China Checklist

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate

Here’s Five Things That I was able to do:

1. Got a Bike (Early September)

In my last post, I briefly mentioned my bicycle. However, I wasn’t able to pay the full respects that its due. This is my way of amending that. 



I’m borrowing the bicycle from distant relatives here in Beijing, which is what it looks like  too. The relatives live near the Beijing Zoo, so I was able to ride from around there back to school. Despite all the people and cars, I enjoyed the opportunity to ride a bike again. Walking around everywhere was getting a little old. And it was fun to see some of the city.

Most people’s first reaction to my bike is usually laughter—though I don’t find it all that funny. I think people must be under the impression that I actually bought the thing, which in that case would be that I’ve been swindled out of my mind. Really, if this wasn’t a family artifact, then I’d have to get paid to ride it. But hey, it looks pretty nice. Picture me riding.

2. Olympic Stadium (Early October)

I vividly remember watching the 2008 Olympics and really like the Olympics in general, so dropping by here really was a no-brainer. We didn’t actually go in the stadium*, so I wasn’t able to do my Usain Bolt impression. Maybe that’s for the better


*Decided against it cause of money and time

3. They Could Be Royals (Early October)

I was also able to visit the Summer Palace, which ended up being one of my favorite places. Unfortunately, I forgot to put in the memory into my camera when I left. That meant that my phone was left up to the duty of pictures. To my surprise, it was more than up to the task. The views inside really were spectacular.




4. Biked Across the City (Mid October)

I got the crazy thought that cycling across Beijing with the school’s cycling club would be a good idea. So we left at 9:00 pm and I got back to my room at around 2:00am. The last 10 kilometers was the worst part because cause there were no sights to left to see and I wanted to sleep. Despite this and the pollution,I thought the experience was a good one. It was fun being able to see this city at night, including Tienanmen Square andthe lights at 后海. And hey, I got some exercise in as well. The 50 kilometer trip was well worth it.

5. APEC Holiday

Thanks to the APEC Conference that was being held, all the students in Beijing got an extra five days off at the beginning of November. I spent that time at 张家界 with some classmates. 张家界 is said to be the inspiration behind the film Avatar. I’ve never watched the film, so I’ll let you be the judge of that.


Second Chances

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate

Yup, I gave it another try. After I tried 臭豆腐 (stinky tofu) in Taiwan a few years ago, I swore that I would never try it again. It tasted just like how it smelled and I honestly despised the taste. It looks as if my resolve has weakened over time. My food philosophy has evolved over time. Local foods and fermented foods are both of greater interest to me.  臭豆腐 fit into both of these categories, so when I was in 长沙, I decided to go for this local specialty*.


*Hard to see in the picture, but this type of 臭豆腐 came in a soup. It is made differently than the Taiwanese kind. It smells about the same though.

One of my friends gave his assessment and I think it sums it up pretty well: “It just tastes like tofu”. I’d agree that it really just tasted like tofu, green onions, and chili peppers. It’s the after-taste that’s special; lingers in the mouth for quite a while, which was certainly not a plus for me. But 臭豆腐 has now moved into a zone closing to acceptance. I’m still not fond of it, but this polarizing Chinese snack could probably warrant a few more tries from me.

Climate Challenges in China

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate

Beijing’s air can get really dirty, and when it does, it stays dirty for days at a time. The pollution puts a hazy tone on everything. It really is no fun when it happens. It’s too hazardous to go running. People have to wear masks*. The smog clouds the sun. Everything is gray.


*Without one, some people start coughing. It’s never been that severe for me. But for me, my throat feels really dry and I start to feel my lungs

For reference, Seattle’s Air Quality Index is a 40 on a bad day. Beijing on a good day is around 100. However, there are the very best days, which are around 40. But then the winds blow the smog away. And everything changes.  Beijing is better when the skies blue. But the gray ones make us appreciate the wind.




Culture Clash in China

Monday, October 14th, 2013

by Gabriel Heckt  

Mt  ChongQing

When going abroad, what sometimes comes to mind are adventurous trips to incredible monuments and unforgettable locations and people, I think the story that really fits my study abroad experience is one that can be seen as slightly commonplace, but represents the day to day experience of living immersed in a civilization I was completely unused to.

My friends and I had taken a taxi down to the middle of the city to look for gifts we could get for our families. The place we went was known for its bargain prices and authentic merchandise, so we were excited to try to find things we had never seen in the U.S. However, as soon as we got there, we started to run into problems. The place was extremely crowded, unlike anything we had experienced back in Washington. There were thousands of people, so many that we couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to go. Also, we couldn’t seem to find the place that we were trying to go, despite talking with several shopkeepers in Chinese. We always wound up at extremely pricey name brand shopping centers, the opposite of what we were trying to find!

