Students' Reflections

Students' Reflections

By Arielle Saechao (student of De Anza High)

For someone who is still growing as a person, this trip has given me an experience to explore life outside the walls I seek comfort in.  Being a young teenager without the dependence of my parents, I have gained a new perspective, a perspective that has not been shaped by those around me, but a perspective I can claim to be my own. These past three weeks that I have spent in China is surely a story that can be expressed through so many forms. From spending a week in Linfen at Tongsheng Experimental High School and being greeted to such welcoming and friendly students everyday was truly heartwarming. No matter how large the language barrier, the students made great effort to communicate and express themselves towards the American students. It is an effort that I will forever be grateful for, as it has led to me to build friendships that shall last a lifetime. In what seemed such a short time there, we experienced the daily life of a Chinese student. We attended several classes a day. In the mornings, we visited middle-school classes, where an intense UNO card game was played. There was an exchange of laughter and smiles all around. In the afternoons, we’d have cultural exchange classes; we learned how to play the flower drums and several other traditional Chinese musical instruments. Towards the evening, we’d make our way back to the Senior classes. Growing to learn more about each other and building the foundation of a long lasting friendship. It was there we all participated in many activities together. As the journey continued, I’ve made sure to capture every moment. Though the bus rides were long, it allowed me to observe the streets of China, and witness China’s hidden beauty, the people. The people of China are constantly working. With the sun breathing down their necks and the clinginess of sweat dripping with every step, they managed to keep going. It was then I realized the strength and perseverance that is China.  Alongside being an Iu Mien student ambassador on this trip, a  connection that I felt in China grew stronger and stronger with every new day. As we learned more about China’s rich history and culture, I was able to connect the history of my own people. It is said that the first Mien people have originated from China and emigrated along the lines of Southeast Asia. Populating the high mountains of Laos, the villages of Vietnam, and the provinces of China itself. To learn that Mien people, or also known as the Yao people was apart of the many ethnic groups of China was identical to finding a missing puzzle I never knew needed to be found. A missing puzzle that represented a part of my origin and the beginning of my ancestors. The 2018 China Student Ambassador Trip is a trip made up of long, but plentiful days where we spent sightseeing places with so many untold stories and rich history that has influenced the world today, making lifelong friends, and eating lots of ice cream to hide from the striking heat of the overly excited sun. To walk the Great Wall, one of the seven wonders of the world was truly a remarkable experience and a story I am so very lucky to share. I plan to share my experience as an ambassador with others through my photos. The photos I have taken are intent to tell others how I spent each day, hoping to bring out the same emotion of the people in the photos to those viewing. As of now and the future, I plan to continue to update moments of my life, whilst looking forward to the days of my friends in China. Although it brings me great withdrawal, it is an honor to write about my experience in China. May this exchange between America and China last for centuries and flourish with every second. I will commemorate these memories and cannot wait to relive them again.

By Tiffany Lum

Hello! I'm Tiffany Lum from the China Ambassador trip.

Disneyland claims to be the "happiest place on earth", but a mere park decorated with superficial entertainment is undeserving of such a catch. The sparks of happiness are almost intangible; they appear for five seconds but disappear in a blink of an eye. This follow and tease pattern only provides temporary happiness, but what does it take to find true happiness? The answer to this question lies within the Chinese ambassador program.

Before knowing of this program, I sought to apply for the Ivy League program because I believed that the merit and knowledge I'd gain from the program would promise me a brighter future. In the turn of events, I wasn't accepted and that left me devastated for weeks. Following my rejection, I hesitantly applied for this Chinese Ambassador program. Looking back, that decision was a major impetus in my life and I'm thankful that I didn't turn down this once in a life time opportunity. The experience I have made along this trip is honestly irreplaceable and magical. There are definitely no words to thoroughly describe my appreciation.

Although my overall experience during this trip was phenomenonal, it was extremely difficult to adapt to the new environment at first. The terribly hot and humid climate, the difference in lavatories, and the language barriers were obstacles that kept me from enjoying the trip. At our first stop at Tongshen Experimental Middle School, I definitely had my doubts on the living conditions. Scanning my dorm room, I remember regretting my decision to partake in this trip. My roomates and I would whine about how unhygiencic the bathrooms were and how the sink water wouldn't be entirely clear. Gossiping about the dorms became a popular conversational topic between Americans, but those thoughts easily subsided the following day.

