Trip to China offers different experience from service


Alex Haylock

Twelve days, three cities and jet lag like you wouldn’t believe.

Getting to spend the last two weeks of summer in a foreign country, basically on a vacation was overall a good idea… except I missed “Made in America.”

Early on in 2016-2017 school year, the idea of school trip to China was introduced to my Chinese II class. It didn’t seem like a real plan at the time so I kind of disregarded it.

So when the trip was actually introduced at the end of the year, my first thought was, “There’s going to be a trip to China? Cool, but I’m probably not gonna go.”

Honestly, I mostly said that because I noticed that I’d be gone for “Made in America,” and most can attest that that is the social event of the summer, at least for kids here at Malvern. I had no plans on missing that.

What changed is that I kept on thinking about all I would miss. I couldn’t imagine another opportunity to go to China during high school. No one was going to offer something like this trip again to me, and as much as it pains me to say, “Made” will be there next year.

One 14-hour flight later, I was in Beijing, China. At first you don’t notice it’s different than any other city. Other than the gigantic mountain range constantly in the distance, you could have convinced me I never left Pennsylvania. It took awhile before I really started noticing the differences.

We spent five nights in Beijing, then took an overnight train to Xi’an, then flew into Shanghai, before making it back to the United States. I don’t think I have ever traveled so much in such a short period time, but that’s what was so enjoyable. We had just enough time to see all the palaces and temples each city had to offer, and then moved on so that we were constantly experiencing something new.

We saw the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors, both renowned around the world. Seeing literal wonders of the world was definitely worth the trip, as long as you can take the ridiculous amount of climbing.

Most of the of the tourist attractions in the country are made up of palaces of former emperors and the pagodas and temples dedicated to different religions. As China is not big on tourism in itself, most of its visitors were its own citizens.

Because of this they also don’t get a lot of foreigners, unless they were on business. There were flocks of people trying to take pictures with us, because to see someone looking significantly different from yourself in China was a rarity.

Between these sites we visited shopping markets, acrobatic shows, and other attractions of the country. We got to see the big and small, and everything that makes China a diverse culture.

On reflection, I realized that the reason I didn’t originally want to go to China was less about missing a concert, and more because I thought I was going to experience one long service trip. Not to say I don’t like service trips, but the service experience is focused on helping others. In China, I got to focus a lot more on enjoying myself. It turns out it’s sometimes okay just to experience what is in the now, without constantly worrying about the welfare of others.  I didn’t have the reverent experiences of a service trip, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Returning already a week into school, feeling incredibly jetlagged, was the only downfall to my China experience. Between pictures online and everyone posting on Snapchat, I practically saw “Made” for free, so that wasn’t as disappointing.