Ryan Zwier's China Experience

Ryan Zwier's China Experience

Ryan Zwier of the baseball team spent the Fall 2018 semester in China. Here is his experience from East Asia.

By Ryan Zwier '20

北京大学的留学生 (Peking University Study Abroad Student)

During the adolescent years of my life, the thought of studying abroad was merely a fantasy. I've always wanted travel around the world and learn the traditions of different ethnic groups. Washington College and the very supportive baseball program made it possible for me to easily study abroad as a student-athlete. After spending four months half way around the world immersing myself in the Chinese culture, I have no regrets whatsoever.

Living in the capital city of the most populated country on earth was a remarkable experience, however, there were some challenges I faced throughout my time abroad. Peking University (北京大学), residing in the Haidian District of Beijing, is the most prestigious institution in all of China. During my tenure at Peking University, I was enrolled in four classes, which included International Business & China, Chinese Architecture, and two Chinese Language courses. Of the four classes, my favorite was International Business & China because we discussed and experienced firsthand the day to day effects of the trade war between the United States of America and China.

On top of four classes, I worked as an Application Development Intern for eRoc Blockchain Project of Beijing. Within the last decade, many startup Blockchain platforms have popped up worldwide.  This major expansion in startups is the result of Satoshi Nakamoto's published paper named "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System" on the cryptography mailing list on the website metzdowd.com, which made a debut of a new era of the Internet. Blockchain has many real-world applications, which include and isn't limited to cryptocurrency, financial services, voting and healthcare.  My position's daily tasks at eRoc included the development of decentralized applications, study of cryptography, implementation of encryption, creation of technical white papers, and Chinese to English translations. During my stint as an application developer, the most difficult obstacle to overcome was the language barrier. Of all the employees at eRoc, my boss was the only person that spoke some English. Along with the surge of new Blockchain terminology integrated into the Chinese language over the last decade, day-to-day communications with co-workers could be challenging at times. In the end, I am happy I stepped out of my comfort zone and took the challenge head on because the valuable experience and relationships I developed will last a lifetime.

One of my other favorite things about this semester was the opportunity to travel around China. My favorite trips were to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Shanghai Tower (second tallest building in the world), and the Shaolin Temple. When traveling, one of the most difficult things to overcome was communication with the locals whom often spoke with different regional dialects and accents. Having other international friends who were going through the same thing made the adjustment to different regional dialects much easier.

After the completion of my academic courses, I was fortunate enough to travel around China for two weeks. We traveled to five different cities, which included Luoyang, Xian, Xining, Lhasa, and Chengdu. We visited a vast number of temples, monasteries, and historic landmarks. Of all the places I visited, the highlight of my study trip was visiting Lhasa, Tibet, which is also known as "the roof of the world." Due to the extreme elevation in Tibet, we embarked on a 23-hour train ride through the Himalayas to climatize to the elevation. Lhasa housed the most breathtaking site I have ever visited. The Potala Palace is a World Heritage Site and was once the Winter Palace for the Dalai Lama. Tibet was the original home of the Dalai Lama before he was forced to flee at the outset of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising. Witnessing the aftermath of the "peaceful" liberation firsthand taught me that there are still many wrongs to right in modern civilization.

Now that my time has come to an end in China, I look back on my experiences and I am extremely thankful for the support of my family, coaches, teammates, friends, and faculty. Without these people in my life, my reality would've been nothing but a dream.