Matt Heinzman

Personal Discovery

Cultural Discovery

Social Discovery

Academic Discovery

Discovers the importance of localizing in Chengdu, China

Home University: Marietta College

Host University: Sichuan University

Semester Abroad: Spring 2010


What have you been doing in China during your visits? 

I came to China last May for a month and this year I have been here almost a month and will be staying until the end of June. While I have been in China, I have been traveling, sightseeing, and living an everyday life in China. Being here for a total of two months now, even though they were separated, I do not feel like a tourist at all. I have grown accustomed to many of the cultural differences and am learning new things everyday. I am staying with my Chinese roommate from my freshman year of college who I have become best friends with. Through this new friend I have gained many other new friendships as well and even a new family. I have been living with him and his parents in their apartment in Chengdu, China. I love it here! Chengdu is my favorite city having also been to Shanghai, Beijing, and Hangzhou. Each city has its very own distinct culture and atmosphere that make them each unique. The one major thing that is different about Chengdu is that it is not as modern as the other cities that I have mentioned. It is a big city of around 10 million people, I think, and they are just living their everyday

lives without many of the modern things that are in Shanghai. Being not as modern makes it very unique because not as many foreigners come to Chengdu and that gives me the chance to practice Chinese more. There are foreigners here, but not that many.

As for the daily routines that I go through are waking up and my new mom fixing us breakfast, which is totally different from anything that I have ever eaten in America. We then go out into the city to find something to do with our friends whether it is going to an internet café, going to the arcade, singing a song at KTV, or just sitting down somewhere to have tea and play Mahjong.


Some other interesting things that I have done while I have been in China are attending a Chinese wedding, going to the World Expo in Shanghai, visiting the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, trying all different kinds of foods, and many other things. One of the neatest things is the nightlife. At night the city comes to life. There are lights everywhere, shopping, the street vendor food, and many other interesting things to do. Tomorrow my friends and I will go fishing and then this weekend my new father is taking us somewhere for the weekend since my birthday is Sunday May 30th. I also was able to go to Bei Chuan, which was where the earthquake happened in 2008. At the time I went it was 2009 and there was still destruction everywhere. Since my new father had some relationships with the government we were able to drive down into the city because you needed some special pass to get through the gates. It made me so sad to see all of this destruction and that it happened while everyone was still at school or work so they never got to say good bye to their loved ones. They told me that at least every family had someone that was a family member either dead or missing. 

Why did you decide to go to China?

I decided to come to China because I am studying Mandarin Chinese at my institution and also Asian Studies is one of my majors in school. I thought that I should visit China before I really decided this is where I wanted to spend a major part of my life. My other major is International Business and being that China has one of the fastest growing economies, I thought that it would be interesting to see how the country operated. I was able to go and visit my new dad at his place of work. He and some others own a chemical factory close to Chengdu. It was very interesting, and in that part of the country the locals there had never really seen foreigners that much. People riding by on their bicycles would stop their bike right in front of me and just stare at me and then ride away. Sometimes when I visit places people either take my picture or come up to me and ask if they can take a picture with me. The first time any of this every happened, I felt so uncomfortable but I have become used to it now. I think that everyone that is a US citizen should go abroad not even to just an Asian country but anywhere in the world and stay for a length of time. It will really open their eyes to how great we have it in America. 

What is your most memorable experiences from your time in China?

One of my most memorable experiences in China occurred a couple of weeks ago. My new father had sat me and my friend down to talk to us, like he normally does on the weekends when he is home, and he told me that he and his wife love me and they think of me as a son. He also told me that this just wasn’t their home, but it was mine as well and if I ever needed anything to let them know and whenever I come to China I always have a place to stay in Chengdu. This really touched my heart and really made me think. I would have never guessed that I would be sitting there at that time the first day that I moved into the room with my two Chinese roommates. Also at the wedding that I attended my roommates grandmother told me that her and her whole family love me like a part of the family. These two situations made me feel like I was home with my family and not in a foreign country. I have many other memorable experiences, but this is the one that sticks out the most to me. 

Tell me about the World Expo in Shanghai that you attended.

The world expo was amazing, but I have never before in my life seen so many people in one place. It was so interesting to see each different countries culture and ideas that they have about the future. When we arrived at the world expo, we went straight to the Saudi Arabian pavilion, which was one of the main ones to go to. We waited in line for about 2 hours, but they said if you arrived at the expo a couple hours after the opening you would wait anywhere between 4 to 6 hours! My two favorite pavilions that I went to were the Czech Republic and New Zealand. We didn’t come even close to seeing the inside of every pavilion, but we were able to see many of them. We did not get to go into the Chinese pavilion because you have to make a reservation. The expo gives out 50,000 reservations a day for the Chinese pavilion. 28,000 reservations are given to groups and the other 22,000 are gone within the first 10 minutes of the opening of the expo. The expo was like nothing I have ever seen before in my life. The place is huge and my legs felt like they were going to fall off by the time I was done for the day. I am not used to 13 and a half hours of walking around. There were many interesting ideas about the future and what we as the world can do to help protect our planet.


Why do you think it is important for students to experience living in and/or visiting Asian countries?

I think that it is very important for students to travel to Asia. This part of the world is growing very quickly and it is a culture that many of us do not know that much about. In order for the US to create better relationships with Asian countries we not only need to work with them more, but also understand their culture better. I come from a small town in Southeastern Ohio along the Ohio River. I do not remember learning anything about Asia in school. We learned about many other countries history, but nothing about Asia, well not anything good. So I think that to create better relationships with Asian countries we need more and more students to travel to Asia to understand how these countries work. Not until then will we be able to create better ties with the rising Asian countries. We can also learn many things from Asian countries and with our different outlooks on ideas we can come up with new and better ideas for the future, which is what the World Expo in Shanghai is all about.

If you have ever read the “World is Flat” you will know that Japan seems to be more technologically advanced than the US. Like I said by working with these countries we can help better everyone’s lives and create a better future. I also think that it is very important to visit an Asian country because the culture is so much different here than that of the US. Living in a global society we need to learn how to adapt to new surroundings and new ideas. We need to learn how to interact with people of different cultures because we are going to be working with them more and more. Our generation isn’t going to be the like the previous generation at all. We are most likely not going to get a job in our hometown and stay there the rest of our lives. In order for ourselves to excel personally, we are going to need to travel around the world to make our lives better and the worlds lives better.

Do you have any words of advice for other students?

If you ever have the chance to travel to Asia or any other foreign country, go for it! I think that my experience has changed my life and has opened many new doors for my future. Not only will you gain great personal experiences, but you will also gain many new connections for your future. Rooming with Chinese students in college has been one of the best decisions in my life. It may have been difficult at first, but if you are patient things will work out. You not only gain knowledge of a new culture, but make life long friends and maybe even a new family. I would have never guessed that I would have gained so many new friends and family from a country on the other side of the world by rooming with Chinese students. Also while in a foreign country experience everything that you can. Try new things and step out of your comfort zone because if you don’t you will find yourself wanting to live like an American in a foreign country. If you live life and never step out of your comfort zone, you will never have an experience like I have had in China. My advice is to take action on any adventure that will lead you to Asia or any other foreign country. Since I have been in China, I have decided that I will also study abroad here my second semester of my junior year and also study that summer as well and after I graduate from Marietta College, I plan on coming to China to teach English and try to become fluent in Chinese and then find a job in Chengdu of course! I love it here and I will be sad when it is time to leave. I will miss my new friends and family so much, but I will return soon.


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