alanpaul, May 16th, 2018
“Welcome to Beijing!” As our small group of excited, yet somewhat anxious Aggies arrived in the early morning to the capital of the Middle Kingdom after a 14-hour flight, we were warmly greeted by our local guide, Amber. The initial ride to the hotel made an indelible impression in me, since the breath-taking beauty of the city surpassed my pre-departure concerns with any major commercial population. The complex, industrial infrastructure coupled with the historic, artistic architecture made for an eye-catching tour of the city. Additionally, Amber thoroughly talked about some of the relevant cultural differences among both of our nations, from punctuality in the workplace to relationships among friends.
My assumption was that this distant land would be completely different from everything that I have been raised with and knew about. Little did I knew, this journey would entail some similar aspects to my Hispanic heritage; the flavor-rich cuisine, a strong family-oriented society, traditional customs rooted in spiritual beliefs, a very collectivist culture of respect, hard-working people, and yes—even the hectic, accident-prone traffic. Furthermore, my affinity for hot drinks is clearly shared by the Chinese, who traditionally drink hot soybean milk for breakfast and hot tea in the afternoon.
Our first two days included visits to the main historical landmarks of the city—Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, among others. This experience allowed me to learn about their importance, along with the composition of the current political environment. What I appreciated was the flexibility in our program to explore the surroundings after our structured schedule, since that encouraged our group to immerse ourselves in the culture by participating with the local community beyond the scope of our study-abroad. Even Amber was surprised when she found out that our first meal was an abnormally spicy one.
After our cultural visits, we attended lectures at Beijing Jiaotong University, where we also met with former exchange students that attended Texas A&M for one semester. That furthered the discussion of cultural differences and engaged us in critical thinking after our academic dialogue. Thus far, I have truly enjoyed getting to learn about this incredible country and will continue to make the most of out this journey with an open mind. The people of China are unlike any I have met before, with many valuable qualities I hope to emulate. This makes me truly grateful to have been selected for this enriching opportunity, having the ability to not only develop myself, but be able to share in that development with fellow Aggies and our kind Chinese friends.
Categories: 2018 Trip