At the end of the program, I did not go back home straight away. Instead, I traveled to the southern part of China. With a friend as well as with some of my relatives, I stayed in Guangzhou, and lastly a small town even more south than that. Having the ability to travel to and experience more of China other than my assigned study abroad destination helped foster my experience. The news we hear and the books we read about China are very centered around the idea of “unity”, yet by first experiencing the north, then shortly visiting the South, I was able to tell off the bat that there were drastic differences within the country, just like in most countries. During my visit in a different country completely on my own, not only had I become more independent, I also learned that taking initiative and making the first move is the most effective way to achieve something and to learn something. In addition, I also became more aware of the rest of the world outside of the “American bubble” I experience on a daily basis.
Coming back home to Chicago, my uncle mentioned to me something I agree with completely. He said that he was extremely glad that I decided to study abroad, arguing that staying long-term and experiencing another area first-hand is the only way that we will learn to feel empathy for others, and realizing the privilege in our lives. I am extremely happy to have had the opportunity to travel while studying, and I feel very appreciative for the people I’ve met along my journey.