US college student raves about China

By Dong Leshuo in Rockville, Maryland | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-08-25 11:56

A scholarship leads to a three-week exchange program that opens a young man's eyes to a different culture

To Andrew Mayhew, a sophomore at State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College, his three weeks in China were a life-changing experience.

Mayhew, who won a scholarship from the Connecticut Maritime Association (CMA) Education Foundation, was the first American student sent to China by CMA.

"I really cannot stress how amazing it was," said Mayhew, as he recalled the trip in Rockville, Maryland on Aug 16.

 US college student raves about China

Andrew Mayhew (center), a sophomore at State University of New York Maritime College, with Huang Liang (right) and Zhang Hongtao (left), a pilot and training pilot at Port of Shenzhen, stand on the deck of a tugboat on Aug 1. Provided to China Daily

Mayhew arrived in Qingdao on July 17 and visited three other cities, Weifang, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

"I went out to see the culture, the people, ate lots of different foods," he said.

Mayhew didn't speak any Chinese but traveled by train himself from Qingdao to Weifang.

"It was a good experience. It was very quick," he said of the train ride.

In Weifang, Mayhew met with teachers and students at Shandong Maritime Vocational College.

"When Sun Qisheng, who was vice-mayor of Weifang and now is the secretary of the Politics and Law Committee, visited the US in April 2016, he expressed a strong desire to build connections with US companies and colleges, especially in the area of maritime.

That's why I introduced Andrew to visit Shandong Maritime Vocational College to explore possibilities for future collaborations," said Larry Liu, board director of CMA.

The SUNY Maritime College has exchange programs with students from many countries but not in Asia.

"We talked about the possibility of creating an exchange program where Chinese and American students can go back and forth," Mayhew said.

"They are a very good school. They actually have more simulators than my school. They have six simulators for navigation while we have two," Mayhew said.

Mayhew spent 10 days in Shanghai, the first half exploring the city and the second half interning at COSCO, the largest integrated shipping company in China and the second largest in the world.

"It's extremely impressive. It's a massive company. Everybody seems to be very happy, and they were very generous to teach me about their side of the business. "

Shanghai was Mayhew's favorite city on the trip.

"The infrastructure was great. The city is clean. I did not realize how big it is until I got on to the top of the Shanghai tower. It's huge," he said.

Mayhew got to ride one of the shared bikes.

"I like it that they have a network of bikes. That was mind-blowing to me why we don't use that in the US? It's a simple thing, but it really helps a lot of people," Mayhew said.

Shenzhen was the most educational part of the trip to Mayhew. With the help and support of the Port of Shenzhen, he had the chance to board the world's largest container ship and get hands-on experience as a harbor pilot, which he never had done before.

A harbor pilot or master is essentially a traffic controller for the sea. As a ship pulls into port, the harbor pilot climbs aboard and helps guide it safely to shore.

"I've never been on a pilot bridge. They brought in eight different ships while I was there. It was a very interesting and educational part of the trip," Mayhew said.

Mayhew and his family knew "very little" about China before this trip.

"We were a little bit shocked when we thought about sending him half way across the global to a country that we didn't know anything about," said Christina Mayhew, Andrew's mother.

Both of Mayhew's parents and two of his brothers have never been to China.

Mayhew's parents installed WeChat on their phones and learned how to use the application so that they could receive real-time photos and video of Andrew's adventures in China.

"It was cool to see the different things that he was doing in China. All of our family and friends, everybody wanted us to keep them in the loop about what Andy was doing," said his mother. "So I feel like it wasn't just an experience for Andy. It's an entire experience for our family and friends, who really now have a better understanding of Chinese people, the culture, the opportunities over there."

Mayhew said that the best part of the trip was learning about a different culture.

"I don't think each country really understands the culture as much as they should, especially not in the American education system," Mayhew said.

"It really enlightened us about the Chinese people, the culture that he was experiencing," Christina Mayhew said. "It's not only an education for him, but we feel like the whole family was educated on Chinese culture."

Both Mayhew and his parents are very grateful to the Chinese people who Mayhew encountered on his trip.

"Everyone that he was associated with, they were wonderful. They treated him so kindly, so graciously," his mother said.

"I learned to respect their culture and share my own culture," Andrew Mayhew said.

"I'm still in touch with a few of them. We still contact through WeChat. I told them that whenever they come to the US, I'll treat them the same way," he said.

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