Welcome Lunch to Kick-Off the Start of the Spring Program

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Our first lunch after landing in Suzhou was a traditional meal served at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel. During a traditional meal, all of the dishes are shared with the entire table and eaten with only a spoon or chopsticks, which I am terrible at using. Being in a new place, I decided to be adventurous and sit at a table with all Chinese students, none of whom I knew. All of the Chinese students were so nice to me; they talked to me throughout the meal and showed me how to use the chopsticks the correct way and then proceeded to laugh with me at my failed attempts. Then as each food was brought out, they would tell me what it was and let me try it first. I was also informed that all of the food in Suzhou is sweet, while in different parts of the country it is spicy or has a different distinguishing flavor, kind of how different parts of the U.S. are known for different foods. It was a great experience to step out of my comfort zone by sitting with students I didn't know and trying all of the foods I would normally refrain from.

- Lauren Schmitz, Sophomore, Civil Engineering



A Contrast Between Old and New: Suzhou & Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Suzhou Industrial Park and Suzhou tour consisted of three stops. We began at Li Gong Di, a shopping plaza ornate with intricate waterways and elaborate establishments fitted with grand balconies, porches, and gazebos. From Li Gong Di we traveled to the SIP Exhibition Hall (a museum) which informed us of all the progress up to this date, as well as future plans and expectations, for SIP as a whole. The museum was full of pictures, diagrams, and displays which included a room designated to a fully lit, greatly detailed, birds-eye, full scale model of SIP. From the museum we traveled to our final stop, Pingjiang Road. This road is known for being a great place to go to shop. If one were to picture a Chinese market version of an American strip mall they wouldn't be too far off from Pingjiang Road. These three stops showed only a very small example of the wonderful opportunities and experiences that China has to offer. 

- Daniel Sheldon, Freshman, Biology 

SIP Exhibition Hall - Lobby SIP Exhibition Hall

SIP Exhibition Hall LobbySIP Exhibition Hall Lobby

Li Gong DiLi Gong Di


ACC Open Lecture: “The Status of the US-China Relationship from an Economic Perspective: The Results of the APEC Summit and its Impact on US-China Relations” Jonathan Fritz, Minister-Counselor of Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy, Beijing

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On January 21, economic representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing visited UDCI to give a lecture on the relationship between the U.S. and China. They answered many of our questions and addressed misconceptions that the students and faculty had about the international relationship with China. The subjects discussed included, environmental regulations, cultural clashes, and the growing economy of both countries. Both of the countries dominate the global market as the first and second economies in the world, its important as members of the up and coming generation to improve our relation by respecting, understanding and developing our relationship with the Chinese. To close off the event, the ambassadors inspired us with their journey to representing our country overseas and aiding the strong relationship between our two nations. In addition they reassured our decision in traveling abroad for this integrating experience where the international and domestic students learn a lot about each other’s lifestyle and culture, by calling us “young ambassadors” and applauding us for our efforts to become more globally interconnected.

- Vidyaarthi Pugalenthi, Freshman, Marketing

Open LectureOpen LectureOpen Lecture

The Basilica in Sheshan

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The very word Basilica invokes a sense of calmness and quiet holiness.  There are a few close to my home, and fewer still in China.  When offered the chance to climb the mountain and enter the Basilica, I signed at the first chance.  I have been raised Catholic my entire life, and I have always felt an interconectedness with God while in nature.   The entire place felt peaceful, and I could almost feel the history that had happened in this place. 

