Chance of a lifetimePublished 11:14am Saturday, June 29, 2013
Carrsville-A chance of a lifetime has left Franklin native Delydia Lawrence with a whole new perspective. She just returned from spending four months in China, learning the language and immersing herself in the culture.
While glad to be back with her parents, Burdette and James Lawrence, in their Carrsville home, the people she met and memories she made have made a lasting impression on the Windsor High School Class of 2010 graduate.
A rising senior at the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business at Virginia State University, Lawrence is majoring in Accounting and minoring in International Business.
The semester abroad was right in line with her career path. She jumped at the chance to go to China and study at Beijing Normal University. But getting there required quick action and filling out a mound of paperwork.
“I was a student ambassador at VSU and worked with the dean and assistant dean. They asked me one day if I was going to apply to go to China — then informed me I had to have the application in by 5 p.m. that day,” she recalled.
Lawrence continued, “It took me the whole day to get it done and the next week I was chosen to interview. In another two days, I was filling out an application for my passport.” She found out she was going in October and had all of her required paperwork submitted by December.
Having received a scholarship for the study abroad program, everything was funded, including insurance while overseas, the airfare, housing and a monetary stipend to purchase food, supplies and take side trips.
“At the time I had to give $1,000 but the scholarship covered that,” she recalled. So she and four other honor students took off for China.
While she stuck together with her core group, Lawrence said she made many new friends. While enrolled at Beijing Normal University they stayed in the international students’ dorms on campus and Lawrence took three business courses and two Chinese language courses.
“I was thinking I’m going to be in China so thought the international dorm would be mostly Americans but there were people from Korea, Mongolia, England and Indonesia,” she explained.
The main thing she learned — “You have to be flexible and take it for what it is.”
“If I found something to be odd — it was just odd. For example, in the Chinese culture it is deemed acceptable to use the bathroom on the streets. Needless to say the smells in Beijing were horrendous.”
While there, the group did activities together, held bible study and went to an international church.
Beijing Normal University is the largest school in Beijing, said Lawrence. “It has an elementary school for teachers’ children, housing for international teachers and facility workers and is also a graduate school.”
She said her classes were close by to her housing and indicated the university is also the top school to study Chinese. She said one of the struggles she had was taking graduate level Business courses. “You had to work closely with your teachers. I put in some long hours.”
Lawrence maintained that the teachers spoke some English and her favorite instructor was her Conversation teacher. “She was the best. We were all able to learn Chinese because of her.”
Having made some friends, Lawrence said going shopping and out to dinner with them helped her pick up the language as well.
Being introduced to the food was also an experience. “The food is very different. American Chinese food is completely different. They eat a lot of vegetables first. A lot of times when we’d go out to eat, there would be a centerpiece in the middle of the table that would spin, and they’d bring out the dishes for you to serve yourself. There were some really spicy foods.” While there are western restaurants, Lawrence said they are much more expensive.
She learned the currency fairly quickly. She said, “One American dollar is equal to six Chinese dollars. I could go to the canteen and get food for 1.5 kuai (pennies). At the end of four months, mentally I was thinking in Chinese dollars.” Near the end of her stay she said she and some friends went to a TGIF’s in San Li Tun, an upper scale part of the city and a steak on the menu was 128 Chinese dollars, but really is was about 22 U.S. dollars.
While there Lawrence took many side trips, including the Great Wall of China, the Olympic village, the Summer Palace and the exhibit of the terra cotta warriors in Xi’An.
“My best trip was to the Great Wall. It was myself and eight other student friends. We hiked up the side of a mountain and camped in part of the unrefurbished part of the wall. I was surrounded by great people that I had built relationships with. The trail was muddy and had steep inclines so we were relying on God to keep us safe and our friends to encourage us. Once at the top — it was the most glorious moment ever. And we made it there just in time before the sun set.”
The one thing she will miss the most about China is the shopping. “I spoke only Chinese when I shopped,” she said, adding that if you spoke the language you’d get a better price. The merchants barter, she said, and there is no tax. “A lot of times if you say no and offer another price, you would get it for that price. I bought a pair of shoes for 36 kuai, which is 12 U.S. dollars but the original price was 1,000 kuai.”
Lawrence arrived in China February 14 and returned stateside June 15. Now she has finished all the courses necessary for her minor in international business. She and the four other girls from VSU that traveled together have made a pact that whenever they see each other on campus, they will speak only Chinese.
Lawrence hopes to use her language skills in her future career. “I’d like to work in the US but on an international level to travel,” she stressed. She plans on going back and hopes to visit the friends she made in their home countries of Mongolia, Thailand and Indonesia.
She carried a memory book with her, signed by those she met on her trip of a lifetime.