my Americanized accent. I expected it to be the same result in Shanghai, yet I was surprised when people just asked me if I was from another part of China, such as Guandong. Now I know that it’s because there are just so many different people from different parts of China in Shanghai, everyone with their own unique accent.

One Month In China

Eli Clemens
Gallatin China Summer Fellow 2016
China

As of today I have been in China for over a month.  Besides traveling to Xi’an for three days, I have stayed put in Shanghai. Because I will also be studying away here next semester, I have not felt much pressure to travel to other parts of China until I have a good sense of Shanghai.

Much of my time has been filled with Chinese class.  Being immersed in a predominantly Mandarin-speaking environment, my idea of what true proficiency in conversational Mandarin will actually take has changed.  This is partly due to the fact that Shanghainese speak with a strong accent – if not an entirely different-from-Mandarin dialect – and few locals speak more than basic English.

As a result I have been more motivated to review old characters, learn new words, watch Chinese TV shows, and most importantly, attempt to speak Mandarin with cab drivers, waiters, or anyone else I happen to start a conversation with.  Having a long, complex conversation without having to constantly think what to say next seems a long way off, but I am much better than I was a month ago, and every new day I spend in China means that – theoretically! – I should be improving.

In my free time, I have mostly been exploring Shanghai. The first week I bought a bike and so I have been biking around and taking pictures pretty often.  I have also been going on a lot of school trips to various sites and museums in Shanghai.  Here are some pictures I’ve taken so far:

Shanghai from the bus from a bridge

Shanghai from the bus from a bridge

Shanghai's oldest neighborhood, older tall buildings in the distance.

Shanghai’s oldest neighborhood

Yu Garden and still pond

Yu Garden

Yu Garden greenery

Yu Garden

Yu Garden rocky area

Yu Garden

Yu Garden dragon statue

Yu Garden

Yu Garden Koi fish in pond with children surrounding

Yu Garden

more koi fish

Yu Garden

rock statues in garden

Yu Garden

home office with desk

Recreation of a typical 1920s Shanghai house

Cat in supermarket

Cat in store

man riding bike on wet pavement

My friend T

Bike stand of orange bikes lined up

Biking around

Tall buildings

Biking around

Highway with cars

Biking around

Canal with houses surrounding

Biking around

canal

Zhujiajiao watertown

Man standing on boat on the water

Zhujiajiao watertown

people waiting at a bus stop

Biking around

tall  building with many air-conditioners

Biking around

tall buildings

Xi’an

terra cotta soldiers

Terracotta warriors

more terra cotta soldiers

Terracotta warriors

more terra cotta soldiers in museum

Terracotta warriors

terra cotta soldiers in museum

Terracotta warriors

terra cotta horses in museum

Terracotta warriors

people looking at terra cotta statues in museum

Terracotta warriors

terra cotta soldier and horse

Terracotta warriors

foggy mountains

Xi’an

two people outside

My friends Eric & Jackie

woman writing in Chinese calligraphy

My friend Ellen

woman sitting outside

My friend Sydney

man biking alongside a street

My friend T

couple in garden near water

My friends Jeffrey & Amelia

Shanghai night skyline

Shanghai by night

关系: Connections

Angie Shu
China Summer Fellow 2016
Shanghai, China

To succeed in China, a businessman must have guanxi (关系). To describe this concept insufficiently in English terms, guanxi is a network of influence formed by connections and relationships. In just the first two weeks of being in Shanghai, I was able to understand the importance of guanxi, enjoy the benefits it offered, and be cautious to preserve its delicate nature.

During my parents’ stay in Shanghai two decades ago, they had inadvertently prepared a network for me when they made friends with their classmates. They never would have thought that their daughter will grow up to meet and establish professional relationships with those friends. I only met and talked with my father’s classmate (I will call her Aunt F) once in high school when she visited us in California. We had talked late into the night over cups of tea about the business possibilities in Shanghai. Our lengthy conversation had to end because she needed to wake up early to fly back to China.

Years later, my mother created a WeChat group with Aunt F and me. In a broken attempt to speak Chinese politely, I greeted Aunt F to let her know that I was coming to Shanghai to follow up with her suggestions. Excited, she connected me to a position at a center located in her high-rise building. After meeting up with her during my first week in Shanghai, she had already extended my web of connections to tens of business opportunities, each path a viable career choice that could be overlapped with another.  Of course, I had to exercise caution to maintain both my familial guanxi with Aunt F and the fragile guanxi with the new people I met. The delicious traditional Chinese dinners I had each day meeting new people introduced by Aunt F were analogous to the overwhelming excitement I had for what I previously thought would be a bland future.

全球化 Part 2

world map showing three people on different continents

Matthew Gibson
China Summer Fellow 2016
Shanghai, China

From an American perspective, conversations about race, ethnicity, and identity are increasingly common.  However, in China, these conversations happen at very small scales.  Almost the entire country shares the same ethnic heritage, and there is no adequate translation of “identity” be it personal or social.  But at NYU Shanghai, there is a growing awareness of issues of social justice that I believe is moving the student body in a positive direction.

I spoke with a few friends about their experiences outside of China and how things changed when they returned home.  Below, I have included important highlights from my conversations with three of them as well as paraphrasing of their original responses in Chinese.


Jack is an undergraduate student in New York who was raised in Inner Mongolia and later moved to Shanghai for high school.  He believed that there is often a prejudice against students who study away or leave China, because much of the older generation views it as an attempt for young people to escape the Chinese gaokao–higher education entrance exam.  But he finds that more and more young people see the advantage of going abroad, which he says it true from his personal experience.  After only one year abroad, his understanding of himself and his personal identity has deepened, and when he thinks of himself in comparison to his Chinese peers, he finds that his mindset is more open and he thinks at larger scales than before.

