Time Abroad: Fall 2008
Major: International Business
After two weeks of daily, five-hour Chinese classes, I was already looking forward to our two week trip. We were given the opportunity to travel around China and I had chosen to go on the Silk Road Tour. Towards the end of the trip our group was going to spend a couple of nights in Hemu village. At first I was confused—why did our study abroad program decide that this tiny village would be a good place to spend three nights, while in some of the larger towns we would only spend one night? Looking back, I think I have finally learned the answer to that question. That village showed us a glimpse of what rural China is really like.
After an eight hour horseback ride I was beat, but when we were given the chance to meet some of the local school children, I could not refuse. After walking down a dirt road I spotted the school, a small building made of wood with smoke rising from the chimney. Outside, we waited for the children's recess. Finally, the first graders came out firmly gripping their teacher's legs and staring wide eyed at me, one of the first Americans they had ever seen. One of them pointed at my water bottle, so I finished my water then offered the bottle to him. He happily grabbed it and we quickly started a game of kick the bottle. It truly amazed me how something I thought of as trash was a treasured toy to someone else.
Later that day, I walked into a store and I started chatting with the local shop keeper. We played cards for hours and talked in a mix of my not-so-great Chinese, and his self-taught English. When he found out we were leaving the next day he made me promise we would come by first. When I came the next day he had wrapped up food from his shop and refused to accept money for it. Along with that he wrote a truly touching note, and he still emails me whenever he can access a computer.
On the way back I thought about what really makes rural China so real and I think it's the amount of love and joy they have to share. Despite all the trials they have to go through, the local people are still so willing to give. Going abroad allows you to stop and think about the way you live life, and the lessons you learn while being abroad truly transcend the classroom. I gained not only academic knowledge and was able to improve my Chinese, but more importantly life experiences which I will treasure forever.