Student expands his culture by traveling the world


Senior Tristan Murdoch practices off sheet music before a high school band concert. (Photo Bailey Hanson)

Terrifying, exciting, and completely worth it. That is how Senior Tristan Murdoch felt on his way to China where he would spend ten months in Changzhou, China during, what would have been his senior year. His best friend, named Tristen Hust, (since graduated) had applied for
a scholarship with the state department called the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) six years ago and learned to speak Mandarin.

After this, Murdoch was inspired to challenge himself by learning Mandarin and go to China. To his shock, he was accepted into the program. He had not expected to get into a program where so few people get in, especially since he lives in such a small town such as Sheridan. He took roughly three to four months to fluently learn Mandarin on his own, with the assistance of books and courses online.

left early Sept. 2016. and did not return to the United States until June 18, 2017, spending a full academic year there.

When he stayed with his host family, the Huang’s, for his entire time and said he felt more at home with them than he ever imagined. His host family was patient, kind, and loving, and it took little time before Murdoch loved his family dearly.

One of the biggest changes he noticed almost instantly after his arrival in Chang- Zhou, a city close to Shanghai where he stayed with the population of 4,592,431, was the sheer amount of people. “I know that sounds obvious, but it’s just packed,” said Murdoch. “People don’t have the right of way, so it’s very di cult to cross the street. You have to be very up close.”

He then went on to explain there were no lines to get places, and everyone was far pushier than in America, simply due to their busier culture.

Murdoch said that as far as price differences between the American dollar versus their currency, renminbi, was simple enough so long as tourists and others are aware that there are going to be lots of vendors selling the same products and that some deals are better than others, and it is not di cult to understand. Murdoch also said to also keep in mind that the Chinese workers make less money, so the fact that prices are lower make sense.

Another big change he noticed was his experience at school. “Every student is so diligent; it shocks me. I mean, you don’t have students who are failing a bunch of classes, you don’t have students in ISS, that doesn’t exist,” said Murdoch.

He also explained the di erences be- tween testing in the US and China. “The parents are very hard on their kids, teach- ers expect a lot from their kids. They have
a test that can be classi ed as our ACT or SAT except it’s miles more important and more di cult,” Murdoch said. The test is the most important test of their lives, based on every single class they have taken. If they do not get the score they want, then they have to repeat the entire school year.

Amazingly, Murdoch said that none of the students were stressed. No matter what, the students were always smiling, happy, and determined. Even with an entire school day that could last until 6 pm for students and then going home to do five to six hours of homework can be exhausting. Some students also have classes after dinner, but their homework portions are generally much smaller.   The students there are just extremely driven, especially for their age.

He explained that at first, it was difficult to make friends, sticking close to the few other exchange students, but after getting more comfortable at school and with the language, he found it much easier to make friends and soon realized how friendly most students were.

It came to no surprise when Murdoch said he loved his time in China and that, overall, he did not miss Sheridan at all. “My family just like, adopted me, and yeah I talked to my real parents now and then, and it sounds mean to say, but they became my parents,” he said. “Some of them (exchange students) did not get assimilated as naturally into their host families, and I think that was a big part of learning the language.”

Murdoch worked incredibly hard in the United States and in China to acquire the opportunities he received that allowed him to get where he is now, including taking an online AP Chinese class through Michigan State University.

After he graduates from Sheridan High School in May, he plans on spending at least a year in Shanghai in a dorm so he can further expand his knowledge while in China. He wants to work in either International Relations or Eastern Asian studies in Shanghai. He even said he would consider moving to China permanently if a job opportunity was to present itself, though that is not his plan at the moment.

One of the most important things for him was about the differences in cultures. “Every person traveling to a different country will subconsciously try to compare their culture with others,” he said. “I found it very hard but worth it to stop comparing the differences.”

Anyone who has had the pleasure of talking to Murdoch knows that he is incredibly kind, hardworking, and gifted with immense talent.

Murdoch is the son of Severine and Robert Murdoch.