Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: China (page 2 of 7)

Thankful in China

Author: Tiffany Luehrs

Program: Hangzhou Study Center – China

leuhrs-fall2016-10I have spent Thanksgivings in Mongolia, Indonesia, Japan, and a few other countries due to my overseas upbringing, so having Thanksgiving in a different country was not the strangest part. But not being with my family during this holiday was definitely odd. Instead, I spent Thanksgiving in Shanghai with my new family, the Valparaiso Study Abroad cohort.

Sitting around a table with my peers and professor with plates filled with the Thanksgiving essentials of turkey, stuffing, and potatoes, and partaking in laughter filled conversation, it felt like Thanksgiving even if I was thousands of miles away from my family in America. I am thankful for our mini Thanksgiving celebration as a study abroad family and grateful for the opportunity to study in China for the semester.


Hangzhou’s International Food Festival

Author: Maia Moore


Hangzhou Food Fest

Program: Hangzhou, China – Study Center 

The First International Food Festival took place in Hangzhou this past weekend. There were foods from India, Mexico, Thailand, and many other places. Hangzhou, unsurprisingly, is home to many expats from all over the world. These expats bring along with them the knowledge of food from their homelands, so many restaurants here serve foreign food. However, many restaurants that specialize in these foreign foods have Chinese owners and staff.


Simba Waffles

Of course, for my first stop, I had to get food from home. I stopped at the stall of Charcoal Bar and Grill, a local restaurant that specializes in American cuisine. They were serving barbecue chicken drumsticks, good old fashioned burgers, and hot dogs. I bought a drumstick and immediately was transported back home. It had all the right flavors and spices. It turns out that Charcoal is owned by someone Chinese, but he seems to know what he’s doing. My next few stops included a fresh roll from a French bread shop, chicken wings from Thailand, and a pizza roll from Italy.


Thai Cuisine

I like Chinese food, but not having an American home-cooked meal in two months can be tough. I came to China expecting to have food different from American food. However, I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to try so many different foods!


Man-go to Hefang Street

Author: Tiffany Luehrs

Program: Hangzhou, China – Study Center

Today my Valpo cohort and I visited Hefang Street (河坊街 – hefang jie).  Hefang street is a bustling avenue filled with vendors selling local snacks, silk shops, tea houses, traditional Chinese pharmacies and restaurants.


A snapshot of Hefang Street, Tiffany Luehrs

buddha-statue-tiffany-blog-5Various historical and cultural aspects of the area have been maintained and are still intact such as the drum tower and even an original section of a road used during the Song Dynasty.  Throughout the street stood various statues of Buddha such as a very memorable red statue that emphasized the curved features of the Buddha and a large bronze Buddha with many small figures of children climbing on him.  I learned that the large belly symbolizes prosperity, the reclining pose represents spiritual contentment, and the children around him signifies many descendants.  While there is an evident historical and cultural feel to the street, you can still find McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Dairy Queen scattered about and more modern stores as well.

After roaming around the shops and vendors, we stopped at a café


Glutinous rice balls and mango, Tiffany Luehrs

that specialized in mango dishes and drinks. I ordered glutinous rice balls with fresh mango, and it was the absolute, best mango dish I have ever tasted! The juxtaposition of the warm glutinous rice and the cool, sweet mango was mouth watering.  I wish I could remember the name of the café but it completely escapes me.  Next time I go, I will definitely write it down and let you know so you can try it as well if you ever find yourself at Hefang Street.  I know I’ll be back for some more mango!



Farm Fresh

Author: Tiffany Luers

Program: Hangzhou, China – Study Center 

Often when you visit a new country you hit all the tourist spots. And while those sites are important to see, sometimes it is also worthwhile to get away from the tourist traps and see sothumb_img_0933_1024me of the lesser known and more authentic areas.  I had the opportunity to do just that during our time in Xian.  While we did all the tourist activities such as biking on the city wall, visiting the Wild Goose Pagoda, and gawking at the Terracotta Warriors, it was a nice change of pace to spend a day visiting a dairy farm a few hours out of the city of Xian.

Xian is filled with the richest coal reserves in China, contributing to the lower air quality within the city.  In addition, Xian is surrounded by mountains, thumb_img_0954_1024and while the mountains add to the feng shui, the pollution and dust is trapped and sits in the city.  The air at the farm was noticeably fresher than in the city of Xian although there was an evident trace of cow manure and corn mixed in the air.

