Student Interview: Loren Carillo
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Loren Carillo, I am from Gonzaga University. My major is Political Science, and my minors are Sociology and Economics and my interest is Journalism and Multimedia. So right now, I’m working on graphic designing, photography, and videography while working at Project Pengyou here in Beijing.
What sparked your interest in China and why did you come to China in the first place?
So initially I just wanted to study abroad. I’m on a scholarship at my university that pays for all of my expenses, so I figured I needed to get the most bang for my buck. I definitely want to travel around the world as much as I can so I figured I wanted to study abroad. Initially I wanted to study abroad in Japan, and then I went to go visit my high school teacher, I have a few mentors back in my hometown, and I talked to them about wanting to go to Japan to study abroad, and we thought about that, and he stopped me and he said, “If you want to study anywhere, you should go to China.” And that was because my hometown has a lot of connections to a city in China, and mainly because President Xi Jin Ping visited my high school a year after I graduated so now my principal has personal connections with China. He’s been to [China] multiple times, and I even have multiple teachers in that high school who have traveled and taught in China in the summertime. So that and a combination with just China becoming more and more relevant on the international stage, kind of sparked my interest in being involved with China in some way. Before that, that was my sophomore year of college, before that I had literally no interest. Not that I disliked China, but I just did not have any interest in studying Mandarin or going to China at all. So it was very like, “oh, okay so let’s go to China.”
What did your family and friends back home think about your decision to come to China?
My mom and my dad were actually super supportive. They’ve always been super supportive about the things I do, and I’m really fortunate in that way. Anytime I take a chance or just take a whack at something, they’re really supportive. They usually help me see the brighter side of things. In a lot of it was just support. My mom and my dad are actually very proud of me because my dad has never traveled outside of the US. I think my mom has traveled once to Canada; no, my dad has traveled once to Mexico, but other than that, they don’t, they and their families never traveled outside the US much. Also, I am one of the first, I am the first in my college to go to college so, everything that’s happening is happening outside the realm of what has happened in their lives, and they’re really excited about it. So they’re extremely supportive about all of this.
Based on your experience in China what would you say is your favorite thing or aspect of China, Chinese culture and Chinese people?
There’s a lot. I think, one of my favorite aspects about China and Chinese culture, it’s not even necessarily, it’s only specific to China because I’ve had experience in China, but it can be applied anywhere, and it’s learning about the cultural differences but then kind of seeing past those to see the similarities that we have especially as students. Like you and me we laugh about the same things, we make jokes about the same things, *laughs* so it’s nice to learn and talk about the superficial differences and even the non-superficial differences. But then it’s even cooler to connect and realize we’re all young people, living on this earth right now. My favorite thing about China is just learning about how close we really are.
Have you traveled around China or other parts of Asia? Would you say it’s easy to travel?
I mean infrastructure wise, yes in Beijing it’s really easy, you’ve got the bullet trains, the trains, planes, you know, besides all the congestion and cars in Beijing and whatnot. I would say, yeah, it’s really easy to travel. At least in China. I haven’t really gone very far outside of China but I think I’ve seen more of China than I’ve seen in the US. I’ve seen the east side of China to the West side of China, but I have not been East side to West side in America. Granted, we had a program to take us there, but even then I just think the fact that there are trains and good infrastructure, despite it not having a super-connected highway; but you don’t even need a car to get around in China. You just need some money to travel. So I think it’s pretty easy to travel around China.
After seeing so many cities in China, what do you think about the city of Beijing?
I like Beijing, but spending so much time in Beijing, I now thirst for new experiences in new cities; a new living experience. I visited Shanghai and I liked the vibe I got when I was there; I was only there for a weekend. But overall, when I think about Beijing I think about a lot of things. I think about how many people there are; there’s like two sides to that, like how many people there are because it’s just crowded sometimes, but the other side of that which is how many people there are to meet, and how easy it is to meet people. I think about construction and how inconvenient that can be but it’s also really interesting to see that side of this city. And see how it differs from my hometown Tacoma. Generally, I think Beijing, I think busy. I haven’t really sat down and reflected on how I feel about Beijing. I know I want to experience other cities, I know that for sure. I know I don’t dislike Beijing, but it’s not like I’m in love with Beijing, you know? I don’t know how much of that is coming from me just wanting to experience other cities or how much of that is just me not loving, but not disliking Beijing.
