Pamela Smith, a 2011 graduate of Forest Heights Academy, is now attending Beijing Union University (BUU) in pursuit of a degree in International Business and Trade. Smith has already completed two years of study at BUU in addition to learning to speak and write in Mandarin.
“I can manage Mandarin, but the tone is what makes the difference,” Pamela expressed. “The Chinese speak so fast, but depending on the conversation, you can tell what they are saying.”
Pamela said that with all the language learning tools available there is no comparison to being in a country and learning the language firsthand. She also visits with a Chinese family and teaches English to their two sons.
BUU offers exciting extracurricular activities in addition to its various degree plans for students, and has greatly enriched the lives of international students like Pamela with peer mentoring programs, free training courses, lectures on Chinese history and culture, speech and debate competitions, and free visiting tours.
In her free time, Pamela also loves visiting China’s country side, and has learned that there is no shortage of transportation i.e. taxis, trains, and subways to arrive at her destination.
During her travels to more developed areas, she was impressed by her visits to Hong Kong; Shenzhen; the Great Wall of China; and World Park, which features small monument of historical sites around the world like France’s Eiffel Tower, Egypt’s Great Pyramids, Pharaohs of Alexandria and Great Sphinx, India’s Taj Mahal, Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Statue of Liberty.
Although there were some minimal adjustments to the Chinese culture, so far she has enjoyed the traditionally prepared Chinese food and has appreciated that the cost of living in China is not high.
On average, she spends $40 or less a week.
“Seeing how the people live firsthand has reinforced the idea that we can live simply and that not everything is a necessity,” Pamela observed.
Although she has noticed a number of differences between China and The Bahamas, she was impressed by the closeness of families and the Chinese people’s way of thinking. At her university, there are approximately 30 Bahamian students, but she is the only student from Abaco.
When she first considered college, Pamela wanted to study in Florida using her partial scholarship from Abaco Pathfinders. However, she worked at the Chemist Shoppe for a brief time, and after talking with a friend, she decided to try out an experience in China.
Pamela said that, coming from a small community, she is amazed to be able to interact with people from all over the world. Nevertheless, the experience has made her more independent, and her thinking has been expanded through the realization that there is more to the world than just The Bahamas.
Pamela added that she has been given the opportunity to create networks with the diverse student body and her teachers.
“With the Bahamian Government forming closer relations with China, I am among students who have gathered firsthand experience and knows the language.
“It has been life-changing, but I plan to come back,” she hurriedly added. “Home is always home; it’s always there.”
Despite China’s great population, at no time does Pamela worry about crime.
“The Government makes the difference because there is a big difference in regard to safety in China,” Pamela said. “Although China is Communist, the people are not deprived; they are happy.”
“I encourage anyone if you get the experience, take it when you can,” she advised.
She thanked her parents: Loretta and Harrison Pinder; her grandparents: Clio and Curtis Sands; Aunt and Uncle – Mailin and Grant Sands; and her father Earl Smith.
“I want to thank my family in general for making me into the person I am. They’ve given me the tools to interact with others, and to build upon them, and I appreciate them for that.”