The next day at Linfen, we were all warmly welcomed with ecstatic faces. I was personally assigned to Senior Class three, the best class of the school of course. The first hour of awkwardness between the Americans and the Chinese that existed was easily broken by the Linfen students' kind, accepting attitudes. Sitting in their desks and chatting away our interests, any doubts of coming to the trip was discarded immediately. Knowing some Mandarin, it's amusing to see faces glow up when they realize I can speak or understand mandarin. One group of chinese students in particular definitely made my experience so valuable. In senior class three, a group of six dorky students seated in the left-backhand side of the room was a group I became tightly bounded with. Getting to know them at first was awkward because first of all, I came late to class and second of all, I was really sweaty and was very aware of the multiple sweat stains on my dark green Chinese ambassador T-Shirt. With sweet stains aside, the students turned around and quietly asked if I could speak Mandarin. With a short reply in Mandarin, the entire group of six stood up shocked and immediately wlecomed me into their group. Communicating in full Mandarin conversations was definitely brain draining so as a compromise instead of using just solely English or Mandarin, we used "Chinglish". Before knowing me, the word was foreign to them, but now it's used on the daily. Within that group, I have made so many inside jokes and tight friendships. Just being with them brings me joy because it's just so amusing to see the chemistry between all of them and how I had the honor to be part od their amazing group. Every second spent with them is treasured, and I have to say that they are the highlight of my trip. It was just so unfortunate because we had few opportunities to interact with one another because I usually had to teach courses in other classes or I had some activity that refrained me being in class three. The times when they would order lunch and dinner for us, when we would ship people in our friend group, and most of all when we hang out during class will forever have a special place in my heart.

Aside from receiving love in classrooms,   there are countless of times where chinese girls would wait in front of my dorm room to give gifts. These may range from snacks, to letters, to stationary, to hair accessories, and other items. I vividly remember the last night at Linfen, these girls came to our room at eleven to share bowls of hot pot together. In a small room with a broken AC, eight girls were Asian squatting at the center of room sharing two bowls of instant hotpot. The thrill of eating late at night and crying because of the spiciness is an unforgettable dorm experience.

With the knowledge that my time at Linfen was short, I tried my best to participate in activities even if it exhausted me so much. When given a task, I wouldn't hesitate to try it because if I did I would waste my precious time brooding over nothing. In short, from my experience in China, I realized how valuable every second can be and whether I can manage my time so I don't let any time go to waste. If I wasn't talking to anyone, WeChat would be open on my phone and I'd be chatting with someone there. If I'm alone I would take advantage of that time to make more gifts for others or update my digital journal to eternally cherish and share my moments.

When it was time to bid farewell to all of the Linfen students, I had no words to say not because I was speechless but becuade I was trying my best to choke back my tears. Standing on the performance stage before my friends smiling and hugging with tears streaming down our faces is definitely a spectacular memory burned in my brain. With every tear shed is a memory I shared with a Linfen student; I can guarantee that my eyes were swollen the next day. The curtains may close now to conclude my time at Linfen but that doesn't imply that my connections with China will close forever. There is no possible way for me to disregard the friendships I have made in China. No matter where I go, WeChat is always open for international interaction. Because we all know what they say: "You have WeChat? "

By Amanda Souza (student of Skyline Middle College High School)

If someone were to tell me a year ago that I would go to China the summer before starting my senior year, I would have never believed them. I feel that I have progressed and grown as a person in the past year, and this China trip has taught me so much about myself and others. Learning about a new culture while experiencing it first hand was a shock at first, but looking back at it in this moment, I think it was absolutely amazing. 

 

My best friend Atiyana has helped me through many of my personal issues that I experienced these past years. I’ve know her since 4th grade, going to middle college together brought us closer together and showed me that real friends help you grow and build each other up. That’s what I love about our relationship. It feels like we’re meant to have each other. When we first heard about China we thought, “oh hell no, we would not survive there” then when we got more information, heard the price, talked to our parents, we were set on “this is a once in a life time chance, not many people we know can say they’ve been to China” my mom told me if she would’ve moved to America earlier in her life and went to school here and gotten that opportunity she would take it. I was grateful to have my bestfriend come with me. We keep each other sane, in check, and in better moods. 

