Volunteer Review: Monica T., Law & Business in China
Looking back on my summer in Chengdu, I feel both the joy in my memories and the longing to return that comes with all of life’s magnificent experiences. I began studying Mandarin in school and ever since I wanted to travel to China.
As a rising high school junior, I decided to go on Project Abroad’s Law & Business High School Special project in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province in Southern China. Before leaving, I was very anxious about the city, my language skills and living with a host family. The Projects Abroad staff was very helpful in easing my nerves before the trip.
My Arrival in China
I flew into Chengdu after traveling independently into Beijing. When I arrived at the airport, I was immediately greeted by a Projects Abroad employee who introduced me to one of the other students who I would be spending my time with. I was then brought to my cheerful host family.
In my host family there was a sixteen year old girl, Lenka, who was fluent in English and often took me out to meet with her friends from school. My host family taught me about traditional Chinese foods and holidays and about everyday life in Chengdu.
I have always heard various opinions of China’s “strange” food, but was very excited to try Sichuan dishes. Some of my friends told me that the Sichuan province was famous for its amazing spicy dishes, featuring the Sichuan pepper.
To my surprise, Sichuan cuisine has become my favorite type of food and I love to eat it whenever I miss my time in Chengdu. I believe that the most important thing to do when traveling to China, or anywhere for that matter, is to keep an open mind. It certainly was not what I am used to eating in Boston, but I loved dining in China and quickly became very comfortable finding my top choices on the menu.
The class was particularly interesting to me, because I was able to learn some of the Sichuan dialect that I had never studied before. After class, we went to lunch at a local restaurant and arrived at our first law firm to discuss the structure of the legal system in China. We visited multiple law firms of various sizes throughout the trip to discuss different types of law within the country.
I found the differences between the United States legal system and China’s legal system to be quite fascinating and enjoyed discussing these differences with both my peers and lawyers. The daily activities varied and were always very intriguing. We learned about China’s developing economy, Chengdu’s plans for modernization, Chinese business culture, and the Chinese legal system.
Throughout the course of the two week program, we worked on a business project for China Linguist, one of the major linguistic companies in Chengdu. We presented our work towards the conclusion of the trip. After our presentation, the managers of the company brought us to lunch where we had a riveting conversation about the similarities and differences between western and eastern culture.
My free time in Chengdu was filled with adventure as I immersed myself in a new culture. Every evening, Lenka invited me to local restaurants with delicious Sichuan cuisine and to visit local attractions, like the ancient Jinli Road. I was introduced to her friends from school who were just as eager to practice speaking English with me as I was to practice speaking Mandarin with them. Since it was the end of the school year, we went to dinner with her entire class and afterwards went to sing karaoke together.
During the weekend, we travelled to Lenka’s hometown of Leshan, where I met the rest of her family. On Saturday, we went to see both pandas and the Leshan Giant Buddha. I was so excited to see the pandas, because I had never seen them in person before! The Giant Buddha was a wonderful cultural experience; I was awestruck by the size of the colossal statue built during the Tang Dynasty and was very eager to learn more about Buddhism.
On my last night in Chengdu, I did not want to leave at all! I had fallen in love with the city and Chinese culture. After dinner, I went for a long walk with Lenka and her aunt around her neighborhood where we talked about our great experiences during my two week stay. They had warmly welcomed me into their lives immediately, and as I left, I truly felt that they were my second family.
Since my return to America, I have kept in touch with my host family, the many friends I made through the project, and even some of Lenka’s friends, many of whom want to attend American colleges! I am looking forward to returning to Chengdu. The trip was an unforgettable experience that revealed to me how even though Chengdu is thousands of miles from home, we all share common experiences that can bring us together.
I would recommend the Projects Abroad Law & Business High School Special to every student looking to experience a new culture, form international friendships, and broaden their knowledge of international law and business.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.