July 29, 2019
China trip offers life-changing experiences
Led by Lixia Kang, Upper St. Clair High School world language teacher, several Upper St. Clair High School students had the opportunity to explore China earlier this summer. A first-hand account of the experience, written by rising seniors Ashwini Walavalkar and Mathena Jencka, is provided below.
For over a year and a half, we had both been awaiting our journey to China. It was on a random day that we were walking on our buses and saw a poster advertising this trip. We immediately knew that this trip was meant for us, and went directly to our parents to beg them to let us go. Before we knew it, we were packing our bags and driving to the airport to get on a painful yet exciting 14-hour flight (who doesn’t love airplane food??). Throughout the trip we had many exciting experiences that we would love to share by order of the cities where we traveled.
Our first stop was Beijing, China’s capital, which houses the Communist government. We were both able to relate our prior knowledge from our AP Comparative Government Course, which taught us about the Chinese government. As soon as we stepped into Tiananmen Square, there was the innate feeling that the government was surrounding us. Not only was it the modern-day politics that we can relate to, but also the thousands of years of history that was found in the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace where past Emperors resided. This was an eye-opening experience because we were able to immerse ourselves in a completely different political sphere that is renounced in our country and media. Aside from politics, we were able to hike the stairs of the Great Wall, which were much steeper than we expected. As we lost our breath walking on the withered steps of the Great Wall, we could not help but to imagine the laborers building the wall and the Huns invading where we were standing. Overall the city of Beijing encapsulates the history of China.
Our next city was Xi’an, a smaller city known for its pure culture and a taste of history. While we were in Xi’an, the Muslim Quarter was a definite highlight, with its busy street and vibrant lights, you felt as if you were a part of their community. Not to mention, the food there was delicious. To involve ourselves even more with the locals, we developed our bargaining skills to bring home some souvenirs for our families. In the beginning, we did not do so well, but after a few minutes, we became skilled bargainers (with the help of Ms. Kang). The second main highlight of Xi’an was going to see the Terracotta Warriors. Both of us had always been interested in the story of excavating these warriors and to be standing right in front of them was, to say the least, life changing. It was difficult to put into perspective what human labor is able to create, as seen through thousands of warriors, each one being unique. Out of the three cities, Xi’an made us feel as if China was our home.
Last but not least, we went to Shanghai, a bustling city full of business, mixing together both western and eastern culture. Even though we were only able to spend about a day here, we were able to see how the city functioned. Our first stop was the financial tower that resembled the skyscrapers in New York City. Shockingly, we were not able to see the city clearly at times from above due to the excess smog in the air. Shanghai, despite being known as a business hub, also contained a great extent of Chinese culture. The visit to the Jade Buddha Temple allowed us to interact and fully experience an aspect that is unique and rarely found in Western culture. We were able to expand our perspective of religion and everyday lives.
Overall, the trip was educational and also enjoyable.