Office of International Programs

Andre Juarez

Andre Juarez 
Beijing Language & Cultural University and Xian Intrnational Studies University, China
Fall 2009

Wow! If I had to pick one word to describe my time in China it would be wow. 

There are just so many amazing things I saw and participated in that I don’t quite know where to start, so I guess the beginning is as good as any. I started my interest in China when I was a child. Like most kids, I found anything Chinese to be foreign and strange, yet really cool at the same time. Dragons, the Great Wall, Kung Fu, and of course, Chinese food (which isn’t really Chinese food at all). I entered USM in the fall of 2006 and took my first Chinese course with Professor Zhao in the fall of 2008. After that course I knew immediately what I wanted to study and do with my life. I applied to the Alliance for Global Education and was accepted into their Beijing and Xi’an programs.China Yak

My first semester was in the ever more modern, unbelievably large metropolis of Beijing. Describing the size to someone who has never been in a city of its magnitude is hard to do. There I started my Chinese language studies, and made really slow progress. The language was very hard for me to learn. While I was in Beijing, I lived in an international dorm and met tons of people from all over the world. My next stop was Xi’an, China for the spring semester. The best way to describe Xi’an for someone familiar with USM, would be to imagine a city like Portland…and now place 6 million people in it. Xi’an is a very crammed city with 6 million Chinese living a very traditional Chinese lifestyle. Most people have never come into contact with many foreigners, and knowing how to speak Chinese is crucial. My language level made great progress while in Xi’an. In Xi’an my coursework focused on the study of the Silk Road, and we took two excursions to ancient cities along the Silk Road. The first trip focused around Xiahe, the city where the 2008 Tibetan riots broke out in China. There I played basketball with Tibetan Monks 10,000 ft up in the mountains, and met a living Buddha. My next trip was to Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where we traveled to the ancient city of Kashgar, hiked sand dunes in the Taklamakan desert, and much more. Xinjiang is a wholly Muslim country where the population is made up primarily of Uighur Muslims. For this reason I was able to learn a great deal of Uighur language as well. As a Muslim myself I found this part of my trip to be particularly exciting and interesting. In Kashgar I was even able to pray in one of the oldest Mosques in the world. China desertThe best part about my Silk Road trip was that a film crew followed us on our journey in order to make a documentary! All in all my trip was the trip of a life time. I have done things and seen things I thought was never possible. I am the first person in my family to travel abroad, and I would not have been able to do that without the funds provided by the Kaufman scholarship. It truly made a huge difference. Furthermore, and most importantly, I have made friendships with kids from all around the world that will last a lifetime.