Davit poses for the camera at the Great Wall of China.

Davit – Study Abroad in China: Sport & Exercise Science

Written by Davit. This story first appeared on the Study Abroad Programs website.

As the trip in China was coming to an end, I was able to discuss my experience in this written report. In order to address my thoughts entering a foreign country, I must state the reasons why I considered studying in China. The reason I chose to attend China was because I have always wanted to visit The Great Wall and famous attractions that I have only seen in movies. Growing up in an Asian household, I was raised as a Buddhist and became familiar with Chinese history and folktales as it is much similar to stories my grandmother tells me of the homeland. During the first morning after arriving in Beijing, we were given a campus tour and also a chance to see how advanced their facility was compared to the kinesiology lab at Georgia State University. There, I could find the differences and similarities between Chinese and American exercise science education models.

Learning Chinese was very difficult the first week due to not understanding how to pronounce neutral tones and vowels. Seeing that I am mistaken for being Chinese due to Asian descent, I would often get annoyed when my group members repetitively ask “do you know how to speak Chinese,” as if I did not answer your question during orientation. I struggled putting sentences together and challenged myself to study my pronunciation when riding on the bus with my Chinese buddy, Kees. He would often laugh at my pronunciation and obnoxious American sense of humor as I would help him pronounce words in English. Instead of laughing with me, Kees could have been laughing at me all along – hey, what are friends for? As the trip came closer to the end, everything started to get ten times better! The food was excellent! I made friends with Purdue University and also interacted with the local students of Beijing Sport University. After meeting my Chinese friend, Gloria, at the welcome party, she was able to help me borrow a bicycle from her roommate. Thankful as I was, we hung out everyday while I was there. During the last night, I was invited to grab Chinese BBQ kabobs with other European and Chinese students who made me wish my program lasted another month. The second week of Chinese language allowed us to cut up Chinese characters that meant “double happiness” which we often saw above the doors as we walked along Nanluogu Xiang. I felt the double happiness when we went to see The Great Wall.

Out of all the sites we visited, I must certainly say that The Great Wall was my favorite. Since I was a young child, my father would take my brothers and I to see martial arts films, which gave me a glimpse of what I was getting myself into. I imagined Beijing to be a huge city with millions of people but I did not expect The Great Wall to be packed as well! There were people shuffling shoulder to shoulder to get up the mountain but I eventually made it through with Kees. What inspired me most was seeing determined elderly men and women continuing the trek to reach the peak. It made me think of my grandmother and wishing she could see the view from the summit. If only I could go back in time after I graduate with a degree in exercise science to help her with rehabilitation for her surgeries. Also, I would use a time machine to sharpen my basketball and volleyball skills to have a fair match against the BSU students who destroyed GSU in both sports.

Sports rehabilitation class taught me stretch tests that I have never heard of. For example, I did not know that once muscles become hypomobilized, it builds pressure on nerves and leads to pain. Also, I did not know that the femoral nerve stretch increases the ROM of the hip, and doing so would repress the pain felt in the lower back. Rehabilitation treatments in China are similar to the states in regards to pain control, stretching tight muscles, performing correct technique for activities, and following the right training intensity. As stated in the previous essay, the Chinese focuses on relaxation and breathing to maintain your inner Qi, whereas the American exercise science educational model focuses on proper technique and actively exercising. In acupuncture class, we learned traditional Chinese medicine methods such as acupuncture, cupping, scraping, and massage to help treat illness and prevent diseases. Most of the ones mentioned are not practiced commonly in America as a national accepted treatment for ill patients. Furthermore, acupuncture was the most challenging method because if your technique was poor while inserting the needle, you may strike a nerve or blood vessel and have painful bleeding. Having the chance to see it performed firsthand opened my mind to not only limit my career to a typical physical therapy clinic but to also consider TCM methods into my practice. If I do not choose to do so, it will not hurt to retain the knowledge of TCM techniques.

In conclusion, I enjoyed the long bus trips and conversations shared with everyone on the trip. Stepping off the plane and walking the streets of Beijing gave me a greater cultural trip than I expected. Meeting and interacting with BSU students who also spoke English made the transition much easier. Language was such a hard barrier to overcome but once I became able to take risks and speak to every stranger I could, I felt more independent. If I were to be afraid and not interact with anyone, I would have been just as disconnected from the stranger as I would if I had not said anything. Every opportunity I had to interact with another foreigner was delightfully taken. I am beyond happy that China was my first foreign country visit because it made me realize the things I was taking for granted back in America: air conditioners, clean air, pedestrian crosswalks, etc. I hope to use the knowledge learned in sports rehabilitation throughout my career.