During the summer of 2013, ENC students Diana Vergara (’13), Katiana Magny (’13), Olivia Seipel (’13), and Meghan Holden (’14), accompanied by Dr. Matthew Waterman, traveled around China learning and experiencing Chinese culture and history. This trip allowed students to earn class credit for Epoch Making Events in Science (EMES), a general education class required for all students.
Throughout the school year, the students completed classwork in the form of an independent study, and then flew half way around the globe to tour three major cities of China in 9 days.
The group took off from Boston early on May 11, 2013, and landed in Beijing nearly 20 hours later. There, they met their national guide, “John,” who spent the rest of the visit with them in Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. After a post-flight dinner made of various types of dumplings, and a self-guided tour of a public garden, the group retreated to the hotel for a well-deserved sleep.
Joined by another group of students from Amarillo College in Amarillo, Texas, the tour of China officially began. The first stop was at the Qianmen Foreign Language School. The principal of the language school gave the group a tour of a classroom explaining what a typical day for their students looks like. He then sent everyone into the courtyard to play recess games like basketball, and Frisbee.
Following that, the group traveled to the crowded Forbidden City, and did Tai Chi in the Summer Palace of the Dragon Lady. Though the group only had two full days in Beijing, they were packed full of activities; riding rickshaws around the alleys of Old Beijing, eating dinner at the house of a Kung Fu Master (who trained with Jet Le), riding dragon boats, hiking and reaching the top of the Great Wall of China, visiting the Olympic Village of the 2012 Beijing Olympic Games, visiting the Temple of Heaven, watching a Kung Fu show. Before boarding a plane to take them on the next leg of their trip to the ancient city of Xi’an, they enjoyed a traditional tea.
Xi’an was the capital of ancient China because of its defensive position between the yellow river and the mountains. The city wall that was built around the capital still stands, and most of the brick in the wall is the original. The first thing the tour group did arriving in Xi’an was ride bicycles on top of this ancient city wall.
Though their time in Xi’an was short, they managed to see a second wonder of the world, the Terracotta Warriors. They were also given a lesson in calligraphy, and attended a dinner theater show with traditional Chinese music and drama. An early visit through Muslim Street concluded their time in Xi’an, and the group boarded a plane, again, for the last city of their trip; Shanghai.
“It was strange jumping from city to city,” said Holden. “You’d develop this feel and appreciation for one city, and then you were on a plane to another. But I guess, with barely 10 days to tour, this was the best way to do it- there’s so much to see and learn in China.”
In Shanghai, the group learned how to barter; a characteristic lost in the most American markets. The same day, they went to the silk factory to see how silk was made, visited the Jade Buddha Temple, and then attended an evening gymnastics show. Their last full day in Shanghai was spent on the Bund, the water front of the Huangpu River where foreigners came after the Opium War and built houses; the architecture on the Bund is similar to that of Europe.
Before leaving for the airport one last time, the group went to the World Financial Center Sky-walk; a sky walk that utilizes glass floors and mirrors to allow people to feel like their floating over the city of Shanghai.
With hearts alight with adventure from the trip, and the bus driving off to the airport, John gave a small goodbye speech in which he said he truly enjoyed getting to know all of us. He explained that his favorite part of his job was getting to meet so many different people and hear all their stories.
John explained, “Meeting 1000 people, is far greater than reading 1000 stories,” and the best way to meet people is to travel. The ENC students and Amarillo College students parted ways in the airport, saying goodbye to the fast friends they made, and separated to their respective gates. With a long flight home to reflect on their newfound memories, Magny, Vergara, Seipel, and Holden said goodbye to China.