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Global Exchange Newsletter
January - April 2010

We are glad to present you our 2010 first issue Newsletter and hope you enjoy it.

In This Edition:
What is new in Global Exchange?
- Special Announcement: Two Global Exchange Students Married!
- 2010 Spring Festival and Winter snow in Beijing
Current Students Interview
- Mr. Ankur Mahajan from India
-

Ms Jacqueline Hodges from Uk and Mr Mathew Casey from Ireland

Connecting with Alumn
- Ms. Sarah Seplin from German
Get to know Global Exchange
- John travelled in Yunan
 

Special Announcement:
Two Global Exchange Students Married!

It is our great pleasure to share a lovely news with all of you that
two of our students in 2007
Marjel van Dijk and Jeffrey Raker got married recently.
Following is the brief announcement from them:

Two Global Exchange Students Married!
It is fun to tell you how Jeff and I met. I met Jeff in class at the Global Exchange Center in Beijing in May 2007. He had been on a trip around Asia and Australia and was interested in studying Mandarin Chinese. I was doing linguistics research for a university near my home in the Netherlands and had a special interest in learning more about Mandarin Chinese as well. We had lots of fun going to Propaganda and Lush in Wudaokou with the others in our program and got these little bicycles which we used to cycle to Houhai, a beautiful and fun commercial Hutong area around a lake (very romantic too). After our one month trip through China, Jeff (who is American) moved to the Netherlands with me and I can happily announce that we were married two weeks ago! We now live in Seattle in the United States. Thanks so much for introducing us, Global Exchange!

Marjel ¨C Jeff


2010 Spring Festival and Winter snow in Beijing

Chinese Spring Festival and cold and snowy winter 2010
Like every year, our students this time had opportunity to enjoy Chinese lunar
New Year and to observe how Chinese people celebrate their biggest holiday of the
year. Firework, temple fairs, family dinners, friends-gathering parties created
a lot of excitements in cold winter time. Most of our students found it was
interesting and unique experience.

This year, we had a long and cold winter in many cities in China this year. It has
been much colder and much more snow than average winter times in last a few years.
Even such weather might leave city traffic in difficult situation, but white city under snow looks more lovely and pretty in dull winter time. 

Here we like to share some of photos that were taken by our students early this year.


Current Students Interview

Name: Mr. Ankur Mahajan
Country from: India
Education: BA in Management in Purdue University and Master in in Economics and Finance Cardiff University, UK.
Work history: in Coal business in Indonesia, India and
Dubai; Part work time in an Event management, Sydney, Australia.
Internship in Cote d¡¯Ivoire in Western Africa, management trainee at hotel Novotel in La grande Motte, France
Languages spoken: English, French, Hindi, Urdu, some Chinese

Could you tell us a little about your background and what you did before coming to China?
I was born in the capital city of New Delhi, India and spent my teenage years in that bustling city. I then completed my high school and undergraduate degree in Indiana, USA from Purdue University, majoring in; Management, International Economics and French. I then lived in a small city in south of France called La Grande Motte for half a year, working in Hotel Novotel and experiencing the French culture and work ethics. I then moved to the UK in order to finish my Masters Degree in Economics and Finance with an emphasis on women¡¯s equality from Cardiff University, UK. Afterwards, I worked for few months with my father in his coal business in Indonesia, India and Dubai.

Then, I studied a diploma in Event management for a year in the heart of Sydney, Australia. Also, I worked part time in an Event management company ¡°Pages¡± responsible for organizing exhibitions all over the state.

After that, I did a development Internship in Cote d¡¯Ivoire in Western Africa, organizing an entrepreneur program for young Africans. I gave lectures at the local university in French for three months about gender equality and time management, and also worked at the local NGO in the capital city of Abidjan. Eventually, I decided to learn Chinese and ended up in Beijing.

India and China are both Asian countries with rich history and very large population, but their cultures and modern developments are very different, any comments on the cultural difference or similarities between two countries?
I do see a lot of similarities between China and India since they are large economic Asian powers and the two most populated countries in the world, which are geographically connected. Economically, I believe the poverty levels of both the countries are diminishing at a higher rate due to the amount of new jobs being created every year, and also from higher foreign investments in the countries. I think both the countries have a high percentage of goods being exported, due to the availability of vast human resource. Though India appears to have done far less in terms of exports and incoming foreign direct invest, which are the two key variables responsible for China¡¯s booming economy.