-Rachel Craighead, Freshman, Discover Arts

The Basilica in Sheshan

Making the World Our Classroom: Suzhou Corporate Visits

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our first day of corporate visits in China included Higer Bus Company and Black and Decker.   The bilingual tour guide gave us a very detailed description of only a few of the 300 varieties of vehicles the company has to offer.  Examples include buses powered by gas, diesel, and the new electric buses.  The [Higer] tour finished with a quick Q&A session in which we could ask the company anything we wanted, a line of different models of buses in which we could look, and then a quick walk through their factory where buses were being assembled right before our eyes.  Black and Decker was the second stop on our first day of corporate visits.  Hundreds of power tools were displayed on the walls around us in an artistic representation of the company's progress up until the present.  Once we were settled, a presentation was given.  The thing that stuck with me most was that in the last four years (2010-2014), the comnpany has managed to produce one new product a month.  Upon the conclusion of the presentation we were again granted a completely open Q&A session.  The tour of Black and Decker finished with a walk through of the factory in which products were actively being made.  At the end of the day I felt as if I had a greater understanding of the functionality of both Higer and Black and Decker corporations.

-Daniel Sheldon, Freshman, Biology

Higer GroupHiger Bus Company

Black&DeckerBlack and Decker

Education Without Borders: Corporate Visits in Shanghai

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

We went to Shanghai and had a whole day of corporate tours - the U.S. Consulate Commercial Services, Interbrand and Ford.  The experience was beyond my expectations. The second corporate visit was with Interbrand, a branding and product packaging company.  The presenter shared her experiences being an ex-pat living in Shanghai, and she told us that in the U.S. companies are very open to innovative ideas, where in China, branding is much more about telling a story about the history of the brand and how it came to be. To end the day, we visited Ford China, which for me was the best and most rewarding.  As a student in the MGT 494 class, we hae been tasked with formulating a strategy to help Ford introduce and penetrate into the electric car market in China.  Even though the Chinese government is pushing such an initiative, the demand for electric cars in China is limited.

-Jiazhang Chen, Sophomore, Engineering Technology  

Ford ChinaFord Motor Company, China

InterbrandInterbrand, Shanghai: Americans Living and Working in China

2,000 Years of History: Humble Administrator's Garden in Suzhou

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Our first stop was the Humble Administrator's Garden.  This garden was made in the Ming Dynasty by a man who had just retired from a life of politics.  This garden is apparently one of the most famous in China, second only to the Imperial Garden in Beijing.  After the death of this man, his son inherited the garden and shortly gambled it away. The three winners divided the garden into the eastern, central and western portions.  The divisions are made by a pair of corridors which act as walls between the portions.  We started in the eastern portion where the entrance is.  There is a well in this part, and several flower beds and small bamboo-and-thatch structures, which are used for the two annual flower shows held in this garden.  [It] also holds the women's garden, where women would sit, talk, sew and make music, while th men would make various sculptures and paintings for them.  The central part of the garden is home to the various buildings that represent the seasons and are the centerpiece of the various seasonal festivals.  The western piece of the garden is where the Chinese bonsai garden is located.  In this garden is a tower where the family's eldest daughter lived until they were married.  There is also a building where the mistress of the garden would prepare ink and paper, while the master of the garden would use the ink and paper to write poems and paint artwork. I enjoyed our tours very much.  The garden was very beautiful, and the silk factory was educational.  I also enjoyed walking around Suzhou.

-Andrew Buser, Sophomore, Civil Engineering

Humble Admin Garden 1Humble Admin Garden 3Humble Admin Garden 2

Explorers Wanted: Hiking Through Yellow Mountain

Monday, April 13, 2015

There is a saying in China that if you haven't been to Huangshan Mountain, you haven't been to China.  Before coming to China, I had never heard of Huangshan, also known as Yellow Mountain, but now that I have been I don't understand why.  Huangshan Mountain, with its many peaks and valleys, has an amazing effect where the clouds seem to roll over the mountain like they are part of a river.  However, in the morning before the sunrises, the mountain is engulfed in clouds so that, as the sun rises, the different parts of the mountain slowly come into view.  It is really amazing to see the sunrise on the top of a mountain.  The views during the day are equally as stunning.  One of the peaks we climbed before reaching the hotel, Begin to Believe Peak, lives up to its name.  When you begin to climb the mountain and reach the Begin to Believe Peak you can start to really see the mountain itself and all of the gorgeous views it offers.  The other peak we climbed, Bright Summit Peak, is the second tallest and offers even more amazing views.  It takes a while to climb all the stairs leading to the top, but once you reach it you realize the hard work is totally worth it.  The peak offers a view of the mountain below and lets you see into the distance above the clouds.  Huangshan Mountain is absolutely gorgeous and is truly a place everyone should visit before they leave China.

