By Jensen Manners
Travelling to China with a group of twelve students and two professors was a miraculous experience and a great way to get to know a unique culture. This trip exposed all of the variety that China has to offer. As a trip course in the January three week block, we escaped the Canadian winter. The first two-thirds of the trip was spent in Zhuhai, Guandong, at a university called United International College (UIC). After our time on campus, we travelled up to Shanghai and toured the surrounding cities for the remaining third of the trip. The course was focused on the economic and political components of China, but throughout our time there, we divulged into many other components of the country including development, religious factors, environmental factors and the special economic zone of Zhuhai.
To experience the lifestyle of students in China, we stayed in dorm rooms, ate at the local canteens and went to grocery stores during our time on campus. We learned about the political and economic landscape of China in the classroom as well as on field trips, as we toured the many cities we visited. We also took language, calligraphy and culture classes at UIC to help us understand our surroundings. Outside of the classroom, we dived into the culture by enjoying a variety of food, participating in lion dance lessons and practicing tai chi. Because of our time on campus we were able to make friends with students who helped us feel at home. UIC was very accommodating and each of us made friends with Chinese students who attend UIC. This intimate experience of talking to people living in a different country gave us an inside look at the lifestyle of people living with a communist government.
Over the course of our time in China, we visited many different places that were architecturally astounding. The Zhuhai Opera House, the entire UIC campus, many museums, temples of different faiths, illuminated buildings, hotels, casinos and luxurious malls in Macau, as well as the Ruins of St.Paul’s, were among the highlights. While in Shanghai, we visited the Starbucks Reserve as well as Nanjing Road and the Pearl Tower. The boat ride along the Shanghai cityscape was a memorable way to see the city at night. The lights, views from skyscrapers and wealth of the financial capital of Shanghai were truly captivating.
Here’s what some of my peers had to say about the trip and their experiences:
“The overall experience allowed me to gain more perspective on the Chinese economy, culture and people. It was incredibly eye-opening when we got to experience what life is like in China first hand. We toured multiple cities and visited many historic wonders including museums, gardens and markets. One of the best ways to gain experiences and stories is to travel to a foreign country. I would highly recommend everyone to take this opportunity to explore and expand their knowledge.”
Andrea Wong, 4th-year Business Management student
“Our campus really focuses on experiential learning, and throughout my degree, I’ve found that I’ve learned more through classes where I get to participate and experience firsthand the issues that we try to explore. That is exactly what this trip provided. We got to see, listen, talk and do. So, overall, the trip was amazing. We got to experience China from the perspective of a student. We got to see what university life is like in China and at a Chinese university. We got to sight-see and go to some amazing places. It was an experience to remember. Also, the way the architecture complements the natural surroundings in China was amazing. It’s a really good idea to have nature be so close to where we live. We find ourselves so disconnected from it here in North America because it is mostly out of sight in our cities. When we see nature daily we feel a connection to it, and when we feel connected to nature, we will want to protect it.”
Sam Awad, 4th-year Environmental Science student
“The China tour was my first opportunity to travel internationally. I am so thankful for the experiences and memories that I was able to make with the most fantastic group of people. To anyone who has a lack of experience when it comes to international travel, this is an ideal way to begin. Not only did I get to experience a country that I would not have been able to experience on my own, but I also got to do it with some great people and got to make lasting friendships along the way.”
Chase Brown, 4th-year Business Management student
“I was surprised to see how little government was actually involved in the daily lives of the individuals. I was expecting the government to be more obvious in daily life than it actually appeared to be. “
Carly Wilkes, 4th-year Political Science student
“My experience on the China trip was spectacular. It was truly an experience like no other. The trip taught me how to expand my thinking and it challenged my conception of western culture. My favourite part was looking at the city skyline at night in Shanghai.”
Sheldon Manners, 2nd-year Business Management student
“The China tour was great! I have travelled a lot with my family, but this was a very unique experience. It was nice to be able to experience a culture less like a tourist. Meeting and talking to the students, professors and staff at UIC was an incredible way to gain perspective from their point of view. Although we got to see a lot of incredible sights, the lectures we had were some of my favourites.”
Justine Cha, 2nd-year Business Management student