Without an ounce of exaggeration, perhaps the single most surreal moment of my life up to this point was when I first laid my eyes on The Great Wall of China. It was early on a Sunday morning, the day before we would be leaving China for the United States. Despite it being somewhat of a struggle to roll out of bed, having been out late the night prior seeing what the city of Beijing had to offer, we all managed to find ourselves on the bus as rain fell in a downpour overhead. The rainfall was just beginning to end when our two-hour bus ride came to an end, and the sky was shrouded in a thick fog.
There is no other way to describe how I felt when our group first stepped onto the wall and gazed out at our surroundings other than completely awestruck. Beyond us this incredible feat of manual labor snaked and stood proudly across miles and miles of mountain and forest. Although the fog and mist left over from the rainstorm certainly did make it difficult to see too far ahead, it also created a sense of mysticism that added to the wonder of the sight. Much like the experience of standing at that intersection in Nanjing, it was all we could do but stand in silence and take it all in. After the initial shock of the beauty we were beholding began to slightly pass, we began hustling across the wall to cover as much ground possible in the limited time we had to do so.
After several miles of sweat and the leg workout of a lifetime, we once again stopped to marvel at where we were standing. We had climbed what seemed like thousands of stairs and were at a high point on a mountain where we were able to see the wall stretching across the land. In many ways, this moment was the culmination of the whole journey we had embarked on and allowed us to fully reflect on the experience. What mankind had achieved in building this wall was unfathomable. Although a simple study abroad to China may seem like nothing in comparison, this adventure has opened my eyes to how big this world is and how much it has to offer if you are willing to give it a chance.