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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Student shares experience in Asia

Friday, September 7, 2007  
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By Erin Minor

On September 1st, 2007 at 4:20 a.m., a group of 29 eager students embarked on the journey of a lifetime.  It was a morning filled with mixed emotions as several families and friends said their goodbyes to the Pacific Rim 2007 group.  Oddly enough, the trip began with a relatively short flight to Houston, followed by a second stop in Los Angeles.  Finally, the group boarded an enormous two-story plane and headed for Japan.  The 11 hour flight included unique foods such as jellyfish during mealtimes and an array of movies to keep the students entertained.

After landing in Tokyo, students immediately noticed that much of Japan appears to be bilingual.  Almost every sign is written in both Japanese and English.  This initially caused some students to forget they were so far from home, while others had already become a bit homesick.  The group stayed just one night in Japan before heading to their first long-term destination; Beijing, China.  Their next two weeks will be spent at Capital Norman University, where they will enjoy a blend of study and travel.

Courtney recalls several of the Chinese students staring at her, stating, “I felt like a celebrity.” These stares were directed not only toward Courtney, but the group as a whole.  Americans are a rare sight in China.  In fact, some Chinese people have never seen an American at all.  So, fascination was the order of the day as Chinese Nationals stared at the OC “foreigners”, and the Pac Rim students got their first taste of what it is like to feel so completely different.  Many of the Chinese people limited their curiosity to stares.  Others took pictures from a distance, while more outgoing people actually approached the Pac Rim group and asked to have their pictures taken with one or more of the students - especially students who were taller or had blonde hair.

The Pac Rim semester is not just one long traveling adventure.  In China, the group is required to attend class in the morning.  Sessions include Chinese Economy, Chinese History, China’s Social Issues, and Chinese Folk Custom.  After class, the group splits up and eats lunch by themselves.  Ansley recalls one of her first experiences at a restaurant around campus; “We walked in and immediately realized that no one spoke any English,” she observed.  By looking at pictures in the menu, she was able to order a coke and a few food items that seemed like they would be palatable to her American taste.  Soon after ordering, Ansley was in for a big surprise. “The server came out with a huge fish in a net and it was alive!  The lady seemed like she was looking for approval from us, so we just gave her a thumbs up.”

The first historical site for the Pac Rim group was the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.  The Forbidden City was the Imperial Palace during the Ming and Qing Dynasties and is now open to the public.  It features a wide variety of architecture, courtyards, and gardens.  Tiananmen Square is the site where student protestors were killed in 1989.  It also includes a portrait honoring Mao Zedong, who announced the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.  The students had studied background history of both sites during the summer before their trip, so they were fascinated to finally visit them first hand.

In less than one week, the Pac Rim 2007 group has experienced a culture and a people unlike any they have previously known.  More than the fact that they look foreign to Chinese on the outside, they realize the core of their being, God, is even more foreign to most of these people.  They know God has great plans for them this semester, and they wait with anticipation to see how He will mold them into better witnesses for Christ throughout their journey. 

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