Reflections on Minimester 2019

Lizzie Householder '21 and Jack Young '20 Explored Zhōngguó (China) with a Group of Steward Students and Faculty

By: Jack Young '20 

Every year, sophomores and juniors have the chance of a lifetime to travel abroad to be immersed in and learn about a culture different from our own. This year, we traveled to China, specifically to Bejing and Shanghai. Bejing is a very ritualistic city that values its old ways and has kept its unique Han core values. Shanghai, on the other hand, is a cosmopolitan city rich in many cultures, ranging from European influences to the many cultures of China. What made the trip even better is that there were plenty of my friends traveling as well, which made the experience unique.

This trip was honestly the best experience of my life; each day entailed a new and very interesting experience. For example, we spent a day touring the massive complex of the Forbidden City, in the middle of Bejing. The architecture of these ancient buildings captivated my interest; it was so eye-opening how they were designed to seem so much bigger than they actually were. It made for some amazing photographs and I also learned a lot about architecture there.

A second fun and adventurous part of my trip was walking along the outside of the Jin Mao Tower, which is the third tallest building in Shanghai, on a glass skywalk. The building sits at about 1,380 feet. This was insane for me because of my fear of falling from such a height. When up there, in the beginning, I was very scared about going close to the edge. Later in my adventure, I was dangling over the edge and hanging my legs off the walkway. After doing all of this, I think I may have got over my fear (or at least I think I did). It was amazing to see the beautiful skyline of the very cosmopolitan city and to see the busy river trade route, which weaves through the middle of the city.

The last experience that I found truly interesting and eye-opening was a nighttime tour of the river bend in Shanghai. It was crazy to see this river, which is in the middle of the city, as both a vital trade route and an artistic or cultural heart of the city. On each side of the river, skyscrapers were lit up by sequencing neon lights to create a moving image of a butterfly. Also, seeing the British Concessions lit up at night could make feel you feel for a moment that you were in England and not China. It was amazing to see this huge cosmopolitan city’s nightlife and the many cultures influencing the skyline and architecture.

This trip taught me great stories of the many cultures of China and its rich history, which I can apply in conversation, a paper, or in the classroom setting. Finally, this trip opened my eyes to see that although there will always be differences among countries and their people, art (and the way it affects us) can always be a connection point that we have in common.

By: Lizzie Householder '21 

One of Steward’s traditions is taking an annual trip to a foreign country, and this year we were fortunate enough to go to China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai. After learning about this trip, I knew I wanted to go as it would be my first time traveling out of the country without my parents, and also my first time going back to China after being adopted from there sixteen years ago. Going back to China and seeing it has probably been one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of my life because it opened my eyes to a new culture that is unlike America.

The two cities we visited, Beijing and Shanghai, were amazing but uniquely different from each other. Beijing is a more traditional city that values its history and origins, whereas Shanghai is a sprawling city almost like New York City. Experiencing the two and seeing my original culture was amazing, but some of the best highlights of the two were the food and the language. Every meal, especially breakfast, we would have dumplings, noodles, and rice, which are common staples in Chinese cuisine. It was nothing like the standard American eggs, bacon, and toast. Having noodles, dumplings, and rice for breakfast showed me how different Chinese culture was to American, and it was really neat to be part of that culture for a week.

One other highlight of this experience was the language. Before the trip, I was honestly nervous about the interactions I would have with the people in China. I thought we only had to speak in Chinese because they did not know English, and that we had to have a translator with us at all times, but this was not the case. Most of the people in China knew how to speak English, which was surprising to me because I realized that English is such a universal language, and most people start learning it at a young age. Even though I did not understand the language, it was cool to see interactions between people in Chinese and interactions between us and the people in China at the schools.

Along with the food and language, another interesting aspect of Chinese culture is schooling. When we visited and interacted with students from Shanghai and Beijing, we always asked what they did in their spare time, and most of the time their answer was studying or doing homework. Their responses intrigued me because it showed how different schooling is in China compared to America. In America we always complain about our homework but we never understand how hard others have it when it comes to schoolwork.

While my friends made going to the Great Wall and Shanghai fun, being immersed in the culture, through the people, food, language, and the activities we did made the trip even better. Honestly, there were so many emotions for me during this trip, and it is hard to put it into words because sometimes being in the moment in China was the most important part.





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