Before I came to China, whenever I told someone about my study abroad plans they usually made a comment about the pollution. Although I did not pack a face mask, there was a slight worry that my body would not handle the air well. However, when we arrived in Beijing we learned there was a conference going on regarding the Belt and Road Initiative. The concept, proposed in 2013, is a land route starting in western China and extending out to through central Asia to European and through the Middle East. The Chinese government had turned off the factories in Beijing because many foreign leaders were visiting the capital for the conference. We were very lucky to be blessed with good air quality during our stay and I have not needed a mask.

There was a large difference between the design of American cities versus Chinese cities. Most America cities have a central business district with large skyscrapers and then the buildings spread out and become shorter. In Beijing, the city is very large and spread out with building rising and falling in all directions. In China, there were clusters of 4-8 building that looked exactly alike and most of these were residential. We later learned these were government–built buildings. Overall, the architecture didn’t look drastically different from buildings in America.

I was concerned about how I would embrace the food in China because I am a very picky eater. However, when I tried the food I was delightfully surprised. On the first night we had Peking Duck, which is a Beijing specialty dish. The cooked duck is served on a thin pancake with sweet bean sauce with a sliver of cucumber and onion. I really like this dish and all the other food I have tried has been really delicious.

The cultural visits have been incredible and my favorite part of the trip so far. We have seen Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall of China. I loved learning about the Ming dynasty that built the Forbidden City and how it has been used since. It was repainted for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 so the colors are very vibrant. The Summer Palace was incredibly beautiful set on a hill overlooking a shimmering lake. The dirt from the manmade lake was used to make the hill where the palace is perched. The Great Wall of China has been my favorite sight seeing experience because the Great Wall has always fascinated me. It was incredible to be able to walk along an amazing piece of history and see it stretch out for miles.

My initial impression of China is that it is very different from the United States. The people are incredibly kind and their culture is fascinating. I am excited to learn about the business aspect of China and further my understanding of Chinese culture during the remainder of my stay.