Abroad in Asia | Overview

I just got back from an exhilarating trip to Asia, which lasted for 3 weeks! I spent a week in Beijing, China, a week in Shanghai, China, and a week in Seoul, South Korea. This was my first time traveling to Asia so I was very excited for the experience.

Tiananmen Square, Beijing

Tiananmen Square, Beijing

Huangpu River Cruise, Shanghai

Huangpu River Cruise, Shanghai

Gwanghwamun Gate, Seoul 

Gwanghwamun Gate, Seoul 

In January, I found out that I was able to go to China for 2 weeks through Howard University’s School of Business. The purpose of the trip was to consult for a Chinese inverter welding company that is interested in diversifying its business operations into the United States. In addition, we were to learn more about the Chinese culture and do a general study abroad tour.  Kristen has a lot of abroad experience and suggested that I try going to another country while over there, which birthed the idea of visiting South Korea. I’m ¼ Korean and my mother was born there, so I had always wanted to take this trip and am so happy that it was finally able to happen. My travel partner to Korea was my (play) little sister, Alexis! It was an ideal situation for her to travel with me because she is also ¼ Korean and had the same desire to visit the country where her mother was born. 

There was a pre-planned itinerary for China, so I didn’t do a lot of research before going. However, I did a lot more planning for Korea because this was a trip that I was totally responsible for. Some websites that were very helpful in my planning include Trip Advisor, Time (Travel), and CNN (Travel).

Before I go into detail about my trip in other posts, I wanted to discuss questions that I have been asked while abroad and since I’ve been back…

Did you get homesick at all?

YES! I’ve determined that my travel threshold is only about 2 or 2.5 weeks lol. After awhile I missed my bed, shower, family, friends, etc… but I had to remember to embrace the experience because it would all be there when I got back. Now that I’m back, I miss being in Asia lol. Go figure. 

Was there a sense of culture shock, or did your research prepare you?

 Being in Asia, there was a huge culture shock (which was to be expected since it is halfway across the world). In China (specifically Beijing), I had to get used to being a local celebrity! Many people had not seen Black Americans before and we were in a huge group of 30 students, so we were a little overwhelmed. I had people come up to me and take my picture, ask to take pictures with me, and even touch my hair!

I was sitting on the rail and people came up to me and started taking pictures with me! @ Temple of Heaven, Beijing

I was sitting on the rail and people came up to me and started taking pictures with me! @ Temple of Heaven, Beijing

I was sitting on the rail and people came up to me and started taking pictures with me! @ Temple of Heaven, Beijing

I was sitting on the rail and people came up to me and started taking pictures with me! @ Temple of Heaven, Beijing

I also had to experience the language barrier of people not speaking any English at all. I would try to speak slowly and touch on key words, but then I had to realize they could have been saying the Chinese or Korean word for anything and I wouldn’t know it, either. In Korea, we did not really receive a lot of stares and it was a lot more Westernized than I had imagined. It was easier to get adjusted to their culture for certain.

How was your adjustment to the food, and did you venture outside of Asian food at all? What was your favorite food/meal to eat while you were there?

I must admit, I was tired of Chinese food by the time I left China lol. We had a tour company plan almost all of our meals and they were family style, authentic Chinese. I tried everything from pork and chicken to fish and cow stomach. The plates were small, which showed how portion control is definitely a factor in China. When we got tired of Chinese food, we went to KFC and McDonald’s (it hurt my heart to eat at these places, I hadn’t had their food in over 3 years and don’t eat fast food!), which wasn’t too bad. Finally, we found some other Western style restaurants in Shanghai, which I will touch on a bit later. Altogether, I enjoyed the Chinese cuisine, but it got to be a bit much after 2 weeks. 

Family-style Chinese cuisine. Our first lunch in Beijing!

Family-style Chinese cuisine. Our first lunch in Beijing!

I grew up eating Korean food my whole life because my grandma and mom would always prepare it. At the least, kimchi was always available in my house. My favorite dish is definitely bulgogi and I had it about three times in Seoul lol. I also was able to try Korean fried chicken and other Korean BBQ. Seoul had an abundance of options in regards to food so when I wasn’t in the mood for Korean food, I had the opportunity to go to cute cafes and other international cuisine restaurants. They also had coffee shops/dessert shops on literally every corner, which surprised me! Many of them were 24 hours, which was the first indicator that Seoul is the real city that doesn’t sleep…

Authentic Korean BBQ - my first Korean meal! 

Authentic Korean BBQ - my first Korean meal! 

 Do you ever see yourself returning to China to explore more? What about South Korea?

Yes, I definitely see myself returning to both… I would pick going back to Korea over China, though, if I had to choose. I loved it so much + my roots are grounded there. However, I would love to explore other countries before I make the commitment to go back. I already told my mom that when I go back, she has to come with me – she hasn’t been since she was a little girl! I was truly impressed by all 3 cities and can say that I had the experience of a lifetime.