When I was much younger, I had thought that the only way I would ever get to China is if I dug myself there. I spent many hours at the park behind my house with a plastic shovel, shifting around the sand, trying to create a decent-sized hole in which I could tunnel through. Unfortunately, underneath the foot of sand was dirt—and clay. My plastic shovel was no match for the subsequent layers, so I gave up in exasperation, resigned to the fact that I would never see the opposite side of the world.
Fast forward a dozen years, and I’ve been able to travel outside of the country on two separate occasions, having gone to Italy and Greece through the student ambassador organization, People to People, and Aruba for my uncle’s wedding. Now, I have tangible plans to go to China. After receiving acceptance into the summer program a few months ago, I finally booked my plane ticket (for a relatively reasonable price, too!). Two of my friends in my Chinese discussion class and I chose the most indirect route to Beijing as possible; instead of the standard 14-hour direct shot from Chicago, we will be leaving O’Hare a couple days earlier than the suggested departure date in order to visit London and Helsinki, Finland, before arriving in China.
Now that my plans are essentially finalized, the suspense has begun to kick in. I am especially excited for the opportunity to take a cultural class, and the one I chose will be teaching me how to play erhu, which is basically a Chinese violin. Additionally, there is a week-long break in the program, in which program participants are able to travel around China at our leisure. Aside from all that, I will also be able to finally try legitimate Chinese food (disclaimer: General Tso’s Chicken doesn’t count), and as a big lover of all things edible, I absolutely cannot wait.
Not only do I plan on using this forum to share my experiences, but I hope my words will also inspire others to step outside their comfort zones and experience and embrace other cultures with an open mind and a greater level of understanding. A wise co-worker of mine once eloquently stated, “We’re all just people!” and it’s really just as simple as that. Although we as a global community are separated by space and cultural differences, we are not so fundamentally different.
Get ready. Adventures in China await.