Anton J. Stewart
The most important thing I took from this trip is the realization that there are a lot of people in the world that don’t live the same kind of life I do. We all know this from books and television, but until you see something for yourself, it’s hard to comprehend.
I found out what things I should appreciate, and which things could be better here in America. For example, in a city like Beijing, there are no quiet, secluded places. There seems to be a crowd of people everywhere. Growing up in the woods in Kentucky, this was different for me and sometimes overwhelming. I appreciate the abundance of resources, like hot water and electricity, here in America. Beijing, however, has qualities that American cities should try to imitate. Public transportation is very efficient there, which not only cuts down on traffic and environmental harm, but probably stimulates the economy in the city, as it is easy to go anywhere in Beijing and spend all of your money. The crime rate in Beijing is much lower than that of similar cities in America; I felt safer there than I would in a place like New York City or Chicago. Most of all, even though we were in a city of 25 million people, I could always find a way to slow things down and enjoy myself. Everywhere you look, you can find a place to sit down to have a relaxing meal or look at something beautiful with the people around you. That’s really important for me.
I don’t travel much, and I’ve never left the country, so I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Beijing. But I can say that I was extremely happy with the experience the trip gave me, and I feel like I have a good idea of what life in China (or at least Beijing) is like because of it. That was the primary goal for me on this trip.
My favorite thing about this trip is that we had Chinese students with us to show us around, and they were nice enough to take us to the places we wanted to see and show us some of their favorite parts of Beijing. It made the experience much more personal; it was during these times that I felt less like a tourist and more like someone who belonged there.
My least favorite thing about the trip was the language classes. I’ve studied Chinese for about a year, and sitting through the classes going over basic Chinese wasn’t enjoyable. I felt as though I could’ve been doing something different with my short time in Beijing.
I felt rushed most of the time. This is bound to happen when we only have two weeks to see everything Beijing has to offer. But we often tried to fit too many activities into a short time.
I think everyone would’ve liked if we had taken our language classes before we went to Beijing, then had more time to experience the city while we were there. Everyone would also have had the benefit of having more experience with the language when they get there.
I would’ve added cultural classes that pertain to more modern aspects of the culture. It would’ve been nice to see some things about modern Chinese families and social circles. I’d like to know about the way they live, how they act together, what they do together, etc. I also would’ve liked a class on how to act in a business setting in China, such as etiquette, how to negotiate, etc.
A morning trip to go see Chairman Mao’s body at Tiananmen would’ve been interesting.
Given the choice, I would not have gone to Prince Kung’s mansion. All of the other activities were very enjoyable.
I was extremely happy with the trip overall. I had a wonderful time doing everything on the schedule, and the time we had to ourselves was very well spent. It was an exciting time, and I can say that I was never bored. This was an opportunity that none of my family or friends has ever had, and I am so thankful to have been asked to go. I can’t wait to go back to China!