-Lauren Schmitz, Sophomore, Civil Engineering

YM 1YM 2


Cultural Immersion: Chinese New Year with Local Suzhou Families

During the celebration of Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, China Institute students stayed with host families throughout China to celebrate the holiday and learn more about Chinese culture and tradition.  Afterwards, students were asked to participate in an essay writing competition, reflecting on their recent experiences. Thank you to all those who participated, and congratulations to our winners! 

First Place - "Spring Festival: Old Traditions in a New Light"
Vidyaarthi Pugalenthi. Freshman, Marketing
Prize: iPad

“...It was the second night I was staying in the Zhou household for the celebration of Spring Festival. I spun the lazy Susan, Mrs Zhou and Mr Zhou looked at me to ask as how the food was, and with a grin I tried food from the feast of Chinese style noodles, rice, fish and Indian food. I replied, “hao chi.” My attempt to show my gratitude through my broken Chinese made my host sister Jenny giggle and her grandparents excited as I caught them off guard.

We finished our dinner and rushed outside before it got too dark. I held Jenny’s hand and we skipped out to the small street in front of the house. Mr. Zhou lit the fuse and Jenny and I let go of each other and sprinted in opposite directions as we heard the popping and whistling of the fireworks. I looked up and spun myself in circles twisting to get the best angles to look at the vibrant blossoms in the sky. The unintentional twirling in the dark street made me feel like a child. I felt so free.

I remembered running barefoot on the black tar street in the little suburb in Kentucky with all the other kids. The sprinklers grew exponentially that Independence Day. We were lighting off small firecrackers and running away screaming pretending like they were going to explode and soar into the sky. I remember running so fast we felt like we could fly. I slowly brought myself back to the reality; I stood at the street corner and watched the joy on the faces of my new friends and family who made my first Spring Festival in China one to remember.

The beautiful thing about the holidays is that no matter where you are in the world it’s meant to make you remember the things that matter the most, - the people you miss and the times that may have been forgotten or overlooked. Spring festival isn’t about the fancy outings or extravagant gifts. It’s about being happy. The things that truly make us happy are the people we surround ourselves with and the moments that make us who we are today. During the Spring Festival, I felt more in touch with my own story while I created a new one with some kind-hearted people that I lived with in the heart of Suzhou. Whether its summer times in India with my grandparents, running the streets on the 4th of July with my Kentucky family and friends, or exploring the colorful reds and golds of spring festival with three new smiling faces of the Zhou family: Tradition is about celebrating a culture and generations of getting together with family and friends."


Second Place - "Chinese Spring Festival from an American Perspective"
Lydia Williamson
Freshman, Marketing
Prize: Scholarship

"There are approximately 7,327 miles from my where I am living in Suzhou, China to my home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Traveling half way around the world is a bold move for a 19 year old college student. Upon arrival, China welcomed me with open arms. The first thing I was drawn to was China’s unique culture and breath-taking sights. After a few weeks of staying in China, I quickly learned how truly captivating China is! 

The admiration of the Chinese people was shown when a local family adopted me into their home for my first Chinese Spring Festival. My host family ensured I had the most authentic Spring Festival an American could have. As an artist, the best way for me to express my feelings was to attempt to paint it.  I spent some time reflecting and then used my watercolors to come up with a few pieces of art to share.

The first painting represents all the streets strung with red lanterns and the doors of houses decorated with red papers. I was taught that the color red symbolized luck and good fortune. It was an honor when my host family asked me to help hang up some of their decorations. It reminded me of Christmas time when my family puts up the Christmas tree. Walking around Suzhou, I noticed that the entire city had been illuminated with the color red. It was something I had only ever seen in movies!

