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HSHP China Study Abroad Program

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If I could use two words to describe today, they would be: exhausting and empowering. We began our adventurous day with the Great Wall. After an hour bus ride, where we learned that the Great Wall in its entirety is 5,500 miles long and is known as the longest cemetery known to man as a result of at least one million men dying while building the wall, we hiked up the harder side of the wall. We are such pros, that the easy side was just too amateur for us. Anyway, it took us about an hour and a half to go up and down. While en route, we took many photos, took a few breaks, but continued to climb with great pride in the fact that we are actually on the Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the World; this experience definitely made us men. We climbed up “as swift as a coursing river”, and I felt so empowered by this whole experience. Additionally, the whole time we were climbing, we were so humbled, and had so much respect for the people who constructed the wall over the three dynasties. I felt so connected to not only all people on the wall, who all had the same goal: to climb up and down without running out of too much air, but also to the Chinese culture, history, and country.

After our first great adventure under way, and after officially seeing Beijing, we ate at a touristy restaurant that provides service for foreign tourist. Not only was this restaurant different from most of the other places we have eaten at this trip as far as traditional vs. American Chinese food goes, but it also happened to be a store full of handmade goods including porcelain vases and other products, paper cutting, and paintings. This certainly was an experience for us, as we were pretty much segregated from the Chinese natives. I did not know how to feel about this too much, as I myself am technically a Chinese native, but then again it is kind of nice that they have restaurants that have the capability to cater to their tourists’ needs. Although the food was not the greatest we have eaten, it was refreshing, and it refueled us for our next adventure of the day.

Our final stop, but not activity, for the day was what I was waiting for the entire trip, mostly because it was where the 2008 Beijing Olympic games took place: the Birds Nest and Water Cube. At the Birds Nest, thanks to Professor Hongwei Guan’s guanxi (or connections), we not only saved $23 per head, but we also got the privilege to get the ultimate VIP tour. Not only did we get to see all the VIP rooms of the Birds nest, but also we got to drive under the Birds nest on the way in. During our tour we saw the field from the seats where all the presidents sat, the (already mentioned) VIP rooms, a floor that acts as a mini museum of the Beijing Opening and Closing ceremonies, and their new observatory that overlooks the Olympic Park. We were all truly in aw and full of excitement on our tour of the Birds nest. For me, it seems quite fitting that we ended our visit to China at the site where the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic games took place, and I felt so empowered by and connected to the athletes and the games.

After the Birds Nest we visited Water Cube. However, because there was an international, world tournament for Women’s Water Polo, the water cube was closed to the public. But you probably guessed it, because of Hongwei’s amazing connections, we were able to take a quick self-lead tour and watch a few minutes of the tournament for free. The Water cube was spectacular overall from the new water park to the hall of fame from the Beijing and London Olympics. Although it was a short, quick visit to the Olympic park, it was worth it, as we got one last opportunity to feel like celebrities before we left China.

Even though all of us were exhausted after climbing the Great Wall and touring the Olympic park, after dinner we played volleyball against some of the Chinese students here at Beijing Sport University. After several, spikes, digs, and lots of communication, the outcome was pretty even. This was such fun game for all of us, and it gave us the chance to connect with more Chinese students. I feel as though this game empowered us further to become, as Hongwei would say, “global citizens”, and it gave us a fun memory to keep in our minds as we fly back to the States tomorrow.

Overall, I would call today very successful, and although we are all wiped out by the activity today, I feel that we can truly say we have experienced all the high points of Beijing. Even though this trip is coming to an end, I feel so fortunate that I got this amazing opportunity in my life, and today was truly the icing on the cake.

-Emily Quinn


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