Homestay Experience

UDNSLIY July 22, 2017

Alexandra Jagielski


The time came for Homestay, and I could not have been any more nervous and excited as I was when I entered a room full of unfamiliar, but kind smiles from many different families. Following some special singing performances by Victoria Zappi and Lucas Higgins, all the NSLI-Y students sang a song by the Chinese pop boy band, the TF Boys for the amusement of our host families. After that, each student’s name was called and met their host family on stage. It was so nerve wracking waiting for your name to be called, but once my name was called it was all excitement. The host families and the students were equally ecstatic to meet each other. It was a great experience.

I knew going into this experience that Chinese people have great hospitality, however; I underestimated the extent of their hospitality. My family took me out for the first night to a wonderful meal and took care of everything. Although there is a clear language barrier, they did everything they could to make me understand as much as possible so I was included. The first night was a great success. I have 3 family members; a Mom, Dad, and sister. My sister is 16 years old, so we get along well. There is also an Aunt that is with us very often but does not live with me. My family is amazing, and I could not be more pleased with them. They are all kind, caring and hardworking.  

Today was a much needed day off from school so that I and the other students could spend the day with their new families. My day was packed with great activities. The day began with a great breakfast made by my homestay Mom. Later on, my sister and Mom took me out to a fresh seafood market. It was definitely a new sight to see as the freshest food was on display. As in, live turtles, eels, shrimp and other live creatures ready for purchase. It was very crowded and fast moving, but I enjoyed experiencing a new environment and allowed me to notice cultural differences between America and China. With the food we got from the market, my Mom made lunch. There were many dishes including raw salmon, spicy cucumber salad, garlic duck, and more. It was delicious. 

In the afternoon, my homestay Aunt and Dad took me out to explore Xiamen. First, we went to go watch a Chinese movie named “Brotherhood of Blades 2” (绣春刀2). It was in Mandarin but had English subtitles so I was able to understand. The movie itself was similar to an American movie, though not my preferred genre. It was still really interesting to watch a Chinese movie with my new family. Following the movie, my Aunt took me to level 38 of the Conrad Tower located in the heart of Xiamen. It was a breathtaking view, maybe one of the prettiest views I’ve ever seen. Full of different shades of blue and a great sight of the shoreline, the ocean, and the city.

“Buddy Activities” at Xiamen High School of Science and Technology

UDNSLIY July 11, 2017

Alexandra Jagielski

The UDNSLI-Y team organized another meet up with a local Xiamen high school. This school specializes in science and technology and had equally impressive facilities and students as the Xiamen Foreign Language School (XMFLS) we visited last week. Although my fellow NSLI-Y students and I did not have enough time to take an in depth campus tour, I could tell it was a very impressive campus. The scenery and quality of the facilities were great. As we walked to the indoor gym area, we noticed some students playing basketball on their courts and enjoying their day like any other kid. However, these students are not just regular students. They are attending a prestigious private boarding school that is connected with Xiamen University.

During out time at the school, UDNSLI-Y students and the Chinese students played several games and participated in team building activities. One of the games requested each student to learn, or at least hear every person’s name. Other games pushed us to use our Mandarin skills so we could communicate with one another for the shared goal of being victorious. Once again, local Chinese students shocked me with their English speaking skills. After speaking with a couple of students I learned they had been studying English since elementary school. It amazes me how well they are able to understand and speak English. They put in a lot of effort into learning English and becoming global citizens, which is very admirable.

It is so great that UDNSLI-Y students had the chance to interact with students in China and learn a little bit about their daily life, and their background. It pushes every student to be open-minded and strive to understand other cultures.

A Visit Trip to Xiamen’s Beaches

UDNSLIY July 11, 2017

Holly Pappano

Today after a fun-filled get-together with our Chinese “buddies” at Xiamen High School of Science and Technology, we left for a well-known Xiamen beach for our “hard-earned” free-time after so many days of hard work! Excited, everyone piled onto our tour bus and we made our way down narrow roads enveloped by low-hanging trees and busy sidewalks. The drive to the beach was unbelievably scenic, and we came to the conclusion that the palm trees and stucco buildings along the coast give Xiamen a very Californian vibe. Upon arriving to the beach, we had various group games and made our way to the water’s edge (BUT without going in!) as we happily embraced the freedom. Many of the Chinese people on the beach found our group highly amusing, and we were the focus of their pictures on more than one occasion. We left as the sun began to dip below the horizon, reluctant to leave the afternoon behind, but still in high spirits at the thought of a McDonald’s run 🙂

We were promised a trip to McDonald’s after tasting delicious Chinese foods for close to two weeks since we left for China. The McDonald’s was right outside the entrance to the university, and the night outside was lit up by the neon glow of car lights and electronic signs and buildings. After ordering and getting our food, the majority of us meandered next door to buy the iconic bubble tea. 

