Alumni Spotlight: Marcus Wallace

Marcus Wallace studied abroad in Hainan, China during Summer 2012, and in Shanghai, China during Spring 2014. He graduated from University of Hawai’i at Mānoa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese  in May 2014.

Marcus posing at various spots around Shanghai.
Why did you choose your program locations? What was your goal/objective for studying abroad? 

I chose Hainan so that I could fast-track my Chinese learning to graduate ahead of schedule and, simply put, nothing advances your skill in a language as living in the target country. I went to Shanghai because it was another great opportunity to do that type of direct, immersive learning. Not to mention that Shanghai is an amazing city, absolutely packed with things to do and see. Chinese is my passion and there’s just no better way to feed that passion than to actually go there and get that first-hand experience.

Did you experience culture shock? 

I’ve been lucky enough to avoid much culture shock. Things are going to be much different when comparing here and China than say here and France, but that’s what I got into the program for to be honest. The chance to jump head first into something unfamiliar and make it my own.

What was the most memorable experience you had?

In Hainan, there was a huge downpour that came out of nowhere that flooded a lot of the streets. On campus there are these electric buses that carry 12 or so people from class to class, and on this day the bus I was on got stuck in this huge flooded part of the street. When the bus got stuck, without a second thought, almost everyone jumped off and started pushing the bus forward and out of the pit. I expected everyone to just jump off and run for shelter from the rain, but instead everyone did their part, and I was inspired to do the same.

In Shanghai, there was this theater troupe outside that came over to ‘bully’ me and my girlfriend. They were all dressed as gangsters from the 30’s and were having tons of fun. The main guy says, “Give us your money or else!” and I replied “Well, you’ll just have to taste my kung-fu!”, and then I did my best kung-fu stance (I’m sure it was awful). He ran with it, and right there in the middle of Shanghai me and this guy where having a fake kung-fu battle complete with a crowd. Afterwards I was invited to come see their show, and they even gave me a part in it, and after the show we all went out to the pub together.

What did you appreciate most about your study abroad experience?

I appreciated the freedom to go out and pretty much create our stories. Each time I went I made so many local friends, and had so much fun really diving into where I was living. I’ve been able to hang out with Buddhist monks, millionaire play-boys, and grandmas playing mahjong (they’re unbeatable). 

Name your top 5 favorite foods.

1. Uyghur (Chinese Muslims) food is AMAZING. The best noodles I’ve ever had. Can’t miss.
2. Go to a local dumpling/wonton place. If you’re paying more than $2 for 30 of them, then you didn’t go to the right place. The local spots where all the workers get their food is were the food stuff is. Always get the peanut sauce.
3. Go to a tea place. No need to get a whole ceremony or anything (most of those are scams), but find someone who knows a lot about tea, and sit and drink with them. This was one of my favorite things to do, and you’re going to make friends too.
4. If you’re homesick in Shanghai, go to 老外街 LaoWaiJie. It’s this long stretch of food from around the world including burgers and Mexican food. Great place to watch NFL, World Cup etc.
5. In Hainan you can’t beat the street food, the 夜市 YeShi (Night Market) opens up on the north and south ends of campus every night and the food is fantastic. It’s tough to not want to eat it everyday.

Name your top 5 favorite sights to see/things to do. 

Honestly, the list of things to do in Shanghai is actually endless. Be sure to check out Kung-Fu Komedy near 徐家汇 XuJiaHui. In Hainan make the most of the tutor you get. Each student gets a personal tutor, and if you finish your work, your tutor can become your tour guide! Let them take you to hang out with their friends and go out with them.

What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
I learned that I can take care of myself. I was able to navigate subways, hospitals, and pretty much everything life threw at me with just me and my language skills. It was a huge boost to my confidence.

How have these study abroad experiences changed you? 
Hainan and Shanghai confirmed to me that I knew what I was doing and most importantly that I have the skill and perseverance to pull it off.

What advice would you give to prospective students interested in studying abroad?

Do it. You’ll never be as free as you are in college again in life, take that freedom and travel with it. You’ll never be able to replicate this type of experience ever again.