Year spent across the world

Photo Credit: Maria Hinrichs

Reality hit junior Sarah Hinrichs hard when she discovered she would be spending her seventh grade year (2011) living 7,000 miles away… in China. Hinrichs’ never imagined she would have to leave her comfortable lifestyle in Michigan behind for a foreign land full of different traditions, cultures, and lifestyles.

Hinrichs’ family was forced to relocate when her father, President of Ford Asia Pacific, was transferred to China. During their time overseas, the Hinrichs’ family chose to reside in a downtown apartment in Pudong, China. Pudong is the the home of the Shanghai Tower and, according to the 2010 Census, has over 5 million inhabitants.

“Living in Pudong felt like living in a mall,” said Hinrichs. “On a Saturday[s], every place you try to go is so crowded; you can’t even move.”

The cramped, urban living conditions greatly differed from Hinrichs’ old spacious, suburban lifestyle. China’s culture was also extremely difficult for Hinrichs to grow accustomed to.

“At first it was really hard to learn and understand the culture,” said Hinrichs. “It was most difficult to adjust to the type of food they eat.”

When most Americans think of Chinese food, they may think of restaurants such as P.F. Chang’s. However, P.F. Chang’s really isn’t an accurate representation of traditional Chinese food. Chinese cuisine stresses varying textures, and Hinrichs admited that sometimes it was a little odd. The textures weren’t the weirdest thing for Hinrichs, however.

“The rumors are true, people do eat dogs in China,” confirmed Hinrichs with a chuckle.

Hinrichs attended Concordia International School in Shanghai during her year-long stay in China. The teaching style at Concordia was really different from American schooling. For example, taking a Chinese class is required.

“I took Spanish at Mercy and Chinese is way harder to learn,” said Hinrichs. “Taking Chinese at Concordia helped me not feel like such an outsider [in China.] It taught me how to order food and ask other questions to help me get by.”

Before moving to China, Hinrichs admits she was skeptical of what her experience would be like. However, overall, Hinrichs is really grateful for her year living overseas.

“I am so lucky I… had the opportunity to meet all new people and see [the] different ways people live.”