July 16, 2016
(Presently in Chicago, Illinois)
It feels surreal to think that just two months ago I was preparing to set out on my study abroad trip to China. Having returned, it feels like I just woke up from a dream but all of the remnants of it are scattered throughout each day. I find myself trying to listen for the Chinese language in passing conversations or trying to replicate flavors in my kitchen. This constant longing for pieces of Chinese culture to reappear in my life is proof of this trip’s impact on my life.
This experience allowed me to learn another language, meet new friends, try my hand at research and see another part of the world. It was everything I could have asked for in my first trip outside of the country! To be honest, one of my biggest take-aways from the trip was that China is not as different from America as I thought and ended up being quite different from the image others had painted in my head. This realization has prompted me to reconsider my current view of other country’s cultures. I don’t think I can make a full judgement about another country or culture without experiencing it for myself. To top it off, Chinese culture was not a homogeneous as I once thought it to be but it is a culture with so many regional flavors that it will take a second trip to grasp the entirety of it.
In regards to the research portion of the trip, I conducted research in the area of biogas upgrading in Zhejiang University’s Bio-Energy and Bio-Materials Lab. I was able to experience the work ethics and experiment procedures of an engineering lab and a cellular biology lab at the same time which helped broaden my lab experience. Additionally. my PhD mentor was from Egypt and was able to give me a completely different perspective n Chinese and American culture than I would have received otherwise. He introduced me to Muslim-Chinese cuisine, Egyptian culture and he even gave me a better understanding of Islam!
Overall, it was a great experience that I already miss. I miss the language, the friends I made, the food,the mountains and rivers…..for now I suppose the Chinese music I downloaded will help out. Until next time China and friends!
In the words of my friend Quan Quan, “see you in…years”.
(The image is the peak of Yellow Mountain (Huangshan). The skies cleared once we got to he peak. We were 1.2 miles above sea level.)