Culturally I believe both Indians and Chinese people tend to be a bit louder. Also, I think they are both proud of their own individual long civilization that goes back 5,000 years, and both suffered invasions and colonial rules. Historically, both won true independence in the late 1940s and both advocated the principles of peaceful co-existence. Moreover, they are both peace-loving people who respect family, teachers and treasure sincerity, and share a deep love for their land and culture. Also, I do find a lot of similarities in terms of cuisines of both the countries, as they use a lot of different and exotic spices in their meals.

As for the differences, apart from language barrier I believe the traditional Chinese people have a much healthier life style with a high emphasis on daily exercise and healthier meals. Also, I think the Indian people tend to be a little more conservative then the Chinese people. But I truly believe, that both the countries have an immense potential for collaboration and hence should work together towards their economic growth.

Tell us more of your travel experiences, how you see China as a tourism destination.
To be honest, I was very positively surprised by the developments in the city of Beijing. I feel the 2008 Olympics have made Beijing an international city with a great infrastructure at par to any other big city of the world. The city is definitely tourist friendly especially with a widespread convenient transportation system. Also, it is very safe compared to many other major cities in the world. Moreover, Beijing does offer variety of things to do for every age in every season. Though, I do feel use of Pinyin alphabets would definitely make the city a lot more tourist friendly and hence the tourist can feel a lot more independent.

What are main reasons for you to decide to come to Beijing to take Chinese course?
It was actually my passion and dedication to work for the UN and since Chinese is one of the six official languages of the UN; I decided to come to Beijing to study and experience the language and culture. Also, consequently be pent lingual and hence strengthen my candidature to work as a diplomat for the UN.

Do you have a special hobby or passion?
I have been playing basketball since high school and been doing competitive long distance running from last few years. I have run a few half marathons and currently training for a marathon later this year. Also apart from watching sports, I am very keen on Political and social issues affecting different countries.

Tell us a few memorable experiences in China?
My days in China, have been just incredible so far. I have enjoyed every single day living with my housemates, and studying Chinese from wonderful teachers at the school. Also, I have been teaching English to many kids at a local school, which not only gave me a chance to interact with the little kids but also closely understand Chinese culture.

I have also donated blood to a local charity near Beijing Zoo, which has given me a great sense of satisfaction. Moreover, visiting the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen square, Olympic park and other shopping malls and attractions, have made it one of the best experiences of my life. Though above all, it is the delicious street food that has definitely been the highlight of my stay so far.

Is there a particular experience you can tell us about that was personally important to you?
I remember the first few days I was in Beijing and had learnt only few introductory phrases to pass by, and went to one of the supermarkets by myself. I remember I had learnt the phrase ¡°I don¡¯t eat meat¡± i.e. ¡°Wo bu chi rou¡± in Chinese thoroughly but somehow got confused and ended up asking one of the assistants ¡° wo bu chi ren¡±, meaning ¡°I don¡¯t eat people¡±. The assistant gazed at me and looked more confused than me, and apparently I had to somehow explain in English. That day, I realized how small pronunciation differences in foreign language can cause complete chaos and confusion. But all in all, that was one of the most hilarious experiences of my stay in Beijing.


Name:  Miss Jacqueline Hodges
Country from: UK
Education:  BA Hons Music Industry Management
Work history:  Business Management (10 years)
Languages spoken: English, some French

Name:  Mr. Mathew Casey
Country from: Irish
Education:  Diploma Engineering
Work history:  Web developer (10 years)
Languages spoken: English


1. Could you tell us a little about your background and what you did before coming to China?

We've taken a year off from work in England to travel around South East Asia and had put aside 3 months to learn Mandarin in Beijing. Prior to this we'd both been working at the BBC but given the interest we have in this region of the world it seemed as good as time as any to take a break to travel. This is our second visit to China but we'd be the first to agree that a lot has changed in the 3 years since we were last here.
2. I know that you both had very intensive travel experiences, such as in Africa, many countries in southeast Asia, could you share with us more about how travelling shape your perception and view to the world and other people?

For us, there was only so much we could learn from reading about all the places of interest here before the urge hit to see them for ourselves. Our current travels to South / South East Asia, and from previous trips to Africa and South America, is partly to witness the rapid rate by which things are developing and evolving. From people we've met, we've heard how lifestyles and opportunities have been changing dramatically (or in some cases not moving forward enough) over recent years, however it it's impossible to fully understand or appreciate the long-term effects from spending just a few months in any one country. From a tourist's point of view, many places and cultures have become more accessible to foreigners as well as domestic tourists, however, at times it hasn't always appeared to be for the benefit of locals or wider-society. The thing that has stood out and appears to matter most to people that we've met so far is a keenness to educate the wider-world in what they personally value - be it in tradition or something of beauty that they've experienced - but also a desire to have a fair opportunity at building their own future in a rapidly-changing region. We hope to have had a positive effect to those we've met to date too and without wanting to sound patronising, often it can make us realise how easy comparatively our lives in the west have been in many ways. A hope is to create a positive legacy and give something back to people we have met who would benefit from some support.
3. From cultural view, how do you compare China with other southeast Asian countries such as Lao, Vietnam, Cambodia? what are commonalities and what are commonalities?

