- My International Experience to Date
I have been very lucky with my international experience in that I have been given many opportunities to travel abroad. My family and I travel to the Netherlands nearly every other year to visit Dutch family members on my father’s side. On some trips to the Netherlands I travel with my extended family to other European sights, notably Paris and London.
Through an honors program in my middle school, I was able to take two guided tours in Europe. The first covered the major cultural sites of Greece, as well as one of its outer Mediterranean islands. The second toured through Spain, spent a day in Morocco, and ended in Lisbon, Portugal.
- I want to go to China because:
I believe that China an extremely enriching cultural experience. Although I have family in Europe and I have visited many times, I have never set foot on the Asian continent. While any trip to another country is a valuable experience, I believe I will find the most value exploring an area that is outside the “Western World” in which I have spent my life. Eastern cultures are very different, and I believe that simply by traveling in China I will have plenty of exposure to its unique qualities.
- I think the main professional work differences I will experience will be:
The professional work culture is much different than that in the United States. Compared to many Western countries, the U.S. has longer hours and shorter vacation days, which has caused many people to label the American people as those who don’t “work to live”, but rather as people who “live to work”. However, I think that the Chinese culture of work is even stronger and more prevalent than the one that has pervaded many regions of America. There is an old proverb that simply translated says: “No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich.” The culture that has grown out of working in rice paddies around the year has influenced the professional work culture in that workers feel obligated to work harder and for longer hours than what I would feel is “normal”.
- I think the main cultural differences I will experience will be:
I think that one of the largest cultural differences that I will experience will be in how people treat one another. In China, phrases such as “thank you” aren’t as commonly used as they are in the United States. In fact, a common reply to ‘thank you’ is ‘bukeqi’, which literally translates to “don’t be so formal”. Simple cultural differences such as this, combined with the experience of traveling with a foreign tour group, can cause unique social interactions.
- I think the main political differences I will experience will be
In China the government has much more authority over its people than the American government. Especially in the control of the internet, the Chinese government has control over what people in China see, and how they connect. Many websites and social networks are blocked in China, something that would not be considered the United States. President’s Xi Jinping’s move to end term limits is a very authoritarian move, and while the United States presidency has been gaining more power over the years, there are still more checks and balances on the power of Trump than President Jinping.
- I think the students I meet in my country will be:
I think that the students I meet in China will be much more studious than many of my classmates at Pitt. China has a very rigorous and competitive schooling system, with an incredibly large number of students competing for a limited number of spaces at the top Chinese universities. The Chinese schooling system is not needlessly difficult, as China is able to show their results by consistently ranking high in the international education standards tests that are given in countries around the globe.
- I think the major differences in living conditions will be:
I think that living conditions in China will be in much closer quarters than what I may be used to, even after living in an urban center such as Pittsburgh. Though this may not be true across the entirety of China, the Plus3 group will be visiting a few of the largest Chinese cities. In Shanghai for instance, the population density is nearly 50% higher than it is in Pittsburgh, which means that each real estate is much more valuable. This causes developers to build taller and make rooms smaller, in order to maximize the number of residents that they are able to fit in their housing structures.
- I think the most enjoyable experience I will have during this trip will be:
I think the most enjoyable experience I will have during this trip will be admiring some of the cultural landmarks of China. I am especially excited to travel to the Great Wall, a towering accomplishment of human effort and labor. The whole country is imbued with literally thousands of years of history, which will be so fascinating to learn about coming from a country like the United States which is, on a global scale, a relatively “young country”.