by CHRISTINE BIGNEY
They say that it’s good to try different things. In Stacey Kowalczyk’s case, she didn’t think that would include drunken shrimp and cow’s intestine for dinner.
The 2007 graduate of Rockford High School always wanted to study abroad. So when a trip to China presented itself, Kowalczyk jumped at the opportunity. Never mind that she didn’t know the first thing about the language; she was ready to go.
Kowalczyk, currently in her Junior year at Grand Valley State University, traveled to China with two Professors and eight other Grand Valley students from May 5 through June 14, 2009.
“I took one class on how to speak Chinese, but I’m not very good at it,” Kowalczyk said with a smile. For the most part, Professors Peimin Ni and Geling Shang interpreted the language for them.
That came in handy when they were served a dish called Drunken Shrimp. Kowalczyk’s professors explained to them that the chef would literally soak the shrimp in liquor, and serve them alive to the diners. “My professor would prepare the shrimp for us, and then hold them out to us and say, “Here, eat this.”
Kowalczyk wasn’t too crazy about the drunken shrimp, but said at a breakfast buffet they were served cow intestine. “It wasn’t that bad, it tasted like noodles. It was grosser to look at, than eating it,” she said.
The students did, however, get an opportunity to visit an Italian eatery. “We were pretty psyched to get a fork.” Kowalczyk explained. “We had to get used to chopsticks real fast,” since other eating utensils were nowhere to be found.
The group stayed in Shanghai, but took side trips to Beijing, and Hainan, (sometimes called the “Hawaii of China”), which was on the South China Sea. “The scenery was beautiful,” Kowalczyk said.
The most memorable site for Kowalczyk was the Great Wall of China. Kowalczyk explained that they were very fortunate to have their professors, who knew their way around China and its sites. “We were able to visit parts of the Great Wall that most tourists don’t get a chance to see. They took us to parts that were crumbling and overgrown with vines,” she said. “It was magnificent.”
While the students were in China, they had to take three classes. Professor Shang taught Philosophy and the Chinese language. Professor Ni taught East Asian studies. The classes were about three hours each, with lots of discussion, and were held in a regular classroom at East China Normal University, where the Grand Valley group stayed during their visit. “We had to write a lot of papers, Kowalczyk lamented.
Kowalczyk communicated with her parents and friends through the Internet, on Facebook. “It was lot easier doing it that way instead of trying to buy a phone card, or trying to get through on a land-line.”
“I heard from a friend that stayed in China, that after we left, the University cut off access to Facebook. I’m sure glad that it was after I left!,” Kowalczyk exclaimed.
Kowalczyk is now preparing to go back to school at Grand Valley University, where she is majoring in accounting, minoring in statistics.
“I am happy I went, but I was glad to be home when the six-week trip was over,” Kowalczyk said. “Home” is still in Rockford, where she resides with her parents, Chip and Anita Kowalczyk.