 

It was really difficult for me to leave my family, I’ve never traveled far without them. Traveling across the world by myself was a big step. I felt afraid of disappointing them, scared of loosing my things, spending to much money. But at the same time I felt ready to be independent and free and ready to prove to them that I’m responsible. It didn’t really hit me that I was leaving them for 3 weeks. I barley even felt like I was going to China. 

 

One of the things I was worried about was my wardrobe because I hate covering up in hot weather. I was born in Brazil and visited once after I moved to America and Jeans and sweaters aren’t necessary during the summer or the daytime. I hate being covered makes me feel suffocated, so I was worried that the Chinese were to conservative for what I like to wear. I also hated the fact that women can’t dress a certain way, it’s so offensive to me. But I understood it’s not America and I had to respect the culture. 

 

The first day was horrible for me and ati, we were extremely exhausted. When we got off the plane it was hot muggy and crowded. Then the bus ride took forever. But once we got our hotel room everything was good. The next day we slept good woke up in a good mood and had fun. Seeing the streets all the green trees and plants, how well maintained everything is was very refreshing. I enjoyed seeing the real side of China and not just the tourist places. Living in the villas started out as a terrible experience for me, our house had bugs everywhere centipedes, mosquitos, spiders, cockroaches. I have a phobia o centipedes and anything with many legs so seeing so many of them freaked me out. There’s was even a day where I stayed up only got 2 hours of sleep because one had crawled under our bed, while I was awake 3 more crawled under the bed. I’m thankful we got bug killer spray because I sprayed them. I called my mom in the morning and ended up crying because of how tired and frustrated I was. I prayed that the next place we stayed was better. My mom being the protective worried mother I forgot she could be, raked to my chaperones and me and ati got to switch rooms. Im very grateful to Mariano for letting us switch because I don’t think i would’ve survived in that room. Going through that struggle made me more grateful in the next places we stayed at. I’m actually very glad I had a bad experience because I wouldn’t have cherished the last hotel we stayed in as much. 

 

On this trip me and ati felt that we were going to stick to ourselves and didn’t know if we would make friends but were hoping to have a good experience with others. We ended up being mothers to 8 other boys that lived in the villa we showered at and then ended up living in. We would have never expected to even get along with these boys because we’re very selective with who our guy friends are. We had nicknames for all of them before getting to know them. They definitely made our trip more fun and i feel that we’re always going to be good friends. 

 

I loved working with the children in Hengshui. It showed me my love for teaching and that I feel that I might like to pursue it. I’m very passionate about children and learning new culture. I’m so anxious to see where life will take the students I wish them the very best and know they will do great things. I could write so many pages about that week of being at the school but I’m going to keep it summed up. The children made the heat and living at the villas so worth it and I will never forget that experience. They are such hard workers and kind genuine souls. I never have felt to welcomed and loved. I have a whole new perspective on the Chinese culture and will never be quick to judge a culture or stereotype it without experiencing it first hand or learning about it from people who have. Hengshui will Always have a special place in my heart. 

 

Another very significant part of my trip is visiting the Great Wall. I never in my life thought I would go there. It’s one of the 7 wonders in the world. What I found so surprising was that going up the stairs to the wall, me and ati never complained once. We took rests and pushed through it together. I felt like I showered when I got to the top because I was dripping in sweat. But I felt so accomplished. The view was mesmerizing and I felt on top of the world, ready for anything. I felt like if I could climb up to the Great Wall of China I could do anything i put my mind to. I can’t even explain how magical the feeling was out how beautiful the it was. I feel so blessed and grateful for having gotten this opportunity. I faced time my parents and showed them I felt like they were there with me. It felt like a dream. After that shopping was so fun I feel like bargaining is my new favorite sport. Me and ati could not stop smiling that whole day. 

 

I feel that this trip was an amazing experience and that many more students should experience it at least once in their life. I wanna thank all the chaperones and people who put it together I’m very grateful for the opportunity