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May 13, 2014

Study Abroad: Eric Nielsen Blogs from China

Dr. Glenn Williams, assistant professor of practice in finance, and 12 University of Nebraska-Lincoln students will depart for Xi'an, China for a four-week study abroad experience, May 10. Students will earn six credits while taking a Chinese cultural class and Chinese business class at Xi'an Jiaotong University. While in Xi'an, students will have the opportunity to experience cultural sites such as the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Great Mosque and Wild Goose Pagoda, the Huaqing Pool and the Yang Ling Museum. They will also take a three-day excursion to Beijing where they will visit the Great Wall of China, the Ming Dynasty Tombs, the Forbidden City and 2008 Olympic venues.
Eric Nielsen, a sophomore accounting major and CBA Honors Academy student from Deshler, Nebraska, is one of seven College of Business Administration students in the program. He is excited to be going on this study abroad trip and will share his experiences with the CBA community in this blog.

End of the Journey

Nielsen at the Great Wall of China

Nielsen at the Great Wall of China

I’m back in America!  I arrived home on Wednesday after a five-hour flight delay in Detroit due to flooding at the Omaha airport. Because of a less than stable internet connection in Beijing, I didn’t have a chance to blog there. However, now that I’m back in Nebraska I thought I would wrap up my trip with a few highlights from Beijing and some photos.
On the first day in Beijing we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was amazing to be around that many people at Tiananmen Square and see a place with so much history. The Forbidden City was much the same way.  However, these two places could not compare with the Great Wall which we went to the next day. The section we visited was in a mountainous area and climbing the wall was very similar to climbing a mountain. It took us two hours to go all the way to the top and then come back down. This was definitely the highlight of my trip.
After three days of sightseeing that also included the Summer Palace and the 2008 Olympic stadiums, we began our long journey home on Tuesday. Because of the time change, my flight landed only two hours time-wise after it took off. In reality it was a 13-hour flight that took us over Russia, Canada and the North Pole. As I mentioned earlier we had a delay in Detroit because of the weather and our flight finally arrived in Omaha around 1:30 a.m.

Overall, this has been an amazing experience and I would recommend anyone thinking about studying abroad at UNL should definitely consider the China program. It was a trip of a lifetime and I’ll never forget the memories that I have made in the last four weeks.

Meeting Chinese Students
One of the amazing things about being in China is the opportunity I have to talk to local students. A couple of the encounters were set up by the program. The first was at the beginning of the trip on campus when I met a student named Peter. Peter is a freshman engineering student at Xi’an from a town about 16 hours away. We talked for two hours about education, basketball and America. We noted the differences between the Chinese and American educational systems. I have kept in contact with Peter and on one of our free days he took me on a tour of the drum tower and the bell tower in Xi’an. The second organized meeting was this past Monday when we went out to City College in Xi’an. There I met a student who was transferring to UNL this fall. I had the opportunity to talk to him about life in Nebraska and some of the differences that I had noticed compared to life in Xi’an. Other than these two meetings, I have had many other opportunities to interact with students. Whether it is playing basketball or talking to students in the AEC, I have been able to gain a little insight into what it is like as a student at XJTU. That is something that will help me when I get back to UNL and throughout the rest of my life as I interact with people from other cultures.

Nielsen learns Chinese painting

Nielsen learns Chinese painting

Studying Painting, Chinese Language and KUNG FU!

During my stay at the university I have been taking several classes as we have a different class at 9 a.m. Some mornings the scheduled class is Tai Chi taught by a PE teacher who also teaches our class about boxing and self-defense. When people ask me what I did over the summer, I'm going to make sure to tell them I studied Kung Fu in China all summer because that sounds way cooler than anything else. Other mornings we have calligraphy or Chinese painting.  In the Chinese painting class we have learned the history of Chinese painting and even done a little of our own work. After these classes we have a two-hour Chinese class. Even though I had no prior experience with Chinese, after two weeks I know how to order food, take a cab and carry on very simple conversations. It helps that I can go out and put my Chinese to good use right after I learn it. I'm also taking the business class offered through this program taught by Professor Williams. I have that twice a week as well as several guest lecturers who are talking about the Chinese economy.  It amazes me that I have learned so much in just two weeks.

