Tripping to China

Sitting on the crowded bus on the way to Beijing Jiaotong University, my hands were sweating as I was terrified for the weeks to come. My group and I had just arrived in Weihai, China after 36 hours of travel, and I was now stuck in a place I never imagined I would get to experience with a group of people I barely knew.

I decided to take a study abroad trip this past summer to China with some members from the Chancellor’s Leadership Council. The council was a group of first-year students who were picked by the chancellor of USFSP to learn more about leadership and volunteer in the community. This was the first time I had been out of the country without my parents, and I had no idea what to expect.

I was prepared for the mean American stereotypes, the arguments about politics, and the feeling of being rejected in a foreign country. I was prepared to not get along with my group by the end of the trip. However, I was not prepared for how wrong my assumptions were and the impact this trip had on me.

We stayed at a small international university in Weihai for the first week, a little bigger than USFSP but with fewer students. We hung out with a group of Chinese students most of the time and spent our days packed with activities to get ourselves immersed in the culture. The students were the kindest, most welcoming people I have ever met, and since it was an international university, we also met students from Russia, Bangladesh, Mongolia, and Pakistan.

The conversations that I had with all the students were the most meaningful part of the whole trip. We discussed every topic we could think of, from movies to schoolwork, to politics and cultural differences. 

While a lot of our conversations would enter serious topics, such as the trade war and communism, it was amazing that everyone was so accepting of each other’s ideas. Frankly, we all shared many similar values and goals for our separate countries. All I kept thinking was, “Imagine if all of our world leaders spoke to each other as civilly as we are!”

All my life, I feel like I have lived in a bubble where I assumed America is the best country in the world and everyone else should be like us. While it may be a hard pill to swallow, I do not feel that way anymore.

If this trip taught me anything, it’s that the majority of countries are doing what they believe is in the best interest of their people. Every country you visit will have some form of internal conflict or cons to their government system, but if you really think about it, so does the USA. This is why it is so important that you keep an open mind about all situations you may come across and learn to listen to other people’s opinions.

If you have the chance to travel, take it! The USFSP financial aid office offers hundreds of scholarships for students who wish to travel overseas. You are only in college for a few years, so take advantage of the opportunities while you can.

 

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