Smooth Sailing and Chicken Feet:

My initial weeks in China!


Socorro Carrillo, Cactus Editor

Not many people get the chance to travel to a foreign country or even the next state over, until exactly 20 days ago I was one of those people. The spring 2015 semester has brought with it the wonderful opportunity to study abroad at North Eastern University in Shenyang, China.

Let’s go back to the beginning shall we? Well not the very beginning, but at least the few minutes before Monique and I boarded the first plane. Needless to say I was the not the calm before the storm. My insides were more like the burgeoning panic of Mt. Vesuvius erupting. Every possible thought and outcome was bursting throughout my brain like a space age war. A negative bit would mushroom here, an excited blip would explode like a comet there. As crazed as I felt on the inside everything around me was moving swiftly and efficiently. The serene orderliness of an airport is something I never thought I would be appreciative of, but 15 hours later I discovered I already missed it. Once we reached South Korea we immediately entered a whole other ball game. The comfort of a clear line through security is something I never thought I would desperately look for. It was nowhere to be found and sometime later we finally arrived in Shenyang.

Since my experience with foreign travel is slim forgive my naiveté when I say I thought I would feel totally and completely different. I was under the impression that I would step off the plane and feel the newness in my bones. Alas, I didn’t, I actually felt a little suffocated. The newness and unfamiliar was more intimidating than it was exciting. I couldn’t read any signs and after the experience in the South Korean Airport I was already feeling exhausted. Fortunately, because I wasn’t traveling alone I felt a surge of reassurance as my newly established partner in crime was exuberant as she rolled through the airport and customs.

Soon I was rolling too, it took me about a week to adapt to the weather, (it snows here, it does not do that in my little part of Arizona,) time, and people’s reactions. In Shenyang, Americans aren’t as abundant as I thought they’d be. For example, Monique and I are two of seven total Americans in the Chinese language program. Everywhere we went the stares and pointing were countless. While the sly and not-so sly picture taking never seemed to end. However, these things were the only things that I really needed to adapt to. I jumped right into my Chinese classes headfirst. Picking up every little bit I could actually say and remember. I started having the best time speaking in a blend of Spanish, English, and the small amount of Chinese I knew hoping the person I was talking to could pick up the gist of what I saying.

By the second week I had a chance to explore the city around me which was a lot bigger than I realized. My Chinese friends took me to Wal-Mart which was three stories high and included fancy magnetic escalators. I had tried just about every interesting chip flavor I could find and every snack my new friends pointed out to me as personal favorites. Including Spicy chicken feet which were actually pretty haochi (delicious.)

This third week has yet to come to a close but I have to say with a certain brand of American optimism that it’s going to be smooth sailing from here. I can’t wait for what the rest of semester is going to bring.}