As if to make matters worse, it suddenly started raining. This didn’t seem to be much of a problem to me. After all, I’m from Seattle, so there was no reason I should be worried about a little rain, right? I didn’t even bring an umbrella because it didn’t seem like it was going to rain that day. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This rain was nothing like even the heaviest rain I had ever experienced in Seattle. It came down in sheets, drenching in literally seconds. It was almost comical just how fast the streets cleared of the massive amounts of people. They seemed to know how to respond to the torrential downpour, but we had no clue. The rain was so heavy, that the streets started flooding, and police had to start blocking off intersections.

Now, not only had we not found our destination, but also we were completely soaked and were running out of options on how to get home. Had we been in Seattle, I’m positive we would have known how to respond instantly, and have been able to navigate our way in and out of an area. But we were in a completely unknown area, and had no knowledge of how to proceed in a situation like the one we were in. Completely by chance, we actually managed to find the shopping place we were looking for, but then we had to start the process of bargaining, which is full of subtleties and very difficult even with the decent grasp of Chinese we had. I spent around twenty minutes bargaining for a pair of shorts with a saleswoman because she wouldn’t give me even a slight discount. I was almost positive it was because I wasn’t Chinese, because I had seen Chinese people in other shops bargain to almost half the price of very similar goods. It was a pretty challenging, but also rewarding process when I finally got a small discount on what I wanted.

Trying to get back to the Sichuan University was another problem in and of itself. Because of the extreme rain, almost everyone was trying to catch a cab, and people kept moving in front of us to grab them, because unlike Seattle you have to be assertive and even appear somewhat “rude” to obtain something if there is a wait in China. Thankfully, we eventually found a very unsafe looking box motorcycle to take us back. We managed to negotiate a price and describe how to return to the University. Although we were drenched, freezing, and tired, we felt happy that we had managed somewhat successfully to navigate our way through some of China’s cultural differences that day.

Though every day wasn’t as hectic and confusing as the one above, almost every day was a learning experience, whether it was buying food or just asking for directions. Learning to adapt and fit into such a different culture through events like this was one of the largest parts of my study abroad experience, and that day is an excellent representation.

Technology, Business & Students in China

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Written by Kathleen Hatch, Assistant Director, Global Business Center

Huskies on the Great Wall

Each year during the month before the University of Washington starts, groups of students led by UW Faculty travel to all parts of the world to explore a topic and a world region. This fall, I was really lucky to co-lead a program focused on how internet and technology businesses are transforming in China. We spent three and a half weeks meeting with companies and learning about Chinese culture in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guilin.

Our group at Microsoft's campus in Beijing

China is moving fast. Walking around in Beijing for just 8 days is enough time to notice that the whole city seems to be lurching forward. Our hotel was located near the center of Beijing, and when we arrived they were remodeling a store on our block – the sidewalk was completely torn up and the store was gutted. By the time we left Beijing to take the high-speed train to Shanghai, the store was open for business with merchandise hanging in the window. The growth and development of the city is not just something that you can feel, you can actually see it happening.

This was my first trip to China, and it was an incredible experience to meet with company executives and hear firsthand about their challenges and opportunities. We met with Sina Weibo, a microblogging platform that has taken off in China and is now expanding internationally. Our group visited Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific Research and Development Group in Beijing – the second largest Microsoft campus next to Redmond. Their mission is “Innovation in China, innovation for the world.” Each year Microsoft invests two billion dollars just in Research and Development. Our speaker, Sam Zhong, Group Program Manager of the Strategic Partnership Group, talked with us about how innovative and entrepreneurial the Chinese are. He said Beijing feels like Silicon Valley in its height.

We received a presentation and toured the manufacturing floor of Tektronix. We toured UPS – their Shanghai offices are the largest in China, and they are located right next to DHL. When asked about their competition, our speaker responded that they embrace the competition and hope that this will help to further develop the system of logistics in China. Our group visited Lenovo which represents 36% of the PC market share in China with HP and Dell as their major competitors.

Visit to Hyundai in Shanghai

We watched cars being assembled at Hyundai, and our group crammed into the apartment of the founder of an internet start-up called, where computer programmers sat at the kitchen table on their MacBooks. Between all of our company visits we also found the time to attend a National Chinese Orchestra performance, hike the Great Wall, and eat a lot of delicious noodles and dumplings.

