Sean Feeney is a Finance and Computer Science student at Concordia College in Minnesota, US. He came to UIC during the second semester of the 2018/2019 academic year. Sean shares his experiences from his time in Asia and at UIC.

 

Sean's story

“Why China?!” This is the seemingly programmed response I received from everyone when I told them my studies would be taking me halfway across the world to the most populous nation on planet Earth.

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I suppose the story starts, as many do, when I was a kid. On the playground, we would dig holes in the sand and dramatically proclaim that we were digging a tunnel to China. Then, after hours of laborious work, we would give up and get some ice cream. Well, I never did finish that tunnel to China, but here I am 14 hours ahead, 7045 miles west, and an entire Pacific Ocean away from everything I have called home for the past 21 years of my life. I have learned plenty over the past 5 months, yet perhaps the most important skill I have obtained is using chopsticks. I mean forks are cool, but chopsticks are exotic. A novice in my first weeks on campus, I have honed my craft and can now use them with my left and right hand fluently. Currently, I am working on only using one chopstick, but balancing noodles can be a challenge.

This brings me to my next point, there is no such thing as authentic Chinese food, at least where I come from, in the US. I have tested the limits of my stomach and have only lost a few battles. Chicken feet, duck feet, cow stomach, cow tongue, and many more meals have left my eyes questioning the sanity of my friends as we ate. The noodles will never get old and the rice is always a comforting breath of fresh air. Above all, the dumplings were my favourite. My stomach feels cultured, or at least it feels something, should I get that checked out? Anyways, the food was incredible at every turn and it is something I will miss upon my departure.

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Sean enjoys the local Chinese cuisine

On a more serious note, the people I have met here have been amazing. Never have I felt as welcomed as a stranger in my life. The students at UIC were always eager to get to know me, perhaps because I was tall and foreign; nonetheless I made many lasting friendships and had great experiences. I even starred in a student advertisement, which convinced many people that I spoke fluent mandarin, too bad I was only acting.

My Chinese language teacher, Ms Candy Cai Jingjing, would have been proud watching me go from a student who could not even say his name to a master of asking how much something cost or ordering simple food. I will miss her and the fun activities we had as a class, especially our performance in the Chinese talent show. She goes above and beyond for her students and for that I am truly grateful.

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Sean with his classmates and Chinese language teacher

I had the opportunity to meet and interview UIC President, Professor Tang Tao, for my business podcast, an experience I won’t forget. We talked about leadership, the role of UIC, and of course Math. He is a wonderful man with wise insight. I hope to see him again in the future.

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Sean interviews UIC President Prof Tang for his podcast

I was truly blessed to have such an awesome group of international students to hang out with, many of them I may never see again, but the memories won’t be easily forgotten. We travelled to Vietnam and experienced a world of traffic chaos. In the US the lines dividing lanes are strictly adhered to, in China they are more like guidelines, in Vietnam they are non-existent. I have never seen so many scooters in my life! I fell in love with Vietnam, as I did China, and our experiences there are something I will treasure.

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Sean's friends who he met at UIC

Last, but not least, I will miss the beautiful city of Zhuhai. The roaming hills of jungle/forest captured my imagination every time I caught a glance. I grew up in a desert, so the colour green is especially foreign to me, as is rain. I did not buy an umbrella until a few days ago and will likely not need one when I leave; it only took me four months to catch on.

Seeing fireworks over the Opera house was stunning and the skyline of Macau is now the background on my phone. I will miss the crowning mark of Zhuhai, the Fisher girl. Did you know she survived a hurricane? Yes, and I am certain she will stand strong for many more years to come. As for me, my time in China is quickly running out as are my words for this write-up.

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The impressive firework display near Zhuhai's Opera House

I am thankful for my roommate Edward for showing me the way and dealing with me all semester. Thanks to the Media and Public Relations Office for the good chats and giving me the chance to write this. The future may be uncertain, but it is bright and filled with opportunity. There are many more mountains to climb, peaks to reach, and sunsets to see, but as for my memories in China, in my heart they will forever be.

Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He, Marissa Furney