Spending sixteen days in China gave me a new perspective on the world. At first, I felt like a fish out of water; everything seemed different. That was until we began meeting the students at Sichuan University. Conversations about Beyonce, Adele and pop culture dissolved the cultural differences. The breakthrough for me feeling comfortable in China was when the students we had met the week prior asked us to go shopping with them. The Chinese people were so hospitable, and the students were always eager to help us.
One of my new friends is named Cindy. Well, that is her American name. Many Chinese students have American names in addition to their Chinese name. Cindy and I hit it off from the first student mingling session, so I wan’t afraid to ask her how she picked her name (which I thought was the normal practice). She told me that her English teacher in high school had picked her name for her. She then exclaimed, “I could pick a new name,” with a look of surprise on her face.”
Cindy is from the province north of Sichuan and was returning home to her family the day before we left China. She takes a twenty-four hour train ride home to see her family after each semester ends, she explained to me that she can’t always go home because the train is expensive. Cindy and her fellow Chinese students was amazed by American culture. She asked me to show her what Facebook looked like and what the differences between Instagram and Twitter were. Cindy and her two friends were nice enough to make little notes for us that said “I am lost” in Mandarin and put their phone numbers down so that they could translate between us and whomever we were asking for help. It was those gestures that may have seemed small to them that made a world of a difference for me. I felt as though someone had my back.
While I enjoyed seeing the world’s largest Buddha and awing over baby pandas, the thing I will remember most about visiting China was the people.