Since the trip ended, my friends and family have asked me different things about my experience. Every time I get questioned about China, I think to myself, “Wait, was I really there?”. I have the pictures as proof, but in some ways, it feels like a dream or something I did in another life.
The summer going into 11th grade, I traveled to a couple different countries around Europe, and while they were ‘foreign’, those countries were nothing like China. For one thing, almost the instant anyone in Europe realized that you were American and could not speak the language, many of them would switch over to English. This was not so in China. Although some people knew a little bit of English, it was not enough to wholly communicate by. I was expecting it to be like Europe where people will immediately start speaking English. But why did I think that? Why should they have to switch over? Why do I not know Mandarin? Being in a place where communicating was difficult made me appreciate it that much more.
Europe does look different from the United States in a lot of ways, but overall the two have a good deal in common. The same can be said for the United States and China, but I think there are a few more differences between the two. One example is the mindset on authority. In the U.S., it does not really matter how old you are when you are given a position of power. As long as you appear to be the best person for the job, age is less of an issue. However, in China, respect and positions of power are gained through age and experience. Another example is that in the United States, the general feeling is that everyone gets a fair shake for everything, or the environment is not as ‘cut throat’ in a sense. Since China has a much bigger population than the United States, everything appears more competitive, whether its getting into college, or even just boarding a subway train.
The differences I saw were not bad, they were just different. To any student in the following years who is considering Plus 3, I would say pick China as your destination. Honestly, you can go to Europe any time. China is a once in a lifetime opportunity where if you are truly looking to jump outside your comfort zone, this trip is it. On this trip you have the opportunity to see and touch things that are thousands of years old. You can see a part of the world that is up and coming, and experience a country that just might be the biggest player on the world stage someday. You can try foods that never in a million years would you have tried under any other circumstance, such as ducks blood or pig’s throat.
I’m not saying every moment is amazing. There are times were things can be uncomfortable, but overall, the Plus3 trip to China is incredible, and it is an experience I will have with me for the rest of my life.