By: Cadet Anthony Nicholson
This past summer, I was given the opportunity to travel on a cultural immersion trip to Xi’an, China. The trip, which was 26 days long, consisted of one week in Hawaii, three days in Beijing, and the rest in Xi’an. Our mission while in China was quite simple, to volunteer our skills and services in a number of different placements, while also gaining a greater insight into the Chinese culture and traditions. Our in-country volunteer placements included teaching local kindergarteners, caring for foster babies, and even teaching Chinese college students that were interested in majoring in English. The group which I went with consisted of 21 Cadets, including myself, and two cadre, LTC Doyle, and CPT Helm. During every day of the week our group split off into our smaller sub-group and work at our specified placement for about two or three hours. I and eight other Cadets had the privilege of working at a nearby kindergarten,
I had close to 40 students in my class, and they were all either 5 or 6 years old. They were all learning to speak English, and it was my job to assist the teacher in helping them to learn proper pronunciations, new vocabulary, and spelling. Right from the start it was easy to notice a great number of differences between American and Chinese schools. For starters, not too many schools in America teach their students more than one language, especially at such a young age. Also, these kindergarteners were in school every day of the week for nine hours, as compared to the six or seven hour days in America. I was surprised to see how intelligent and disciplined my students were, considering their ages. Although I was only with my class for about 10 days, we came to grow very close, and I will never forget the fun times and memories which I shared with the students and teachers.
After we would return from our fun filled mornings at our placements, we usually had the rest of the day to explore the surrounding area of Xi’an. There was a great deal of local areas to be explored, and a number of interesting activities which we could partake in. We spent our time shopping at local marts, trying delicious, exotic foods, playing sports with the Xi’an University college students, touring downtown Xi’an, and just hanging out with the other Cadets.
We also had the option of attending planned activities that were set up by the Cross Cultural Solution (CCS) staff, which provided us with our meals, housing and transportation while in Xi’an. The activities ranged from going to a nearby stadium for a soccer game to learning about the history of Chinese medicine, music, writing, etc. Whether we were attending one of the arranged activities, or just wandering the local area with other Cadets, there was always something to do during the day.
Since we only worked at our placements during the week, the weekends gave us a great deal of time to truly tour and experience China. Our first weekend was spent seeing the famous Terra-Cotta Warriors, which was about a 3 hour drive from where we stayed in Xi’an. I was amazed to learn that they say there is believed to be 1 million of these life sized statues, half of which are still buried. The following weekend we took a rather long bus ride, due to all of the traffic, to the Hua Mountain. It is said that the Hua Mountain is the most dangerous mountain to hike in the world.
Although it was a long, hot day of hiking, once we made it to the top it was all worth it.
Our last weekend, half of which we spent in Beijing before returning home, was a perfect way to wrap up a memorable trip. The group of Cadets which I went with, had now grown to become close friends, and we spent the last day exploring some interesting places in Beijing before the long days of flying home. We had the chance to hike the great wall, see Tiananmen Public Square, which is the largest in the world, and we even got a tour of the Forbidden City. In all, my trip to China gave me the chance to see the world, meet new friends, and learn a great deal about China’s culture. It was a memorable trip that gave me knowledge and insight which I can take with me in my future.