By Sally Faith Omollo and Eilleen Namaindi Wamalwa, GTTP Kenya students
Our journey to China began in 2014, when GTTP Kenya broke to us the awesome news that we would be beneficiaries of a four year full scholarship program at the Tourism College of Zhejiang China. It took some time to gather all the required documents and follow up the required procedures, but finally, on the 8th of March 2015, we set off to China.
It was quite an emotional moment, leaving behind our families, friends and loved ones in order to pursue our dreams in the tourism industry, but it was worth it because we would come back home, better and more productive people to the society.
ADJUSTING TO LIFE IN CHINA
The first thing we had to do in order to settle well in China, make friends and communicate with the Chinese people was to learn the Chinese language. We spent our first semester in the elementary Chinese class, learning the basic communication words, and the basic characters. This was so much fun, because the teachers provided a very friendly learning environment, and the students were also very friendly to us.
MAKING FRIENDS WITH OTHER CHINESE STUDENTS AND FOREIGN STUDENTS
One thing that has made our stay in China very interesting is the fact that we have been able to interact well with both Chinese and foreign students, and have been able to make very good friends with them. Our Chinese friends have been very helpful in that they always create time to help us practice our Chinese. The other foreign friends have also been helpful because whenever we meet, we share different things about our countries, and in this way, we acquire a vast range of knowledge concerning the different cultural practices in different countries. At times, we also cook and share the different types of foods and snacks from our countries
PARTICIPATING IN CO-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Apart from studies, the school has also been very efficient in ensuring that we take part in other co-curricular activities such as school trips, sports and attending traditional Chinese culture performances. We find this very exciting because we love exploring and experiencing different things. The co-curricular activities are also important since they make your mind think outside the classroom environment and it is what got us the opportunity to be here in China.
Every semester, we attend at least 2 field trips, organized by the school, in which we visit different historical places, both within and outside Hangzhou. The first ever field trip we took part in was in one of the best parks in Hangzhou. We have also had a chance to visit some famous places in China such as the Thousand Island lake, (Qiandao Hu), The grand Canal of China, the famous green tea museum, the traditional Chinese villages, the bird park…..etc.
One of our most memorable trips was when we visited a famous building that is an exact copy of the Tianamen square in Beijing.
After that, we proceeded on to visiting the famous home for Chinese stars (a Chinese version of Hollywood) where we watched different breath taking performances, and learnt so much more about the Chinese culture, as well as the Chinese people. We also had a chance of witnessing a horse race, that was related to an ancient Chinese story.
During our first months in China, we also took part in a government-organised field trip, in which we visited ancient streets of Hangzhou, and witnessed the performance of the Beijing Opera. This was a very exciting experience since we got the chance to gain some knowledge on the ancient people’s way of life as well as witness some of the ancient performances that are highly valued in China.
We also visited the Chinese hospitals, and were taken through some medical procedures of Chinese medical treatment, such as acupuncture. After that, we were given free Chinese medicine, which we carried back to school. The medicine was so useful, especially for curing colds.
Since our country Kenya is well known for its sporty nature, we took up the task of flying our country’s flag higher by indulging in sports. We have taken part in different types of sports, both within and outside school. The sports activities outside school have been the most exciting since we get to meet and interact with other people from other countries. There are moments when we have even met students from Tanzania, a country neighbouring Kenya.
The most common forms of sports we have taken part in include: marathon, short races, skipping rope, tug of war and basketball. In all the sports, we have always brought out the best in us. The best activity was a marathon race organised by yunqi where we came back home with medals.
One of the most exciting co-curricular activities we took part in was the cooking competition. This was a competition organised by the school. Participants were in groups of twos, in which we were required to cook a special type of meal from our home town. The judges were top chefs from the school’s culinary department. We presented the special Swahili style Kenyan food, that comprised fried Kenyan rice, chicken stew, and some freshly blended mango juice, and that took us all the way to the second best position. We were then awarded certificates and some money as a token of appreciation for the good work and the delicious food we made.
HOW WE SPEND OUR FREE TIME
Since each new day always brings something new to us, we always spend our free time by doing something different each time. One of the things we spend our free time doing include: finishing up assignments, cleaning and organising the room, attending Chinese shows, going to the theatre for movies, attending shows organized by the school that teach us more about Chinese culture, going to church to worship, since we are Christians, visiting unique places walking on the beautiful streets at Hangzhou, while admiring how beautiful the city is, both during the day and at night, and spending time with our friends.
SUMMER AND WINTER VACATION INTERNSHIPS
GTTP, in collaboration with the school, have always made an effort to secure for us internship positions at some of the top most 5 star hotels during the winter and summer holidays. So far, we have worked as interns in three different international five star hotels. We had our first and the most amazing summer internship experience at The Dragon Hotel, Hangzhou. While at The Dragon, we managed to work in different departments such as front office, foods and beverages, sales and marketing, house keeping department and the human resource department. The most amazing part of it all is that during the whole 2 month internship period, we were residing at one of the guest rooms in the hotel.
While at Dragons, we acquired so much knowledge concerning the different departments, from the staff workmanship, to the management.This knowledge has been of help during our hotel management classes since we can relate to what is being taught. During the last two weeks, we were also given a chance to lead an English training program for staff members at the hotel. It felt awesome to share our English knowledge with others and help them improve their spoken English.
Our second summer, vacation was at an exclusive hotel, called Hangzhou, Linan, Tuankou Radon Hotspring Hotel. The most unique feature of this hotel is that it is a hot spring hotel, and the hot springs are all natural. We were honored to work at the executive lounge of the hotel, where in most instances, we handled the VIP guests. One thing that made our stay in this hotel interesting was the exclusive attitude of the guests and staff members towards us. The other interesting thing about Tuankou Hotel was the fact that there were very many foreigners working as staff, so that created a home environment, and made us feel at home. During the low seasons, the hotel could give us the chance to enjoy some of the guest facilities such as the water park, the hot springs and the swimming pools.
Our first winter vacation internship was at the Zhejiang Tourism Grand Hotel This was a whole new experience since we were handling cabin crew members of different flights and travelling guests. While at this prestigious hotel, we worked at one department, which is the foods and beverages department. Most of our shifts were the early morning shifts, from 6.00 am to 2.00 pm. It was a great working with very hard working and inspiring staff members for 1 and a half months, and before we knew it, winter vacation was over, and we had to come back to school.
Living in China has been and still is an experience of a lifetime. We have made very good friends, who have turned out to be our families, and we really can’t imagine what it will be like leaving them behind when we finally go back home.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the entire GTTP fraternity and the management of Tourism College of Zhejiang for giving us this lifetime opportunity. We would also like to thank our teachers and friends who have made our stay in China awesome!