I cannot believe my time in China has finally come to an end. This trip has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life thus far and I would not have had it any other way. Going into the trip, I only knew three people. But as time went on, I not only got to know those people more, but also create good relationships with the rest of the students in my group. Becoming friends with everyone definitely made the experience more enjoyable. Throughout my two weeks across the world, I found myself learning so much about China’s history as well as the culture. Another part of this program that I really enjoyed were the company visits. Rather than this just being a sight-seeing trip, we were able to talk with members of various companies who do business in China. It was unique and interesting to see how their business culture is compared to ours here in the United States. I would recommend the Plus3 China Program to all students curious about studying abroad because it is truly a life-changing experience.
Being Asian-American, I came into this trip with some previous knowledge about Chinese culture. For example, I knew that Chinese people usually eat “family-style”, which means that they have dishes for everyone at the table to share instead of people having their own meal. In addition, I already knew how to use chopsticks, unlike the majority of my friends. But over the course of the trip, their skills were improving, especially since chopsticks were the only type of utensil provided at meals. However, I was also excited for this trip because it would be my first time going to China. I had always dreamed of visiting the place where my ancestors were from and this program gave me that opportunity. I was also not fluent in Chinese, but I knew a little bit. So the language barrier really put my communication skills to the test. I have been taught about certain things in Chinese culture by my family, but it cannot compare to witnessing the lifestyle firsthand. There was still so much about China that I was eager to learn about and experience.
Traveling to Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai for a couple days each was just enough time to get a taste of the different lifestyles there. Beijing was very fast-paced and the traffic there was something that I have never seen before. Most people compare it to the D.C. area. The streets were chaotic with four lanes on each side as well as a bike lane. There were cars zipping around, people crossing the street and mopeds zooming by. It was one of the busiest cities I have ever seen. Xi’an was a little calmer than Beijing. It had more of a suburban vibe, yet the area we were in had a lot of street markets and side restaurants. Finally, Shanghai was very business-oriented. Some call it the “New York of China” just because of how populated it is and the amount of buildings. It is a growing city and there are skyscrapers being built everywhere. It is a good financial hub for people working in China.
We visited so many places including the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Muslim Quarter, Terra Cotta Warriors, Yu Garden, etc. Each location had so much history to them. There is really nowhere in the United States that can compare to these amazing sites in China. One of my favorites was when we climbed the Great Wall because there is no experience quite like it. This wall, being used as a form of protection for the Chinese, was so important to the progression of China today and it was amazing to be standing right in the middle of it. I also really enjoyed the food we ate in China. Although some dishes were unfamiliar to me, it was nice to try them and know that they were authentic rather than the American-Chinese food we get here.
The two weeks abroad really opened my eyes to a whole new lifestyle and culture. This was a great experience for me because I have learned so much and have become a more well-rounded person. Although I am saddened by the fact that it is over, I am glad that this trip was at the beginning of my college career. I have more of a global experience than most of my friends now because of this program. I want to thank our Asia Institute guides: Jane, Liliana and YangYang. They were so helpful throughout the trip and we would probably be lost in China if it weren’t for them. I would also like to give a huge thank you to Dr. Li. He was an amazing mentor on this study abroad trip and I have learned so much from him. I am so thankful for this opportunity and it was an experience that I will never forget.