Over and over again, we heard about the culture of innovation, the challenges of growth, the new trends in technology, and the need to respond to consumer demands quickly. I could not help but think that China really is the place to be – things are happening here, fast. The whole country is growing quickly with enthusiasm, a strong work ethic, and a passion for technology and innovation. All of our company visits also made me think about how important it is for our business students to come to China – it is not enough to read about it. China is really something to experience.

Amazing China!

Monday, November 15th, 2010
Mark Peking 2Hello, my name is Mark, and I am a Finance and CISB major currently studying in Beijing at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management for Fall 2010. The two months has been challenging as well as very fun—getting an apartment settled, deciding on classes, integrating into the culture, and meeting other students from around the world. The classes here are all taught by professors who were educated in Europe or in America, with a lot of the professors being quite young. I’m taking some finance classes, such as difficult Project Finance, as well as an equivalent of OPMGT 301, as well as some interesting classes such as Doing Business in China and Chinese Economy.

Guanghua Main Building -- Peking University

Guanghua Main Building -- Peking University

Beijing is a very vibrant and interesting city with an official population of around 20 million people! However, I just live a bus away from campus near a subway station, so getting around is quite convenient.

These photos are pictures of Beijing, and some from Tibet, where I went for the weeklong National Day Holiday. China is a very spectacular country where you can experience some of the highest mountains in the world, along with 21st century cities. It is also amazing to see how fast it is developing, with buildings appearing almost overnight. Surprising to some people, Beijing becomes very cold in the winter. It already has been dipping as low as 0°C (32°F), which is far cry from the 30°C (87°F) I experience when I first arrived!
Potala Palace -- Lhasa, Tibet

Potala Palace -- Lhasa, Tibet




China’s 60 Year Anniversary

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Sophia2A month and a half has never flown by so fast in my life, and yet I still feel like I have so much of the city to explore. I would never be bored here. Living in Beijing, I came to realize that even if I went to see ten historical sites a day, I would still not be able to see everything within my semester here in the capital of China. The city is a mixture of the modern and the ancient. Of new-ideals and strong traditions. When talking to the younger generation of China, I noticed that their thinking contrasts so much with that of the older Mao-generation.

Just recently I had the pleasure of witnessing China’s 60 year anniversary. I’ve never been to another country quite like this one. The day before October 1st, the government launched chemicals into the sky so the whole city faced heavy rainfall all day. The next morning I woke up and saw that their plan has worked: Perfect weather. Beautiful blue sky, sunny, cloudless, warm, with a nice breeze. In the month I’ve been in Beijing, I have never seen such nice weather before. This lasted the whole week of the Chinese anniversary. The day of the anniversarySophia (1) the government closed off all of the city center and recommended all families to stay home. My roommate and I tried exploring the city, and it was uncomfortably quite. Not a single car driving past, no street vendors within eye sight, and nobody out on the street. We tried to go to Tiananmen Square where the huge parade was going on, but everywhere security guards stood across the street to block every intersection into city center. Later that day I heard that the Chinese government also canceled all flights in and out of Beijing’s capital airport. That was crazy to imagine. In total, they spent over 60 billion rmb on the parades, which equals to about 9 billion usd. On TV I watched the parades that lasted all day- from when I woke up 9am until midnight. Every public transportation I took, they were playing songs about the “great Motherland” and “I love China”. I couldn’t but help wonder how much of this was just for show.

Anyhow, it was a great experience to see this all take place, since it’s so different from what I’m used to seeing in the States.


Shanghai in Construction

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

BAD NEWS: My trip to Tibet was canceled.

GOOD NEWS: I went to Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Nanjing for ½ the cost of the Tibet trip.

Shanghai in Construction #2During the Mid-Autumn Festival, the first week of October, I was supposed to go to Tibet. However, for security reasons, the Government decided to have a quota on how many foreigners can enter Tibet during the national holiday. Unfortunately, we did make it in to the list. I was very disappointed because I’ve always wanted to go to Tibet, to walk around the Potala Palace, to see Mt. Everest’s with my bare eyes.

Since there is no other option, I decided to take a trip to Shanghai and the surrounding cities of Suzhou, Hangzhou and Nanjing with couple of friends from the exchange program. We boarded the train from Beijing the day after my last class. After 14 hours of lying down on the hard-sleeper bunk, we arrived in Nanjing. Nanjing used to be theShanghai in Construction #3 Capital city of China, so it is rich with cultural relics. The following days we visited Hangzhou and Suzhou, which are known for their beautiful lake and river.

Finally, we spent the last three days in Shanghai. I really enjoyed Shanghai. There is a very long shopping street called: Nanjing jie, which is filled with designer’s stores but there are still affordable shops. However, with the upcoming World Expo, there is a lot of Construction to be done. You are able to see construction sites throughout the City. Even though I was in the middle of the construction, I really enjoyed Shanghai scenery, shopping, and Shanghai’s world-famous-dumplings.

