China Trip Offers Life-Changing Experiences

Ashwini Walavalkar and Mathena Jencka, USCHS Seniors

 Led by Lixia Kang, USCHS world language teacher, several students explored China this summer.

It was on a random day about a year and a half ago that we were stepping onto our school bus at the end of the day, headed home, and saw a poster advertising a student trip to China. We knew this trip was meant for us. Going immediately to our parents, we begged them to let us go. Before we knew it, the time had passed and we were packing our bags and getting driven to the airport where we would board a plane for a 14-hour flight. (Who doesn’t love airplane food?) Throughout the trip, we enjoyed many experiences and will share them here, by city.

Our first stop was Beijing, China’s capital, which houses the headquarters of the Communist government. In the high school’s AP Comparative Government class, we studied their style of government. As soon as we stepped into Tiananmen Square, we were in awe. Not only was it the modern day politics that we could relate to, but also the thousands of years of history that was formed in the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, where past emperors resided. We immerse ourselves into a completely different political sphere, one that is renounced by our country and its media.

Posing at the Great Wall, left to right: Montana Taylor, Allderdice HS; Mathena Jencka, USCHS; Beccah Bischak, Quaker Valley HS; Ashwini Walavalkar, USCHS; Paige Lenhardt, QVHS; Alisa Lenhardt, Paige’s mom; Hudson Miller, QVHS; Lixia Kang, USCHS Chinese teacher

Aside from politics, we hiked the stairs of the Great Wall, which were much steeper than we expected. As we breathed heavily while walking up its withered steps, we could not help but imagine the laborers as they built the wall and the Huns as they invaded the exact place in which we were standing! Overall, the city of Beijing encapsulates the history of China.

Biking at Xi’an’s ancient city wall, left to right: Ashwini Walavalkar, Paige Lenhardt, Alisa Lenhardt, Beccah Bischak, Hudson Miller, Mathena Jencka

Our next stop was Xi’an, a smaller city known for its pure culture and a taste of history. While there, the Muslim Quarter was a definite highlight. With its busy street and vibrant lights, we felt as if we were part of their community. The food was delicious! To increase our interaction with the locals, we shopped and bartered for souvenirs for our families. In the beginning, we did not do so well. But after a bit of practice and thanks to the help of our teacher, Ms. Kang, we improved our bargaining skills. The second highlight of Xi’an was visiting the Terracotta Warriors. We learned the story of excavating these warriors who protected the burial site of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huong. Standing in front of this exhibit was, to say the least, a life-changing experience. It is difficult to put into perspective what human labor can create, as seen through thousands of warriors, each one unique. Of the three Chinese cities we visited, Xi’an made us feel most at home.

Posing at the Terracotta Army Museum in Xi’an, left to right: Mathena Jencka, Ashwini Walavalkar

Last but not least, we went to Shanghai, a bustling metropolitan city, mixing together both western and eastern cultures. Even though we spent only one day here, we noticed how the city functioned. Our first stop was to the financial tower that resembles the skyscrapers in New York City. At times, we could not clearly see the streets of the city from atop the skyscraper, due to the excess smog in the air.

Shanghai, despite being known as a business hub, also contains a lot of Chinese culture. The visit to the Jade Buddha Temple allowed us to interact and fully experience an aspect that is unique to the Eastern culture and rarely found in Western civilization. At the temple, we expanded our perspective of religion and of our everyday lives. Overall, the trip was most enjoyable and quite educational. We are so glad to have noticed that poster on the bus ride home from school that one particular day.

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