Katerina participated in the 2013-2014 Chinese Academic Year program.

The theme of the week in HangZhou was innovation and culture in the ZheJiang province. We visited many temples and museums around West Lake, the featured part of HangZhou. HangZhou is an absolutely beautiful city during the spring, summer, fall and winter, although it was absolutely freezing and snowing while we were there. For every outing, we would also complete a short worksheet as a part of the friendly competition taking place during the week. We learned about HangZhou's Spring Green tea, tea leaves harvested during a specific period of time before the normal harvest season. We also learned about the integral role that the Southern Song Dynasty played in HangZhou’s history.

My personal favorite experience was going through the apothecary on WuShan Road, a cultural shopping street, and eating several HangZhou specialties. We also had a chance to watch KungFu tea, a unique method of tea pouring that combines KungFu and traditional tea pouring. For the first few days, during our free time, we had explored downtown HangZhou. Oddly enough, this history-rich city had dozens of high end foreign brand shops in its downtown sector. We spent a large amount of time walking around West Lake, which is where the most beautiful parts of HangZhou can be seen. During the second half of the week, we stayed with a temporary host family in HangZhou. Our host siblings introduced us to the HangZhou dialect and the special parts of HangZhou. On Friday, they celebrated YuanXiao Jie (元宵节), the lantern festival, during which we ate Yuanxiao, or sweet dumplings made out of glutinous rice flour, for every meal. The host families provided a unique experience that allowed us to see how families in different regions of China lived in comparison to our own host families in Beijing.