In order to get to China, I had to endure Air India once again. Not wanting to ruin my now positive impression of Indian cuisine, I wisely stuck with rice and cucumbers on the plane.

We first flew in to Shanghai. Our time there was primarily spent doing touristic activities. As was the case in India, our itinerary was the first IBI trip to include Asian countries. Because our program director wasn’t familiar with the new cities, we were discouraged from exploring on our own. Although doing everything as a group kept things logistically simple, we definitely missed out on opportunities to really experience the culture from a local’s perspective. From Shanghai, we took a domestic flight to Dalian, another coastal business center. While in Dalian we took an International Trade & Finance course (interesting, but a bit heavy for only 4 days of lectures). Our final stop of IBI was in Beijing. There we finished up our coursework, made final souvenir purchases, and toured the last set of historical monuments.

To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of China. It was crowded, full of dirt and smog, and the people weren’t extremely hospitable. To be fair, we only traveled to major cities and the country of China was the last stop for our final two weeks abroad. I wasn’t homesick, but I was ready to stop living out of a suitcase and return to a life of routine and stability. Even on the trip, I knew I wasn’t giving China a fair chance, but I still didn’t invest much energy in fully appreciating the sights, food, or people.

The Highlights

China World Financial Center (which in 2011 was the 3rd tallest building in the world). Tea tasting. Shanghai Magic Circus. Tour of a silk factory. Over night train from Dalian to Beijing. Fried eggplant, dumplings, and hot pot meals. Touring the Forbidden City. Kung Fu show (complete with nunchucks). Driving through the Beijing Olympic village. Peking duck. Bartering for souvenirs at the Pearl Market. Red bean pastries. Walking along the Great Wall. Rickshaw ride through historic old Beijing.

The Remarkable

The Great Wall of China was truly remarkable and it was an incredible experience to walk even a small portion of its length. A UNESCO World Heritage site, parts of the wall were constructed as early as the 7th century B.C., but the majority of the existing wall dates to the Ming Dynasty in the from the 14-17th centuries. The entire wall (including all of its branches) is estimated to be around 13,000 miles. While not quite viewable from the moon (the myth was debunked years ago), the wall is incredibly impressive on earth. To stand on the stones of ancient history (or recent history…depending on the site/preservation timeline), was breathtaking; not to mention that the surrounding scenery of green mountains was stunning. Although walls have a tendency to evoke negative thoughts of keeping people out or forcing people to remain, I chose to see the Great Wall of China as a positive symbol for strength and determination. I certainly hope to return one day!



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