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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Two Weeks in China

Girls in traditional dress on a Dragon Boat

Over Thanksgiving I got an “invitation,” or flyer sent out in droves to honors students internationally through the Golden Key Club (GKC) from International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP), to go to China! I thought what the hell; I’ll blow five grand in loans during a recession to visit China. The other 29 members of the group must have thought the same thing. It was totally worth it.

Close to 150 GKC members from all over the world went to China this May for the ISLP Delegation on Diplomacy and International Relations. I was lucky enough to be one of them. The ISLP kept us pretty busy in China with an agenda jam-packed with history lessons, cultural awareness seminars and team-building activities. We had two tour guides, one from ISPL and the other from the China International Travel Service.

We visited three large cities: Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai.

First, the GKC members flew from New Jersey to the Beijing Capital International Airport. Beijing, where we spent five wonderful days, is very green, new and clean, with large, luxurious shopping plazas.

We visited the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, attended a lecture by Professor Mei Renyi, the director of American Studies at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, and went to the Mexican embassy to explore international relations. Of course, we also went to tourist sites such as the Olympic Green, the Great Wall, a tea house, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Summer Palace.

After walking the Great Wall’s steep steps for the afternoon, we went to a live kung fu show, and by the end of the show I was in tears. I was so stirred by the graceful movements and beautiful story of a boy’s journey on the path to enlightenment through kung fu. The message of patience and dedication resonated deeply with me.

Next, the group traveled on an overnight train from Beijing to Xi’an. This city is 300 years older than Beijing. The air is thick with pollution and most days the sun is not visible through the clouds; luckily we only spent two days there. Perfectly fine buildings are torn down all throughout the city and rebuilt in a more traditional Eastern architecture style. Xi’an is famously known for its Terra Cotta Warriors, which were discovered in the city by a farmer in the 1970’s. Thanks to his extraordinary discovery he was given the job of signing the books bought in the Terra Cotta Warrior gift shop.

We also visited Sunrise Orphanage, a place for children whose parents were imprisoned for “political crimes.” It was said that “the children were often accomplices,” a statement that was never fully explained. The children performed traditional dances for us and we returned the favor by getting on stage and doing the Hokey Pokey. We were then given a tour of the facilities, which are mostly likely the best of any orphanage in the country. In addition to the orphanage, we attended a World Wildlife Federation presentation about protecting forest areas and panda habitats in China.

Finally, from Xi’an we took a two-hour plane ride to Shanghai, where we spent the last four days of the trip. This is an international and futuristic city. It looks like any other industrialized cultural center. Here, we made group presentations of our analysis of a New York Times article about the strategic encircling around China, and then visited the Bund and Nanjing Road. We went to an art museum with the history of Chinese art on display, including ancient puppets made out of translucent animal skin and elaborate paper cuttings. One of the most moving exhibits in the museum, a collection of pictures drawn by farmers, showed life for the Chinese since the Cultural Revolution. These portraits gave me great insight into the progress of the Chinese people.

After two weeks attempting to absorb the abundance of information presented and eat everything with chopsticks, a night out was well deserved. A group of us went to Partyworld, a high-class karaoke chain found in major cities, then to the club Richbaby. The people in the club were gorgeous and fun. Youth in China have an awesome fashion style, and it might surprise you that they listen to pretty much the same music as the youth of the Western world.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit China, I suggest you do. It was wonderful. I networked with Chinese students from three different universities, met people from Australia, Europe and Africa, and had an unbelievably amazing time.