Shanghai in Construction

Thinking Back, Looking Forward

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Alan (1)Now that we have already returned back home to Seattle, I’ve been able to gather all of my thoughts about our trip in Beijing. I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences of my life. I was able to connect with my cultural heritage and see the land of my ancestors with my own eyes. We were able to visit all the former palaces and royal buildings which allowed me to bring those images of all the landmarks to life.  Not only were we able to see historical landmarks but we were able to catch a glimpse of China’s rapid modernization by visiting sites such as the Olympic Park. However magnificent the Watercube and Bird’s Nest looked on television, they were magnified by a Alan100 in person. Not only are the Watercube and Bird’s Nest amazing pieces of architecture, but I really believe that the Olympic Park along with the 2008 Olympics were symbolic of China’s progress as a nation. Especially as a business student, it was great being in China and seeing first-hand what type of advancements the Chinese economy is making. China is already quickly playing a bigger part in the global economy, and this experience in Beijing will most definitely benefit me in the future.

The most valuable thing I left Beijing with however, were all the friendships and connections that I made. Throughout my time in Beijing, I was able to build close friendships with a few local Tsinghua students which are something I will always treasure. With my fellow classmates in the program we were all able to create memories that will last a lifetime. So far since we’ve been back home I’ve stayed in touch with those friends in Beijing through Skype and Facebook, and I have become closer with many of my classmates from the trip. Going into this program, I did not know what to expect and to be honest one of my major concerns were Alan (2)how I was going to get along with everyone. China far exceeded any of the expectations I had and provided me with so many great memories and experiences. As I think about my future career goals, I know that my knowledge of Chinese culture and language will help me no matter what I end up doing. My experiences and time in this program reinforced to me that as business continues to become more and more global, it will be imperative to know multiple languages and be comfortable in international surroundings. For every Foster student I would recommend studying abroad and especially exploration seminars because they have such a short time commitment. I personally guarantee that no matter where the location is, it will provide an unforgettable and worthwhile experience. Thanks and see you again soon Beijing!

Pieces of History

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Alan Hon (1)Wow, China really is an amazing place. All the historic sites that we have visited have been nothing short of breath-taking. Being able to connect what I have learned about my heritage to the actual places where it all happened is an amazing experience.  Over this past weekend we visited the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.

Visiting the Great Wall lived up to all of my expectations that it would be one of the best experiences in my life. Since the Great Wall stretches throughout China, there are only certain sections that can be climbed. We traveled to one site right outside Beijing and it was our first time outside of the city. After receiving a short introduction from our tour guide and teacher, we broke off into groups and proceeded up to the Great Wall. My group consisted of a few good close friends, Jason, Warren, Carsen, and Lauren. The day before Jason and I had played a full day of basketball so we were already dying of soreness before our climb even began. But you only get to climb the Great Wall once soAlan Hon we definitely pushed our physical limits. After many stops for pictures, countless water breaks, and a little bit of socializing, we finally reached the end of our painful hike and climb to the top of the section. Just as we had imagined, the view was amazing and we really felt chills being able to say that we had climbed the Great Wall. However, what really made the experience great was the way down. At one end of the section, there were both gondolas and toboggans that the public could ride to get down from the Great Wall. Of course we chose to toboggan and it was probably the most exhilarating thing we did in Beijing.

To continue our jam packed weekend, Sunday we checked out Tiananmen Square as well as the Forbidden City. The moment that we arrived to Tiananmen Square we were all shocked as to how big it was. One cool thing about Chinese architecture is that each piece always represents or symbolizes something. For example one of the buildings in Tiananmen Square was supposed to resemble a chair which symbolizes the people sitting back in power. The first thing we visited was Mao Zedong’s memorial. The memorial Alan Hon (2)has his actual body inside, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that you definitely feel chills walking through. It was crazy walking through the memorial of such a prominent figure that made such an impact on history, and it’s a feeling that I’ll never forget. After some pictures in the actual square, we moved on to the Forbidden City. After hearing so much about it and seeing parts of it in the media, the Forbidden City still exceeded my expectations for how beautiful it would be. Although many royal structures were designed similarly, the size and history of the Forbidden City awed all of us.

To round out our fun filled weekend we went to one of Beijing’s most famous restaurants to eat Peking duck. Many past U.S presidents and other important figures had dined there, and it was no wonder why they enjoyed it so much. We all stuffed ourselves to the neck, and it was finally time to head back to our dorms to wind down and get ready for the week ahead.