So far, all the countries we have visited have a great deal of energy driving them forwards and a positive eye on the future. Generally speaking, people have to put a lot more effort into getting by in life than we are used to, and seeing this in action has been quite humbling. Many differences are obvious; language, geography, beliefs, cuisine, history, sights and sounds, but also there are strong similarities between the various cultures. For example, the family and family networks are incredibly important here and fundamental to life itself, much more so then what many experience in the United Kingdom. The simplicity of these values is good food for thought and the degree to which they are celebrated is testament to the strength the wider communities draw from them. Another noticeable similarity is the level of entrepreneurial spirit, both within the tourist industry and local economy, that has been lost in our own country due to monopolisation by large companies. We've seen it in abundance throughout, stemming from sheer necessity or thinking from an inspired or relatively new viewpoint.
One less attractive aspect to much of the regions' history is the suffering caused by outside intervention as well as pre-longed periods of domestic instability. This has caused and in some cases still causes, rifts, both politically and sociologically, and there's still a noticeable difference in opportunities between some sects of society to others. As British visitors to the region, it's often been shameful to reflect on our country's role in contributing to some of the negative aspects of this suffering. History can't be rewritten and we've been grateful for mostly being made to feel welcome and greeted with friendship where ever we have visited.
4. What are main reasons for you to decide to come to Beijing to take Chinese course?

This is our second visit to Beijing, the first was 3 years ago and as we loved it, we swore to come back. As we plan to spend quite a while in China, we felt it was essential to develop some language skills to get the most out of the experience. China is a fascinating country and through language learning, you can understand a lot more about the culture, the country's origins and it's nuances better. We've tried learning at home, but it's been really hard to make much progress with hectic life in London, so we've come to Beijing for more of an emersion experience.
5. Tell us a few memorable experiences in China? especially your experiences and observations during Chinese lunar New Year?

Chinese New Year was quite insane. It was so great to be here for that. The fireworks started to go off a few days before hand and it seemed like it was going to be quite fun, but come the actual New Year it went mad. The effort put into the celebrations was like nothing we've experienced before. Fireworks were just going off everywhere and grown men, who ordinarily would look quite serious, were grinning like kids as they let off all these massive, noisy explosives in the road as the buses drove past! By midnight the whole sky was alight and it was deafening. We went up on to the roof of our building to watch and it was incredible. The explosions went on for weeks afterwards too.
6. What do you find most interesting in Beijing?

The comparison of old and new, rich and poor is really interesting, it's like two worlds exist within one city. A typical Beijing sight can vary from being a weathered man in a military overcoat riding along on a three-wheeled bike loaded high with cardboard recycling, to a road full of flashy expensive cars. It can be quite a surprise too that some things like street food or public transport can be incredibly cheap then you go to a shopping mall and goods are even more expensive than they are in the UK. That aside, there's lots to see and do here, lots of museums and sights, it's never boring. Even a trip to the supermarket can be quite exciting and a bit of an eye opener, live turtles for example, are only normally found in pet shops at home, not at the meat counter as here. The people here have been brilliant and really friendly, so there's been lots of day-to-day causes for smiles - be it from a stranger's delight at seizing the opportunity to practise their English on a foreigner or being laughed at for attempting to speak Chinese. You have to get used to being laughed at a lot in Beijing but mostly in a good way! I think with the rapid pace of development in China, one of the most interesting things about seeing Beijing now is wondering what it will be like in ten years time. We hope to get the chance to find out.
7. What advice would you give for those thinking of coming here?

Make sure you get expert advice about your Chinese visa before you arrive. China encourages visa's to be applied for in your home country however as we were travelling, we had to apply for ours in Laos. We could only get 30 day tourist visas and extending them here in Beijing for the remainder of the duration of our stay has been a very expensive business. Apparently the regulations can change from time to to time so our advise would be to ensure you know what your situation will be here and budget accordingly.