呼和是哥伦比亚大学大二学生。他在内蒙古出生的,在上海上高中。他说明中国内人对留学生或者海归会有偏见是因为有人认为留学生希望逃避高考,但是呼和说肯定不是所有人。他觉得年轻人也越来越意识到国内教育的坏处和国外经历对于个人发展的好处。所以越来越多的人开始考虑留学或者去国外工作。他回中国以来,觉得他比普通的中国人学生想法更多,对自己的了解身份更明显,清晰。他说出国之后他对自己各方面的潜力有了更多的探索。出国的一年里尝试了很多新鲜事物,可以说他的身份还是在不断变化。


Chris is a Shanghainese student at NYU Shanghai who spent the last year studying at NYU Tel Aviv.  Chris feels that after returning to Shanghai, many Chinese think that his behavior and his actions don’t agree with what is expected of him, and if he doesn’t act according to Chinese standards, he might be accused of becoming too “Western” or too obsessed with Western culture.  Speaking from his experience abroad, he thought that while at home he only represents his school and his family, but while in Tel Aviv, he represented all of China and his people.

一天是上海纽约大学大四学生。去年他在以色利留学。一天回上海之后,他觉得中国人对他会有偏见。他们会觉得他行为举止不像传统的中国人,如果他没有按照中国的标准来做,他们会觉得他是因为习惯了西方的管理,可能把觉得他崇洋媚外。他觉得他在国内,只代表他的家庭和学校,而在国外,他代表的是整个中国,整个中华民族。他觉得出国有很多好处,但是,他觉得出国坏处是可能会失去根本的文化观念。赵一天觉得很多普通的中国大学生安于现状,没有敢于挑战自己的生活。


July is a Hangzhounese student at NYU Shanghai who studied away in New York City and Madrid last year.  When talking about the prejudice that Chinese students who study away face at home, she said that she often hears that she must be wealthy or not have good enough grades if she wants to study abroad.  Other times she hears, why haven’t you brought back a foreign boyfriend after being away for so long?  While abroad in Madrid, she felt like many people were unaware of Chinese culture and society, so she represented “China” and as a result she paid more attention to her behavior and actions.

之颖是上海纽约大学大四学生。去年他在马德里和纽约留学。她说,回来上海以后,有一些中国人会开玩笑:“你出国留学了,一定很有钱吧?”还有一些会说:“你为什么要出国留学呢,是因为成绩不够好吗?”还有一些会说:“怎么出去了那么久,还不带一个外国的男朋友回来呢?”但是,他觉得一般会有这些偏见的都是年纪比较大的中国人。她认为出国了之后她觉得她更加代表中国,所以她会更加注意她的行为禁止。

 

Years ago, Chinese people who left China were looked down upon and persecuted.  Over time they came to be highly respected, and now are so prominent in Chinese society that they are almost common-place. There are many misconceptions that the outside world has regarding China, and to be fair, China has many misconceptions about the outside world as well.  But in a globalizing society, we see more and more connections being built across borders and divisive lines, and our perceptions of one another are changing in turn.  The experiences of these three young people are just a few perspectives on this social change, but I feel that they show the impact that is already occurring.

全球化 Part 1

Matthew Gibson
China Summer Fellow 2016
Shanghai, China

graphic of skyline using Chinese-like characters

My artistic redesign of the Shanghai skyline designed for the NYU Shanghai Residential Life office.

I refer to my self-designed major in Gallatin as “Globalization”, the academic and philosophic study of a changing world culture.  I focus on questions of identity development as it relates to physical, political, and metaphorical boundaries as well as how they are changing in the face of an increasingly interconnected and transient world.  Without even fully realizing it, New York University Shanghai is the ideal location to witness globalization in action.

Thanks to the Gallatin China Fellowship, I was able to extend my stay in Shanghai for the summer, and enroll in the Advanced level of Mandarin Chinese.  At the end of the session, we were tasked with preparing an 8 minute presentation on any kind of social change, so I took the opportunity to consider modern Chinese diasporic networks.  This was a culmination of the informal interviews I had unknowingly been conducting over the last months with my friends as I asked them about their lives, their travels, and how they view themselves in a changing society–with the added bonus that I would be recording their perspectives and my observations completely in Chinese.

In Chinese history, the thought of leaving China was discouraged and outright outlawed.   From 1370 to as late as 1893, the Chinese Imperial Government denied that there was any emigration out of China of any kind.  The few who left the Kingdom Under Heaven were usually traders or merchants who were often denied entry upon their return and had very low status in society.  However, over time, migrants settled around the world with varying welcome from their new communities.When the Imperial Government learned of the success of these Chinese emigrants, especially those who settled in Southeast Asia, they recognized the value of having wealthy and influential citizens abroad who were still loyal to their homeland.  These Chinese were renamed “华侨”, huaqiao,or the Chinese Overseas.  Today, huaqiao,is less commonly used, but there is a new wave of Chinese migration to the outside world.

Over the last 50 years, the People’s Republic of China has undergone massive social, cultural, and economic change.  However, the rest of the world has been slow to realize it.  Speaking from personal experience, many Americans are uninformed about the current state of China and a close friend shares with me that, in Peru, to say, “I’m going to China,” is a popular facetious expression meaning you are going to “the end of the world.”  Until recently, the outside world relied on popular Orientalist narratives that blurred the image of this country.

Today, more and more young people are leaving China whether to study, work, or simply travel.  This new generation is a manifestation of Modern China, and is tasked, willingly or not, with becoming the representative of it’s entire culture.  I recently spoke with seven close friends who represent a variety of “Chinese” experiences.  In the next post, I will share highlights from my conversations with three of them about what it is like to be Chinese is a globalizing world.

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