Far East of Campus
International business major Nikki Spitzer gives you a glimpse of her recent study abroad to China. She studied at a university in south central China, and took classes from Chinese professors. Seattle Pacific University has been sending groups of students to China every fall since 2004.
I sat on the plane bound for China, feeling conflicted and lost. I was excited for the new adventure, but terrified at the same time. Everything seemed so foreign: the language, communism, and the sheer volume of people. Luckily, I wasn’t going by myself. I was headed on a three-and-a-half month study abroad program with seven other Seattle Pacific University students.
When we arrived, the culture shock was real. Tripe, turtles, and rabbit were common menu items, which was difficult for a picky eater like me. We had to explain our destination in broken Mandarin to motorcycle taxi drivers. The first night in our dorm, a cockroach climbed onto my pillow. It took about a month to feel comfortable.
What helped the most was finding a house church. The government keeps close watch over all religious entities, but if you follow the laws, you can practice Christianity. We met every week in a different apartment because staying in one place would be illegal. The law also required that the church consist of foreigners only. It was the closest thing I had to family in China and helped me see what some people go through to find Christian community. We spent Thanksgiving with church members, had worship nights, and heard testimonies of what God is doing all over China. We sometimes forget how powerful God is.
We studied at Sichuan University in the city of Chengdu during the week and toured China on the weekend. Our Chinese Culture professor lived during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ’70s. That was when Mao Zedong implemented communism by purging intellectuals, religion, and other cultural elements. My professor was sent to “Educated Youth Camps” in the country, where he had to do agricultural work all day and was taught communist propaganda.
I came to China feeling that their business practices hurt American workers, but our Chinese business professor encouraged me to look at things from his perspective. He said that China’s exports to the U.S. and other countries give people in a crowded country a chance to work. We debated both sides, and I felt that I came away with a much broader perspective.
My Chinese Religion professor took us to five different temples and monasteries in Chengdu. The city had been built around the monasteries, and you could see skyscrapers from the tea house. It’s interesting how much religion has informed the culture, even though it’s now highly regulated.
I have been back three months and am still working to understand everything that I experienced. China helped to expand my worldview, and I hope to go back one day.