Terracotta Warriors

Saturday we visited the Terracotta Warriors which was about an hour away from campus. Our tour guide was a Chinese man whose English name was Tony and he leads about 50 of these tours a year. He went to a translator school in Xi'an and majored in English.  
Nielsen at Terracotta Warriors

Nielsen at Terracotta Warriors

We were picked up by bus at 9 a.m. and made a quick stop at the Banpo Museum. This museum about ancient China was also home to the archaeological dig site of a village that has been dated around six thousand years ago. We then headed to the Huaqing Hot Springs where one of the Tang dynasty's emperors used to bathe.  It is located next to a very beautiful mountain. For another 100 Yuan we could take a cable car up to the top. Even though we didn't go to the top, it was still a very beautiful palace.  Other interesting historical events took place at the springs including some of the Xi'an incident of 1936. Tony also told us about a love story that happened between the Emperor and one of his concubines.

By that point I was starving and was relieved we were going to eat at a fancy restaurant in a very nice hotel.  Most of the patrons at this restaurant were foreigners and the restaurant was designed for us.  I finally found some sweet and sour chicken and amazing sugar covered potatoes that I made short work of.

After lunch we finally headed to the Terracotta Army.  The Warriors are in three different pits but the majority of the intact warriors were in pit one. The army was enormous and there are still many warriors yet to be uncovered. The tour guide and the people kept calling it the eighth wonder of the world. Although I'm not sure I would go that far, it was definitely worth the trip.

I met a Russian teacher who was bringing his students on a study abroad trip.  Even though this was his third time to visit the Terracotta Warriors, he was still amazed each time he saw them. After two hours of wandering through the pits and visiting the museum, we got back on our bus and went back to the university. This was definitely the most interesting place we have visited so far and it is no wonder that millions of people from all over China and the world visit it each year.

Street ball in Xi'an? Sign me up!
After writing my first blog post on Monday, I headed back to the international dorms and noticed several basketball games happening on the university's outdoor courts. I returned to the courts after dropping my bag off in my room with hopes of getting into a game. Most of the students on the court were involved in some type of gym class with refs and fans. However, another American student and I were able to find a student shooting hoops by himself on the very far west court. He allowed us to shoot with him for a while until the gym class had apparently ended. Some of the students involved in the gym class had broken up into individual pickup basketball games and I approached a few of them asking if we could play with them. They agreed and the sides were determined to be three of us Americans plus the university student we had been playing with, against four of them. They took one look at me (I'm 6' 5") and decided to do some recruiting. They went and found the tallest and probably the strongest basketball player on the courts and brought him over to play against us. They decided the rules - first to five, fouls called using the honor system. During the game the tall Chinese student they recruited got the best of me, out rebounding me as well as blocking one of my shots, much to the delight of the Chinese watching. Thanks to our Chinese teammate who scored three of our points, we were able to win 5-3. 
I spoke with one of the students later about what he thought about us playing with them.  He said because of the NBA basketball they watch, playing against Americans is an honor.  This definitely won't be the last time I join in a game basketball in Xi'an.

Arriving in Beijing

Nielsen's first meal in China

Nielsen's first meal in China

We arrived in Beijing Sunday after our 13 hour flight around 2:30 p.m. local time. After a brief episode of exploring (read: we got lost), we boarded our plane for Xi'an and arrived at 7:30 p.m. Xi'an is a city of over 8 million and has the skyline to prove it. Everywhere there are tall buildings with large neon Chinese letters or a crane still on top.

We are staying at the international dorms at Xi'an Jiaotong University. After 36 hours of traveling I was exhausted and fell asleep very quickly in my room Sunday night. Monday morning we had our pictures taken for our University ID cards and were also given a presentation about the history and background the university. We ate lunch at a restaurant on the streets of Xi'an just south of the university. I had chicken and rice with a little bit of tofu and vegetables. I also visited a bakery. I didn't buy anything but the food look delicious.

I am currently writing this in the American Exchange Center which has internet and computers. The Center also has a signed Bo Pelini football and Connie Yori basketball. There are several interns here from Nebraska that have been making the transition process go pretty smoothly.