YFU exchange students with YFU volunteers - from all around the world to China
Goodbyes are hard for me and leaving my family and friends on another continent for one whole year broke a little bit my heart. But between tears and hugs there is something waiting for me - something incredibly interesting and exciting. It's the beginning of my exchange year in China and I decided to take you guys with on my biggest journey I will go so far.
Zurich International Airport - with friends & family
After my 10 hours flight I arrived in Beijing. I stayed there at the YFU (student exchange program) arrival camp with students from all around the world who will also spend their year in China for three days. The food there was so delicious, even though you have to get used to the breakfast first as it's very different from Western countries (rice, noodles, salad, soup, vegetables)
It doesn't only look great but is also tastes really good. Be careful, there might be a chicken head in the plate.
In China eating is more of a communal activity. In contrast to the West, where everyone orders their own meal, which arrives on a plate and is eaten individually, food is shared by all present at the table.
lunch in Beijing - We didn't dare to try this chicken head
countryside of Beijing - YFU arrival camp
train station in Beijing - observing the people and guessing how many TVs there are
After my short stay I finally took the high speed train from Beijing to Shanghai, which finishes the 1'318 km's distance between the two cities in 5 hours. The air in Beijing is very polluted and I noticed this right after the arrival as the visibility was very bad. I took this picture when I was in the train and it gives you a little impression of the bad air quality, eventhough there were still more polluted places. It actually looks like fog but it's polluted air, also called smog.
When I arrived in Shanghai I finally met my lovely host family. Located in the heart of Shanghai my new life will begin...
Only my mother and sister speak English. My dad, grandmother and grandfather don't speak English and it's difficult to lead a conversation as my Chinese skills aren't good enough yet. But we still laugh a lot together.
at the train station in Shanghai - finally meeting my host family
my little Chinese sister and me going out for having breakfast
During the week I have Chinese lessons every morning. I get there by metro as it's very cheap and fast. Currently, the Shanghai Metro System is the world's largest rapid transit system by route length and second largest by number of stations. During rush hours the metro is full of people as you can see down below.
on my way to Chinese lesson by metro in Shanghai
After class I usually go home because it's super hot and humid here and I sweat a lot lol. In the beginning of September I will finally start school again and I'm super excited to meet all the students there. As my family is working the whole day during the week they get home late. We usually eat dinner together and then go to sports.
Oriental Pearl Tower and some other famous buildings in Shanghai
Sweet and delicious or not ready yet to pick?
This weekend we went to a big grape plantation to pick some fresh grapes for home. It was extremely hot there but these grapes here are way more better than in Switzerland - so sweet and delicious. They are growing in paper bags which keeps them protected from insects and sun light.
at the grape plantation
After our "hard work" we had lunch all together at a (of course) Chinese restaurant. My host mother's friends also were there and all the seats were occupated and the table full of food. There were 10 cold dishes and 14 warm dishes. People in China order more food than the group could possibly eat so as to appear generous. In China, the concept of "giving face" requires that guests are well taken care of and well fed. However, I like the idea of sharing food via central plates, because it alows you to eat as much or as little as you want and it's a great way to venture out and try different foods to. I've never tried so many new things in such a short time period!
All in one Shanghai is an extremly modern city, where cash is rapidly becoming obsolete. Almost everyone is using a smartphone to pay for just about everything. They ask if you want to use WeChat or Alipay - the two smartphone payment options - before bringing up cash as third, remote possibility. There is even a bike sharing app. Users locate a bicycle and pay via their smartphones. Once you find a bike on the street (they are everywhere), you input the corresponding bike number into the app and it will give you a code to unlock that particular bike. After your journey you can leave your bike wherever you want and it will charge you automatically.
And now let me answer you the most asked question:
"Why are you spending your exchange year in China?"
Spanish, English or French? Nah, that's too boring for me as these languages are easy to learn! I want to experience something completely different and very exotic. One in five people in the world are Chinese. It's history and civilization stretch back thousand of years. Spending a year living in a Chinese family will help pave the way for a successful understanding of the world's oldest and most impessive civilizations.
Mandarin Chinese is an invaluable skill that employers may love to see on the CV. There are a growing number of job opportunities for those who can speak Chinese - it's a perfect way to make yourself stand out from the crowd. After English, it's one of the most widely spoken countries in the world - so learning Chinese is an entry pass into one of the biggest groups ever. Last but not least China's economy has grown massively in recent years and the country is an important player on the global business stage.
I don't want to miss this chance! ;-)
host families from Shanghai with their exchange students on a Sunday afternoon
Thank you for reading this post!
xx, Daniela W.