Study Abroad Profile: Vanessa Vallejo – A Hands-on Experience in China

What is it like in China? We always hear stories about the conditions in communist North Korea, and it can be easy to compare the two countries based on their styles of leadership. From the protests in Tiananmen Square in April of 1989 to the recent protests in Hong Kong some would think that China is very similar to North Korea. In reality, China is quite different, as students who visited last year can attest.

Vanessa Vallejo is a senior pursuing a master’s in Global Security and Intelligence Studies (GSIS) with a minor in Spanish and has studied the Chinese language for two years. The summer of 2019 was her first time to participate in a Study Abroad program. “I went with an open mind, I actually did not look up a lot of stuff with China, because, I was like, social media and the media is way different from what you experience over there.” Vallejo described that in China, everyone used their phones for everything, including: Shopping, railway tickets, concert tickets, restaurants, and more. The United States is becoming very similar, but we still have quite a bit of catching up to do compared to most of Asia. The cultures of China are also modern and “Westernized,” despite what the media might make one believe. “They do like the American culture a lot too, like they were always asking about it and everything…” Vanessa explains. The Chinese are huge fans of the American National Basketball Association or NBA. They also have just about every fast-food restaurant that’s found in the United States on every street corner and in every mall.  

Luckily, Vallejo and the rest of the Study Abroad group left China before the pandemic started, meaning they did not have to go into quarantine, or through a long and complicated process in order to come back to the states. She describes when she had first heard about the Coronavirus: “I was like, ‘Oh, really?’ Like I just got out in time.” If the group had stayed for the Fall semester, Vallejo would have had to stay in her dorm for weeks without stepping foot outside. In fact, this was the reasoning she had when she declined a later Study Abroad trip to Korea, the entire trip would have been confined to her dorm where she would have been quarantined.

The Coronavirus came at a very bad time. At the height of political tensions and economic rises, a virus that started in one of the United States’ most rival countries spread across the globe, changing everyone’s life. People are mad and confused; it seems like the perfect way to persuade peoples’ beliefs, and indeed it has. Thanks to students like Vallejo, we can see the universal effects of the pandemic. China is going through some of the same difficulties that the United States is, and there is no evidence the pandemic was man-made or intentional in any way.

We live in an age where we need to make less accusations about our enemies, or it will eventually tear us apart. China is a country much like the United States, with many of the same cultural touchpoints and struggles. Do not let a natural occurrence change your point of view on people of certain culture, nationality, or appearance, let only their actions. If we can work together, investigate and solve this problem, then we can ease political tensions and bring back our economy.