The first steps…

China is a lot different than I remembered. The last time I came to China was 10 years ago, so of course there have been significant changes and developments. I expected to come to China feeling very foreign. However, I am feeling very much at home. All the tangible things such as food and dress are things that are familiar to me. All the intangible things such as language and social behavior are things that I am still learning and trying to understand. I realized that I have a deeper understanding of Chinese culture because of my parents, but that I have very American mannerisms. Even as an American Born Chinese (ABC) it can be very hard for me to understand the social cues of the Chinese. For example, Chinese people do not have the same concept of privacy as Americans do. They talk about topics such as age, income, or marital status, which Americans think is annoying and intrusive. Contrarily, both in the United States and China, people value higher education. The contribution of colleges and universities to innovation and economic development is a lesson that both countries have utilized into its strategy for growth.

In the past week, we have participated in a variety of cultural visits to help familiarize ourselves with Chinese culture. The cultural visit I found most impactful was our visit to the Great Wall. At first I thought it was a bad idea to do it the first day and that we should have taken it slow, rest, and get to know each other. Now thinking back, I am glad that camping on the Great Wall was the first thing that we did because not only was it an eye opening experience, but it was a great bonding experience. The existence of the Great Wall symbolizes the unification and separation of China. The Great Wall represents the unification of China, because it was linked together as China was unified for the first time in the Qin Dynasty. While it represents unity on the China side, the Great Wall represents separation from the rest of the world on the other, along with the lengths a nation will go to preserve their cultural and keep invader out. Ironically, as a tourist attraction, the Great Wall is now helping to draw millions of outsiders in to China.

-Xiu Cheung

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