The next event I chose to represent in my paintings was the Buddhist temples I visited. Countless Chinese people devote their time during Spring Festival to their religion. My host family generously brought me to two different Buddhist temples. I witnessed a completely different way to worship. Thousands of people crowded into the temple’s courtyard and proceeded to light incense. Once lit, they prayed and thanked the gods for all that they have received in the past year.  Walking through the temple, I followed the lead of those around me and held my hands together and wished for a life full of good fortune and happiness. It was beautiful and enlightening to participate in this religious tradition.

The last painting I created was of the nightly fireworks. Every night at about 10 o’clock you could hear the “boom, boom, boom” of the fireworks going off outside.  My host family loved fireworks as much as me and the rest of Suzhou.  I learned that setting off fireworks during Spring Festival is actually a part of an age old tale told in China. It was once believed that a man-eating monster would come out at night and the only thing it was afraid of was loud noises. Fireworks were used to scare the monster away. This was one of my favorite parts because it brought back memories from home.

My home in America may be 7,327 miles from where I am staying China, but it feels like I am not that far away. I have a home in Suzhou, China and I feel pride when I get the opportunity to tell people about my adventures in China. 



Third Place - "Spring Festival: A Cultural Immersion and Experience"
Jesse Thompson, Freshman, Marketing
Prize: Scholarship

"The Chinese New Year, often referred to as the Spring Festival, is the celebration of a new year in accordance to the lunar calendar and is also China’s largest holiday. My roommate Dan and I received the phenomenal experience of staying with a host family, the Johnson’s, during the festival while studying abroad in China. I was informed that my host family was half British and half Chinese. My purely Chinese host mother, Annie, and her English husband, John, had two teenage children named Catherine and Jack.

On my first day arriving at the Johnson home, we began the Spring Festival traditions. The first tradition was the writing of fortune, as well as other Chinese characters on scrolls of scarlet red, and small pigments of gold leaf. I learned to use the brush and black ink to create characters, and then we hung the ornate scrolls around each door entry as part of tradition. I then participated in the tradition of dumpling making, in which we hid small coins in the dumplings because, if one is found while eating, it’s good luck.

This led to the biggest tradition of Spring Festival, which was the massive family dinner. Before leaving to stay with my host family, friends and professors often explained Spring Festival to be the equivalent of an American Thanksgiving. I found this to be very true with my host family. Sitting at the table I can recall feeling overwhelmingly full, yet more dishes of delicious food continued to fill the round table. Each dish was different and represented something important to the festival. After dinner, my host family and I enjoyed watching the Spring Festival Gala, which is similar to the ball dropping ceremony during the American New Year.

As midnight approached we were given sparklers and walked through the garden by the Johnson’s home to see the various colors and booms that lit up China’s sky. Once the fireworks calmed, and we could only see smoke, we congratulated everyone around us. The Johnson’s and I called exuberantly to the neighbors, “Xin Nian Kuai Le,” which means happy New Year in Chinese. We returned to the Johnson’s home for an exchange of red envelope money.

On my last day with the Johnson’s, Annie wanted to spend some quality time with Dan and I. We had previously mentioned that we are very interested in Buddhism, and wanted to see a temple if possible. Annie made an appointment with the master of a local Suzhou temple. We ventured to the temple, and met the master, who in Chinese is called, Shifu. We meditated, drank tea, and ate lunch, all at the temple with Shifu. The experience ended with a gift.  Shifu explained to Dan and I our elements during lunch, and what we lacked in our lives. He graciously gave us a handmade wooden bracelet, explaining that wood would balance us, and we gladly accepted it and thanked him.

I came out of the Spring Festival experience with far more than just, “I enjoyed my time with the Johnson’s.” I left with an array of new friends, findings, and a broadened open mind. Spring Festival was but a stepping stone in my path of friends and experiences.  The Johnson’s, and the many individuals they introduced me to, truly gave me a new beginning in China. They allowed me to explore a different perspective aside from any other student.  I am forever grateful for this unique opportunity, and cannot wait for our next meeting."


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