You were here for TBC 2017 Fall, so when you went back to the US after the semester, what did you miss most about China?
Man, I just missed the simple daily routines of getting up at 7 AM after going to bed at 2 AM to study for my Chinese classes, heading to the cafe and getting my 茉莉奶茶 (Jasmine Milk Tea), writing Chinese characters for two hours before Chinese class, going to class, learning Chinese with my close friends, and after that just enjoying the day in the lounge, or here on campus. I missed taking the subway to go see a new cafe every weekend; I really just miss the minute things; the daily routine that I had that got associated with Beijing, then got associated with China, then got associated with Chinese, like the Chinese language.
What would you say was the biggest reason that made you decide to come back?
I think it was one part the travel bug, the second part is my experience with China was still very relevant, very fresh. So I was thinking if I am going to go back to China, why not do it sooner rather than later, and the third part just wanting to continue building on my experience in China and build my Chinese language skills. I think it was mainly timing. I was thinking if I want to go back to China why not do it sooner rather than later, I am only gonna be an undergrad, for a maximum of four years, so I need to use this opportunity while I have it, and hopefully I’ll do the same thing after graduation and the same thing after that, but I just know I needed to come back, and I needed to come back sooner rather than later. I had already created those relationships with TBC and it was more of a “why not” kind of thing.
In what ways is your second China experience different than your first one?
This time I’m actually doing an internship, and I chose not to have an internship last time because I didn’t want to have too much work and wanted more to enjoy my experience abroad and I’m glad I did that. I’m also glad that I came back a second time to experience the other side of that, which is now internship intensive. So in the way that it differs is that now I’m expected to be at a job, to produce things for other people. It’s not like I’m getting a grade and if I get a bad grade it’s on me and it affects not only me if I do a bad job, it affects other people and how I’m represented in the workplace, and I feel like there is more pressure to become better professionally. And also, I think last time we interacted with each other as students of TBC but this time we are not at TBC all the time because of work. Most of us work 9 to 5 and like to go to a café afterward. So in that way, there is a lot less of a student experience and more of a young professional experience, and that’s a good thing that I never had before and I’m glad that I’m having it for the first time in Beijing, where it’s so easy to connect with other people who also consider themselves young professionals, and I think it’s been extremely advantageous to be a young professional in this city and I’m glad I’m doing it now before I graduate, so I get the undergrad experience, make connections and prepare for my graduate experience.
Tell us a bit more about your internship. What specifically would you be doing?
I intern with Project Pengyou, and I’ve come to really love it, to be honest. Project Pengyou was not my first choice when I decided to come here. It was more like a scrambling, close-to-last choice, not that I put them last on my list but just that time was running out. I needed an internship. I was flying very soon. I needed to handle paperwork and whatnot, so I was like “whatever I get just give it to me”, because I need something if I’m gonna be in Beijing. I got Project Pengyou. I mean the mission fit with exactly what I wanted, which was to build bridges between America and China. I’ve come to love it because the team there is young, professional and experienced. They hold strong leadership values, and they know how to run an organization. There are three paid employees there who run an international organization which blows my mind. I was talking to Alyssa, one of my supervisors about this. A lot of the teamwork that goes on there reminds of the teamwork that goes on in my high school wrestling team, which was led by my high school coach. By a lot of people, he’s known as the strong leader. This sounds kind of superficial, but my point is that I’m just really impressed with the teamwork at Project Pengyou and I’m glad to have been a part of that. I really loved it and am glad that I was accepted by them. And hopefully, I’ll have more Project Pengyou interactions in the future, as an intern or as an employee. I’ve definitely got their back for whatever they need me.
What advice do you have for those thinking to come to China?
I would say obviously keep an open mind. Everybody says that. Be patient when you are here. You might experience some frustrations with cultural shock and some things that you don’t think are cultural shock but are actually cultural shock. I think what made my China experience is that I’ve been very open to whatever comes my way, whether I’m assigned tasks for Project Pengyou, or weekend change of plans. This is a hard question. Coming to China I’d definitely say study Chinese, keep an open mind and say yes. Say yes to experiences.