Nation Ford grad getting worldly education in China

October 24, 2013 

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— Special to the Fort Mill Times

Charles Pendarvis has nothing against the University of South Carolina, but the chance to study abroad was just too appealing to pass up. Now he’s in his sophomore year studying business in Hong Kong.

Pendarvis, 20, started his freshman year at USC after graduating from Nation Ford High School and later applied for the International Business program, which has an exchange agreement with the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The schools send 20 of their students to the other university for an academic and cultural experience they can’t get at home. The students return to their home university in their junior year to complete their studies and earn a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.

“I have always had an interest in business and China,” Pendarvis said.

“Literally, for as long as I can remember, my parents say as young as four or five, I started expressing interests in China. I was always fascinated in Chinese history, and that and business go well together.”

U.S. students in the program also minor in Chinese studies, including studying the Mandarin dialect. During the second summer, the USC students move to Beijing.

Pendarvis hasn’t been all school and no play. He took a break from his studies and caught a plane to Taiwan. On the way he was befriended by a local who invited him to stay at his home. Despite the early hospitality he encountered, Pendarvis was wary about his new surroundings.

“I kept my passport, phone and wallet on me when we went out,” he said.

What was particularly unsettling were some of the rumors he heard, so Pendarvis wasn’t taking any chances.

“People have been drugged and had their kidneys stolen,” Pendarvis said. “When you wake up, you would have a scar.”

He returned to Hong Kong safely. There, he soaks up the local culture along with the classroom learning.

“Usually every weekend I go with different groups of people to different places, whether it's to the beach, hiking, biking, cliff diving or something totally new,” Pendarvis said.

“It's so easy and convenient to go around Hong Kong and even travel around China. I can take a ferry to an island about an hour and a half away for just a few American dollars and spend the whole day there. I've also joined the college rowing team and trying out rugby, so I'm hoping that being around the locals more will also help me pick up some Cantonese along the way.”

One of the things that bothered him about coming to Hong Kong is that he wouldn't be studying on mainland China. He studied Mandarin, the official dialect, but most people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese. While most people in Hong Kong know some basic English, it's not always easy communicating, Pendarvis said.

Despite enjoying his free time and his studies, Pendarvis says he misses his friends and family back home.

“Sometimes when things are going on back home it'd be nice to be with family, but so far it's been very smooth and I am able to keep in contact with my family often through FaceTime and Viber,” he said. “I also try to keep up with friends as much as possible, but sometimes the 12-hour difference is difficult, so Snapchat comes in handy.”

Pendarvis added he is thankful he has supportive parents and his faith in God has become more powerful and validated. He also describes himself as a more global-minded person for the experience.

“I expect to have a better idea and appreciation of culture, particularly in China,” Pendarvis said. “To better understand how to do business, work with others and use this knowledge to help others in the long run is what I expect to accomplish.”

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