The dairy farm belonged to Li Zhi also known by his American name, Bruce Lee.  14 years ago he knew nothing about cows.  His father had oxen so he knew how to raise oxen, but raising cows is a whole different venture.  Yet, Bruce persevered and thumb_img_0922_1024learned through trial and error how to successfully run a dairy farm.  He began with around 16 cows and today tends to approximately 500 cows.  One of the ways he was able to successfully run his farm was by researching farming methods utilized in other countries.  On his dairy farm he uses tactics from Australian farmers and technology that efficiently milks each cow 3 times a day for 5 minutes each.  He also gave us a tour of his gardens, where he grows a variety of fruits and vegetables. We learned that the irrigation system he uses for his strawberry fields was inspired by irrigation methods used in Israel.

thumb_img_0955_1024Lunch was a delicious assortment of dishes made from ingredients grown on the farm.  We also tried creamy milk and sweet yogurt courtesy of Bruce’s cows.  Well fed and more knowledgeable about farming in China, we headed back to the city of Xian.

A Student’s Guide to Voting Abroad

Author: Maia Moore

Program: Hangzhou, China – Study Center 


If you are at least 18 years old, a US citizen, and studying abroad during an official election, you will need to turn in an absentee ballot for any and all elections. This can be a little confusing and complicated whether it’s your first time voting or 99th time voting. This guide will show you a simple step-by-step guide on how to vote abroad!

Step 1: Look up your state’s rules and regulations on absentee voting.

The first thing that one needs to do is find out the deadlines and rules on absentee voting for your state. You can simply use Google to search your state’s guidelines and it should take you directly to the state government’s website. For those of you who have limited access to Google (i.e. students in China), you can go to which will have the guidelines and deadlines for all 50 states plus territories.

Step 2: Fill out the FPCA

FPCA stands for Federal Post Card Application. This application registers you to vote and also requests your absentee ballot at the same time. The sooner you turn it in, the better. If you can turn it in before you leave the States, that’s fantastic. If not (like yours truly), that’s okay too! Make sure to check your state’s deadline on when this form is due and your state’s preferred method of delivery. Many states will accept it electronically, but there are still some states that use good old-fashioned snail mail. If your state is a mail-in state, then brush up on those language skills and head to the post office as soon as possible.

Step 3: Voting

Next, you need to actually vote! If your FPCA was received on time and approved, your absentee ballot should be sent to you either 30 or 45 days before the election. Keep in mind that once again, every state has a different method of sending and receiving the absentee ballot. Whether you receive yours electronically or by mail, make sure to fill it out and return it early! If you have not received your ballot and fear that you will not receive it in time, you can always send in a FWAB (Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot). Your local embassy/consulate will be able to help you with this.

Step 4: Reward yourself

This process can be stressful and time consuming if you have to physically mail in your FPCA and ballot. So go out and reward yourself for a job well done with your favorite local treat. You deserve it.

The Paparazzi Found Me

Author: Tiffany Luers

Program: Hangzhou, China – Study Center 


Hangzhou, Tiffany Luers

Upon our arrival in China, G20 was just around the corner.  G20 is a meeting of 20 leaders from the world’s largest economies to discuss international finance and monetary policies, and this year it is being hosted in the very city that my study abroad semester is taking place – Hangzhou!  While it is very exciting that G20 is happening in my new home, we needed to get away.  Why?  Because everything shut down for G20.  Okay, maybe not everything, but some of my favorite street food places, coffee shops with free VPN’s (virtual private network), and the pancake place by the international dorm were all boarded up and deserted as if they had never been there.  Buses stopped running earlier. Stores and restaurants had shorter hours.  The city was cleaner and the streets quieter than I remembered, and the security around the university and West Lake was tighter than ever.  This was not the restless and ever-bustling city of Hangzhou that I had experienced last summer when I was on the Valpo Study Abroad 5-week summer program.  Yet, G20 gave us the perfect excuse to explore other parts of China for the next ten days while Hangzhou was on lock down.  The first stop was Beijing!


Hangzhou, Tiffany Luers

During the three days we spent in Beijing we visited the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and of course, the Great Wall.  Walking around the tourist sites, our group received a lot of attention.  As Chinese people walked passed us, their eyes widened and they would say “外国人” (wai guo ren) meaning “foreigner”, and many of them took photos of us.  Some were very friendly and asked us for photos, while others tried to be sneaky and take photos without us noticing even though their “selfie” was most definitely not fooling anyone.  Having grown up abroad and mostly in Asia, I am accustomed to having people take photos of me, or


Hangzhou, Tiffany Luers

touch my skin, or even ask if they can cut off some of my blond hair.  It really doesn’t bother me too much and I understand their intrigue.  While yes, it can be uncomfortable at times, laughing it off can be the best thing to do in those situations and I know that this is just the beginning of the photos and curious looks for the 10-day trip let alone a semester here! Now whenever I encounter one of my photographers I use it as an opportunity to practice my Chinese and strike up a conversation with them.