Buying bubble tea was definitely interesting, because nobody at the small shop spoke any English and we used our Chinese almost completely! Indeed a good practice!

“A Bite of China: Delicious Chinese Foods”

UDNSLIY July 12, 2017

Allen Zou

Today was another eventful day in Xiamen. We began the day like any other class day, with a traditional Chinese breakfast from Xiamen University’s cafeteria. After the meal all NSLI-Y students went to their designated Chinese language class and studied hard for three hours. When class ended, all the students rushed to the cafeteria for a well-deserved lunch.

Now, let’s talk about the highlight of the day: Kieth Xia’s lecture. Professor Xia is not only a distinguished intellectual, but also a distinguished gourmet. This leads into the subject of his lecture: Chinese cuisines. In his lecture, Professor Xia informed us about how there are in reality not four, but eight great regional cuisines: Shandong, Sichuan, Hunan, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Anhui, Jiangsu, and Fujian. In addition, Professor Xia  informed us of how weather and social customs have impacted and varied the styles Chinese cuisines. 

Learning about all the different types of cuisines in China has taught us about the vastness of China’s culture. It has allowed us to become more knowledgeable about Chinese food. It has allowed us to more deeply understand China’s culture.


Community Life: a Cross-Cultural Dialogue

Denny Rice

Today the UD NSLIY Xiamen group had the distinct pleasure of meeting with prominent members of the Xiamen community and local high school students at the Binhai Neighborhood Committee Headquarters. The Binhai Neighborhood Committee is just one of many Neighborhood Committees in the greater Xiamen area that function as the level of government closest to the people, much like city councils or home owners associations in the U.S. However, there are several key differences between the roles played by the neighborhood committees in China and local city councils in the United States. According to one of the social workers from the Neighborhood Committee who gave a presentation on the Committee’s activities, the purpose of the Committee is to positively engage its citizens in every aspect of their daily lives. While the Committee provides access to basic social services like Tai Qi classes for the elderly and community service efforts, they are also responsible for items such as promoting patriotism, administering justice and security within the neighborhood, and organizing the local chapter of the Youth League. Binhai itself is relatively small in terms of its geography. At only 1.5 square kilometers in area, the neighborhood stretches from golden sea shores on one end to lush, tree-covered cliffs on the other. The urban neighborhood nestled in between these two geographic extremes boasts an especially large population of approximately 11,000 residents- giving the neighborhood a mind-boggling population density of over seven people per square meter.

Our actual visit to the Binhai was spectacular. On our arrival we were greeted by a cadre of smiling Chinese high schoolers all holding signs welcoming us to their neighborhood. We were then ushered into the main lobby, where a team of older community members were waiting to perform a traditional waist drum dance on our behalf. Following their performance, we listened to a presentation given by various leaders of the Binhai Neighborhood Committee that explained the function of local government in China. Our hosts in Binhai were gracious enough to set up a number of cultural stations at their community center to give us a lesson in traditional Chinese culture. At these various stations, we learned how to prepare porcupine 

shaped red-bean buns (in Chinese红豆沙包子),how to write the character 福 (Fu, meaning fortune) in stylized calligraphy, and how to perform a traditional tea ceremony. After we finished going through the stations, we then watched a series of culturally-oriented performances by members of the Binhai community and UD NSLIY participants. In addition to Kung Fu and Tai Qi demonstrations, community members treated us to musical compositions on the Er Hu (a two-stringed Chinese version of the fiddle) and the Gourd Flute. Our very own UD NSLIY students did a riveting rendition of 小星星 (Xiao Xing Xing, more commonly known in English as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…) on the Ocarina and made us proud with Xinjiang dance and Tai Qi performances. To conclude our visit to the Binhai Neighborhood Association Headquarters, UD NSLIY students and local peers exchanged gifts and best wishes.