We are excited to present this personal travel story from one of our top ten of Travel Writer Award finalists. Read more about the travel experiences of Brianna Louise Perkins.
As a girl who hadn’t been away from her family for more than two days, I was nervous about leaving the country for two weeks to study abroad. At first, it seemed surreal. I couldn’t imagine a girl like me traveling to the other side of the world. In the end, I’m so glad that I went to China because while there, I ended up making the best memories.
One of my favorite memories was meeting all of the new people; there were 10 Americans, 60 Italians, 60 Spaniards, and a few Russians. We all shared at least one thing: we knew how to speak Chinese. The group that we, the group of 10 Americans, spent the most time with was the Italians. We were on the same bus, had the same class schedule, and lived in the same hotels. The Spaniards and the Russians lived on campus. I lived in a hotel called Yitel. We went to class every morning at 8, and we would usually not return to the hotel until 6 or 7 at night. This included having our language class, culture class, lunch, sightseeing, and dinner.
Some of the sightseeing was absolutely breathtaking. However, most of the sightseeing happened in Beijing, which was the second half of the trip. My favorite place that we went to in Dalian was the mall. It was relatively close to our hotel, and we would go there nearly every night.
One of my favorite experiences at the mall was the bargaining. Even though it was a mall with set prices, we were allowed to bargain. Two phrases I said the most was “多少钱?” and “太贵了。” The first expression means, “How much?” In the mall, not many things had price tags like they do in America, so I would have to ask the sales clerk how much. The second expression means, “Too expensive.” I often used this phrase when bargaining. One time at the Great Wall of China, I got a hat for half price by saying this.
The atmosphere was much different in Beijing than it was in Dalian. In Dalian, the people were friendly and wanted to talk. In Beijing, mostly people talked to us when they wanted pictures. Since not a lot of Caucasian people travel to China, we were a rare sight. This also happened in Dalian, but not as much.
The pictures were probably my favorite thing about the entire trip because it didn’t matter where we were or what we were doing, someone would come up to us and ask for a picture. I remember one time in Dalian they didn’t even ask for a picture. The mother told her son to go stand by Aidan, a fellow student at DRSS who went on the trip, and started taking pictures. My favorite moment was in Dalian when this little girl came up to me and said my hair was very pretty in English. I responded saying that her hair was also very pretty but in Chinese. I’ll never forget the smile on her face.
One of the biggest challenges I had during this trip was not having phone service. Also, the fact that every social media site is banned on Chinese networks. In order to view any social media, a VPN would have to be installed on your phone, which is also illegal in China. Not having good WiFi was my least favorite part because it made it very difficult to try and communicate with family back home. Never mind the 12 hour time zone difference. In Beijing, the only place that had good WiFi was in the hall, but to leave my room, I would have to take my room card, which
was also the power card. The power card gave power, such as lights, to the entire room. Plus, in Beijing, we lived on the same floor as the Italians. Granted, they thought we were loud, but we thought they were loud. All of these problems combined made it very hard to communicate with family back home.
The journey there and back was probably one of my least favorite parts of the entire journey because of the lengthy travel and jet leg. The journey to and from China was roughly 24 hours. This included layover times, plane transfers, and security checks. On the way to China, we boarded a plane in Cincinnati and flew to Detroit, Michigan. From there, we flew to Shanghai and proceeded to transfer planes one last time to reach Dalian. On the way back, we flew from Dalian to Detroit. In Detroit, we had a five hour layover. However, just to board the plane in Dalian to fly to Detroit, we had to go through five security checks. That ended up being a 36 hour day for us.
My favorite part of the journey home was finally seeing my mother and sister standing at the end of the airport waiting for me. I practically ran through the entire airport and was the first one to reach my family members. Just like the moment when I boarded the plane two weeks earlier, they hugged me and cried.
China was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I got to travel the world with my friends, meet new friends from around the globe, and get to see things that I know I most likely will never see again.
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