Traveling to a new country you have the opportunity to explore the unknown and discover what this new place means to you. For me this trip really opened my eyes even wider to world around us. When I think of China I immediately associate the word with; adventure, new friends and traditional mixed with modern lifestyles. This trip was very humbling and extraordinary at the same time!
We got a mere glimpse into the lives of the Chinese students and how they went about their daily lives. It is really interesting to see a city always on the move and still very close to their families. It was refreshing to see various families no matter how big or small walking around taking in the warm Nanjing air after dinner time. This demonstrated to me how family oriented their culture really is! I enjoyed taking apart in the evening activities just like everyone does, even if it was just a walk outside of the campus. I want to thank everyone who helped all the new students and myself while going above and beyond in terms of hospitality. I have never met a group of students so welcoming, warm hearted and willing to stop what they were doing to help us if we needed it. I cannot talk highly enough about this adventure because that is exactly what it was. As we said on our last day of the program, this is not a goodbye but a see you later! China is on my list to revisit as I have much more to explore, learn about and catch up with my new friends! If anyone needs further encouragement to take part in this program; I say try it, you won’t regret it!
My experience as a whole is hard to sum up in a few words, a few sentences or even a few paragraphs. Being able to experience a mix of cultures truly helps prepare oneself for the future and being open to accepting change. Before I left for China, I had no real idea of what I would experience. I think having no real idea was beneficial for me because I was ready for a complete culture shock and seeing how life was from a different perspective. I was not held back by preconceived notations. Although, I did picture the old styled buildings I also knew there would be cities full of lights in the more known parts. I did not want to limit myself to what I thought or heard from others so I found it easier to just wait and experience China for what it really is.
How did I do it? By living in the moment, I had the time of my life. It is honestly hard to describe to someone until they actually experience it for themselves. It is amazing how are lives can be so different yet similar at the same time, a complete oxymoron but true. For example, the food was one of my biggest culture shocks. I thought I would have a hard time finding food I liked (so I brought plenty of snacks from home) but I always found myself wanting to try something new. I think while in China I tried the most amounts of newest foods I ever had. I felt that since I was here, I might as well at least give the food a chance because it’s not often I visit here. Although I did not try every new food I saw, I tried more than I would have if I kept a closed mind.
This trip really helped to remind me that it is ok to try something new and not like it as long as I gave it a fair chance. I think nowadays it is easy to dismiss something as simple as trying a new food because it is easy to. I will admit, some days I went out seeking comfort food and it was interesting to compare to back home. We tried a classic New York styled pizza (pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms) and had a burger another day. No matter what food I tried I was always down for the experience and I never tried to limit myself. I found out from this trip I love freshly made noodles that are made to order from small family owned restaurants! I also now know I like quail eggs! Overall, I learned I liked new types of foods I would never have tried without visiting China. I appreciate the help from all the volunteers and to everyone who made this trip possible!!
Stepping off the plane it felt like I entered into a new world! I was immediately excited to see and experience China for the first time. It has been interesting (especially the first day) to be fully immersed in the Chinese culture. It was neat looking at the street and building signs, noticing immediate differences in roadways, various architectures and the greenery for the first time. On the way to the Nanjing University of Post and Telecommunications one of my first observations was all the nature and greenery that has been planted. China is a beautiful country filled with flowers alongside highways and various types of trees and shrubs lining the way. These observations make me think. I always remind myself, it is the small things in life we must take a moment to enjoy. Sometimes it is so easy just to overlook and we should take more time to appreciate those things.
I enjoyed the day trips we took helped give me a better glance and appreciation of the history and culture China proudly presents. One of my favorite aspects so far is just observing people in their daily lives in China. It is one thing to read about a culture but it is even better to experience different cultures first hand and see for yourself. The past few days I have been observing street vendors and various shops. The differences in our cultures are amazing and what is normal to them is so fascinating to me. The picture below with the chickens in a cage on a motorcycle was so out of the ordinary to me but so normal to the natives. From this picture, I learned chickens like watermelon, who knew?!
Overall, being able to step out of your comfort zone and try something new is the essence of this program. It is hard to even put into words this experience so far! I would describe it as: once in a life time adventure! Not only are we exploring the areas and culture around Nanjing but, we have the opportunity to work with students from India as well and learn about their culture too! So far this has been an awesome experience!