Me at the Great Wall of China


Arriving at the Beijing airport, I did not know what to expect nor did I see what I would become after the entire experience of being in China. I have been learning Chinese for two years, and I was very excited to actually go to China to finally be able to use the language with native speakers. I’ve never traveled outside or anywhere for that fact without someone I know. It was a bit of a terrifying thing to think about; being surrounded by people I just met. To my surprise, my group clicked instantly from the beginning. We were chatting and sharing things about ourselves very freely. I felt comfortable with myself being around my group members.

Throughout my trip to China, ‘Andy’ (my group leader), always said “expect the unexpected”. It really stuck with me while I was on the trip. When I arrived in Beijing, I was definitely not expecting the smog, the interesting foods that I encountered along the way, or the incredibly amiable people I would met on the way either. Talking with the locals, trying different foods that I will most likely never encounter in the United Sates really changed what I was willing to try or do.

A couple of months ago, if  you were to ask me, would I eat some food put in front of me that I don’t even know what it’s made of, I probably would have said no without any second thought.I would have given the same response with living in a mountain, since I have a fear of heights. I push farther out of the comfort zone, away from what I considered ‘outside of my comfort zone’. One of my earlier moments of leaving my comfort zone was doing ice-breaker games in the middle of a busy Beijing train station. We played pterodactyl, which involved making very strange noises very loudly, and played a dancing game.  When we started, all I could think is, “what are these people thinking about us, foreigners, acting strange in the middle of a crowded train station?” After a while, I simply stopped caring what everyone else was thinking and I concerned myself with how can I make this experience the best possible. I feel like I took these two lessons, of pushing myself further and breaking away from self-consciousness with me outside of the experience and I have been applying it with my daily life.

I feel that having so many diverse faces in my group helped me learn how to have a conversation with someone who is not like you or comes from a different part of the world. Although, I probably would not have talked to many of the kids in my group, but because of EIL, the summer program I was a part of, I have become great friends with people I never expected in a million years to become friends with. One of the eye-opening lessons that I learned was: you can become friends with just about anyone if you give them the chance to make that sort of impact on you. I had such wonderful experiences and stories to share regarding the people I met and the things we did. They have left such an impact on my life, there isn’t a day I don’t think about them. This is extremely cliché, but this has really been a life changing experience. The way I think about my life and myself is so different. I greatly appreciate all the new things I tried, all the things I was fortunate enough to participate in, and the outcome of my personality coming out of the China.