With my newfound paparazzi, I’ll have to start working on my poses!




Creating Your Own Story: Predeparture

Author: Maia Moore

Program: Hangzhou, China

Old World Architecture - China

Old World Architecture, Matt Smok

August 25th.

237th day of the year.

A date 117 days away.

The day I arrive in China.

My 20th birthday.

To say that I’m experiencing a feeling somewhere between excitement and nervousness would be an understatement. Honestly, I’m not even sure what I’m feeling right now. I don’t think the realization that I will be spending a semester on the other side of the world has hit me just yet. I’m still in the “calm before the storm” phase. The storm probably won’t hit until August 24th, when I’m in O’Hare airport trying to convince my mom not to board the plane with me.

Oddly enough, we’re arriving in Hangzhou on my 20th birthday. While I don’t relish the idea of spending the day on a 13 hour flight, at least I can look back and say that I was doing something completely different for my birthday, Last year, all I did was attend class and eat pizza from the cafe. However, this will be the first birthday I spend without my family and friends. This is also the birthday that I officially leave my “teenage” years behind. Although this birthday will be an emotional and significant one, I’ve been planning to study abroad for a long time and won’t turn back now.

I suppose my path for study abroad began long ago. I’ve always loved traveling and so has my family. My dad has been to over 30 different countries. Whenever he returned home from his travels, with him, he would bring a gift and a story. Dining in India, exploring the Outback of Australia, joining an impromptu street band in Spain, these are just some of the enchanting stories he would tell.  I would listen vehemently, imagining myself in his place. At the end of his tales, he would always say to me, “One day, you will have your own stories to tell.” So it seems that the time has come for me to create my own stories. I don’t know how this particular story will end, but  I look forward to writing it.



That’s all folks!

There are really no words that can express how I feel about studying abroad.

It is truly an experience like no other.mmexport1449441646404

I was essentially taken out of my comfort zone, placed in a new environment and was allowed to flourish.

I have met so many people, and blessed with so many opportunities to travel to places I could
have only dreamed about.

My semester at Zhejiang University, has truly been an experience.

It, in a nutshell, taught me many things about myself.

I was able to meet and talk with people from around the globe, literally, and in that I could understand how everyone’s cultures are not only different but also the commonalities we all share as human beings.

mmexport1448096338271 this time was short, I have made good friends that I will stay in contact with, long after I leave China.

did not have the opportunity to go to every place I wanted to, but the experiences and the people I met there will no doubt be apart of me for the rest of my life.

Thank You Chinammexport1449044315744

Hi Shang Hai!

During Thanksgiving weekend, my group and I was able to visit Shanghai. A city I had not seen since 2010, when I first came to China, Shanghai was a place that I was excited to see. Like a long awaited reunion, when our train from HangZhou arrived in the ShangHai terminal, I was anxious to see what had changed and what had remained the same.

Rest assured, everything was exactly how I had remembered, if not better. A city on a scale of that comparable to New York, Shanghai is a place that never fails to amaze me. With so much history that surrounds the city, it is easy to get lost and find yourself in the English concession, walk into the financial center or even find yourself at the top of the Bund, one of the largest skyscrapers in the world.

Our ti20151128_123034me in Shang Hai was extremely short but in those three days we were able to do and see so much. What I loved about Shanghai is how unique everyone and everything is. It is a city full of young motivated people trying to make a name for themselves with westerners there doing all types of work from working in industries to teaching children English. Shang Hai is a big city that has anything and everything a person could ever want or need regardless of why they are there and it was assuring to know that as long as you had a subway card and $.50 you could go anywhere and everywhere in the city and trust me, we did. 20151128_133129

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was definitely different this year. Usually around this time, I would be on my way bac20151126_182115k to Valpo after spending the holiday with my family and quickly preparing for finals and more importantly winter break. This year, however was completely different. Mostly due to the fact that I was 3,000+ miles away from everything that I was used to. This year I could not help prepare Thanksgiving dinner with my grandmother nor was I able to eat sweet potato pie or watch the annual Thanksgiving day parade and football game.

It was bittersweet to be able to spend Thanksgiving in China because although I am blessed to have the opportunity to spend my Thanksgiving in here, at the same time, during this season one starts to miss their family. But I guess you can say I still had the chance to spend Thanksgiving with my family, well my new one.

My group members and I have been together for  over 3 months now and during that time we have definitely formed a bond. We all had our good days and our bad days, but  it is safe to say that we have not only survived China but can call it home at least until next week, when we go back to the states. Along with this holiday I am grateful to have spent it this year with: Ryan, Sadie, Logan, Nick, Simon and Prof Xia. Thank You all for being with me during this journey it is almost over but I am glad to have spent it with you all.


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