Natsuki Hara, May 28th, 2019
When arriving in China I thought to myself, how did I end up here? Growing up I never really had the chance to travel abroad to far distant places, but I always wanted to go somewhere far and distant. China was always at the top of my list because the history and geography of the country was so different and vast. I wanted to take myself somewhere that I thought would be alien and completely new to me but to my surprise when I finally arrived in China and got to experience the country I was more surprised by the similarities than the differences.
It took me a few days to realize that I was thousands of miles away from home which made me nervous but also very excited because I was finally going to experience the wonders that China has to offer. The Beijing Jiatong University was part of the trip I wasn’t expecting to be surprised by. I had imagined a smaller university like you would find in the United States but instead we were greeted by a school that had a life of its own. Students would go out and run and play together whether its basketball or badminton, the courts were always full. As the night progressed you would find students dancing wherever they could, even in complete darkness. It was places like these that surprised me because as we explored China more, it became clear that the people were much livelier and more social here. The lectures were actually very interesting, it gave us insight as to how China has progressed in the past and how it plans to prosper in the future. I was impressed by the level of passion some of these professors had for the subjects they taught and the depth of their knowledge and experience. During our company visits we also learned more about China and its plans to move to the future, we heard many fascinating presentations by companies like China Railway and KPMG Beijing.
Beijing was like most other large cities. It had traffic jams, chaotic drivers, lots of people, and plenty of ways to get around but the main factor that sets Beijing apart from other large cities I’ve visited is how the city feels small even though it’s home to 21.54 million people which is more than double the population of New York City. Wherever you went in Beijing it never felt overwhelming and daunting, each area of Beijing is its own micro community with local shops and restaurants which are all in walking distance. When you compare it to a city like Houston, there are suburbs but if you tried to walk to your destination in Houston, you’d be in trouble. Beijing public transport made it so easy to just walk and take a subway to wherever you needed to go. Even in Shanghai, the packed high rises and dense urban areas are completely different than the small roads of Beijing. Being in Beijing made me feel at ease because although Beijing is gigantic, it gives the illusion that it’s small and more like a community.
On our first cultural visit in China we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was my absolute favorite visit because the amount of history that had occurred there was just unfathomable to me. It had survived through all these years since its construction during the Ming Dynasty in the year 1406 to the destructive period of the Cultural Revolution under the early Peoples Republic of China. After the visit to the Square and Forbidden City we then went to see a portion of the Great Wall. Just seeing the size of the wall and how far it went into the distance was just astounding and I could not imagine the amount of time and planning went into constructing the wall over centuries. The historical significance of the places we ended up visiting throughout our trip really made an impact on me since the history of our own country is much shorter when compared to that of China’s. Here everything seemed to be older, Dynasties and events lasted centuries rather than decades and each historical site had seen at least hundreds of years of different people and rulers. Even Shanghai which is seen as a much younger city dates back before even the Americas were discovered.
There is so much to talk about when looking back at our trip to China. I wish I had time to see all that it had to offer but with our time it was impossible to experience it all. My biggest regret on this trip is not knowing enough mandarin to make more connections with people and experience more of the culture fully. I’m grateful for the opportunity that the Mays Business School offered with this study abroad program since China was always one of the top countries I’ve always wanted to visit but the idea of planning a trip to China seemed like a challenge. I’ll miss China, the people were friendly, the food was great and the knowledge I gained from class lectures and company visits will help me when learning more about China. In the future I hope to return to China since there are still so many places and experiences that I have yet to explore.
Categories: 2019 Trip