Connecting with Alumni

Name: Ms. Sarah Seplin
Country from: German
Education: BA in Ludwig-Maximilian University
Work history: 
Languages spoken: German, English and Japanese

I come from southwest Germany and I went to highschool in a city called Ludwigshafen near my hometown. I have already been interested in Asian cultures and languages before l went to China and so I began to learn Chinese with a private teacher when I was 16. It was very interesting and I sometimes also had the chance to speak to Chinese people because my teacher had many Chinese friends. But I decided to go to Japan first because at that time a did not find a good offer for exchange to China. In January 2005 I spent the practical which we had to do in the 11th grade at the East Asia department of the college of Ludwigshafen. That was a good oppurtunity to meet students who have already been to China or Japan and to learn more about these countries. From August of the same year on I stayed in Japan for 6 month. I was staying with a Japanese host familiy and went to a Japanese school. There I met not only Japanese students but also other exchange students from all over the world. When I finally returned home I had to repeat the 12th grade because by my stay in Japan I missed most of this grade. So I finished school only in March 2008. Now I had a very long holiday because university started in October. I decided to use this time to go to China because my stay in Japan was so interesting and so I thought it would be a great fun to live abroad for some time once more and because I wanted to get to know China and to brush up my Chinese. I spent one month in Beijing and I had a lot of fun, met interesting people and learned a lot.

In October 2008 I finally began to study Chinese, Japanese and physics at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. Now I finished my 3rd semester and until April we have holidays. Munich is the capital of Bavaria and with 1.3 million inhabitants one of the biggest cities in Germany. It lies on the river Isar and is near to the Alps. Around the city there is a lot of beautiful nature and sights which many people visit on weekends and in winter you can go skiing. But the city itself has many possibilities for spare time activities, too. Besides the famous sights Munich has interesting museums like, for example, the German Museum and several theaters. In the city center there are various shops, caf¨¦s and restaurants and there are always a lot of people. In the streets around university there are also many restaurants and bars where students like to go. When it is warm enough you can also go to the zoo of Munich or to one of the parks. I think Munich is a quite nice city. You can not only do a lot of interesting things there but it is also a clean and safe city, the public transport is very convenient and there is a lot of beautiful architecture there.

After I returned from Beijing I had to look for a place to study.When I finished school I did not know what to study yet. Actually I thought about studying rather Japanese than Chinese as major although I thought it would be more useful to study Chinese because China becomes more and more important for world-wide economy. But I preferred Japanese because by my stay in Japan I was acquainted with Japanese culture a little and I spoke Japanese quite well and when you study a language you have to spend a year in that country. I was a little worried about this and I thought it would be easier if I can go to Japan which I already knew quite well. But after my stay in Beijing went so well I changed my mind and decided to make Chinese my major.Now I am really glad that I decided this way because studying Chinese is really interesting and I like it very much. So you can say that my month in Beijing was very important because it had a strong influence on what I am doing now and it will probably have an influence on my whole life and career.

I think the service that is provided by the Global Exchange Center is very good. I did not really have any problems. The dormitory I lived in was quite good. It had a little supermarket in the lobby and the room had its own bathroom, a refrigerator and a TV ao I was very contented with it. People of the Global Exchange Center also helped us to handle the use of public transportation and the way to the building where we had classes. Besides classes we were provided many offers for activities like a trip to the Great Wall of China. So I don't really have any suggestions to improve the program.

The only thing that was sometimes difficult was getting money. I had a German credit card but it was a little difficult to withdraw money at a bank. I found only one bank where my card worked and I also heard from other students that they had problems with that. It was not really a problem but it was quite annoying sometimes. So I did not have any real problems and I think if you prepare your stay carefully you should be able to handle everything.


Get to know Global Exchange

John travelled in Yunan:

Mr. Gao Shuo- John, one of our senior teachers, shares his memorable travel experiences and photos in Yunnan, southern China.

John wrote:
¡° At the end of 2009, and I went to Yunnan and had a wonderful vacation time there. While it was very cold in Beijing in December, I was surprised how warm it is Kunming when I got off the plane there, it seemed in spring time and it was so beautiful and charming everywhere. Daytime temperatures was around 20 degrees, night in 10 ¡ã. It was green everywhere. Then I realized why Kunming was called as ¡°Spring City¡± in China. In total 6 days, I visited many famous tour sites including Yulong, Dali ancient city, dinosaur valley museum, Rrhai lake White House , Jokul, Lijiang Naxi culture temple, Jade stone, Stone forest, dragon snow mountain, Bai silver factory, jadeite market, etc.

I was so impressed and enjoyed the climate, landscape and the scenery there that I even did not want to come back home. I can hardly express myself in English how wonderful it was, so I want to share a few photos here with everyone, and hope that ¡°one picture speaks more than a hundred words.¡±

 

 


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