Reflections on the China Cross-Cultural

A Conversation Between Mary and Sam

Why China?

To be honest, I just needed to satisfy the cross-cultural requirement. I’m a transfer student, so I didn’t have a lot of options. I decided to sign up at the last minute when my advisor (Mark Sawin) told me it would be a great adventure, and I would come back a changed man.

Since you are a commuter student, what was it like to be thrown into such close encounters with our Cross-Cultural group for over three months?

Most of our CC group early into our trip at one of many temples we would visit

Even though I had been at EMU for a year, I didn’t have any EMU friends outside of class. I work a lot in my family business, and I’ve always lived at home. I didn’t know any of the other students in our group when we left for the airport. But I soon learned to know everyone. I gained some really good friends by coming on this trip.

What surprised you about living in China?

My host brother Robert and I at the top of a drum tower in the ancient city of Langzhong, Sichuan Province

I didn’t know anything about China before the trip. I expected things to be super difficult. I thought our housing and transportation would be more primitive. I didn’t know we would be traveling on modern high speed trains that could go over 300 kilometers per hour and living in brand new apartments that were nicer than my brother’s housing at JMU.

Tell me about the relationships you formed in China.

My friend M and I posing for a photo specifically for his WeChat “Moments” social media post

I thought going to my host family would be awkward, but they were really great. My host brother was eight and was fun to hang out with. He liked to play Mario Cart. I made a couple of good friends who were students at our university. I met “M” at an English major meeting. We played ping pong and basketball together, ate out, walked around and talked about stuff. Once our group was traveling far from Nanchong, and I couldn’t find anything to eat. I complained to M on We Chat (the Chinese instant messaging platform everyone uses) and he sent me an order of dumplings delivered to the hotel!

What will you take away from this experience?

I learned that American money goes a long way in China. I learned that the Chinese can be some of the kindest people on the planet—they were really helpful and good to me. I learned about China’s long history and current politics.

MOUNTAINS! Yunnan Province

So are you coming back a different person?

I have a new appreciation for some things I’ve taken for granted, like the American school system (the Chinese system is very stressful and rigorous) and certain “luxuries” like clean drinking water and reliable electricity. I gained a new taste pallet for foods I never had before, like dry hot pot and pomelo (which is like an enormous grapefruit). I learned that even in a new culture that is so different than my own, there are still so many similarities: people are people.

—Samuel Snead IV

On the Great Wall