Hiram College

As the Spring 12-Week came to an end, many students began packing their suitcases to go overseas for three weeks. Hannah Petcovic ’13, is traveling to China — she’ll be blogging about everything from the new dishes she tries to the conversations she attempts — as she spends her Spring 3-Week studying abroad.

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In Hangzhou we experienced China through host families. As we approached the Hangzhou Xuejun High School, we were greeted by a sign reading “Welcome friends from Hiram College.” I was paired with a 17 year old girl named Shen Xinyi, American name Alice. She spoke English moderately well and she was very friendly. Our first venture together was to the grocery store. “Century Mart” was four floors with different products on each floor (clothes on one, groceries on two, etc.) We began shopping in the juice aisle. It was a slow process, and went kind of like this:

“What juice do you like?”

I would look at the 50 types of exotic juice. “Umm, I”m not sure, whats your favorite?”

Then, using her phone as a translator, she would tell me about all her favorites.

Eventually, we settled on loquat juice and continued the process in other sections.

Generally, the grocery store was similar to those in America, except for the lack of cheese and deserts, and the presence of chicken feet and dragon fruit in thr produce section.

After this we went to her home, a three bedroom apartment on the fifth floor. Upon entering, I was greeted by her parents. Although neither of them spoke English, we were able to roughly communicate through translation. That night her grandmother cooked us dinner. The family was eager to ask questions and see what I did and did not eat. We had bamboo, rice, tofu, chicken and a stir fry. I thought I was eating a vegetable, but after asking, Alice informed me it was “an animal in the sea with many legs” — octupus. I thought it was too chewy to be a vegetable.

Over the next few days, Alice and I got to know our differences and similarities. Hangzhou is known for its beautiful West Lake, and on the first day we went on a boat ride, went to the National Silk Museum, and saw a performance on the Lake. The next day we went shopping in many traditional Chinese shops, and got our hair washed at a salon. On the last day we toured wetlands and did more shopping, and I met Alice’s aunts and uncles. One of my favorite experiences together was making dumplings in her home. She showed me how to crimp the edges and add the filling while she told stories about herself and her mother making dumplings in the past. I also enjoyed browsing Chinese medicine shops. Alice bought me a container of dark goop, and said if I eat it all on a hot day I will feel cool. I’m saving it for a hot day this summer to try with my friends.

The experience ended by attending classes with our hosts. The Hiram students were all stars in English class, and in the other courses we simply observed and did homework. After lunch, we said goodbye and most of the host sisters cried. However, Alice simply waved as our bus pulled out. We both have an interest in traveling, and I have a feeling we might see each other again.

After leaving Hangzhou, we spent a few days in Shanghai. The flight home is today.

Hannah Petcovic is blogging during her Spring 3-Week trip to China. Read more about Hannah and her trip overseas.