Travelling to China
About two weeks ago I returned from a 10-day trip to China – specifically Shanghai and Suzhou. I went with a youth leadership organization I volunteer for, and we hosted the second annual WE Stand Summit in Suzhou.
Let me preface this by saying I could not have had one of the best, most rewarding experiences of my life if my professors had not been so accommodating to me for missing seven days worth of classes.
Thank you for rescheduling my exams, thank you for giving me the extension. I feel so much gratitude to be in classes with profs who understand the value of travel, volunteering, and leadership.
My past travel experiences had only extended as far outward as Italy, as southbound as Ixtapa, Mexico, and probably as northbound as Edmonton, AB (where I’m originally from). My travelling companions (read: chaperones) have exclusively been parents or teachers. The first time I got on a plane by myself I was eighteen and headed home to Edmonton for Thanksgiving during my first year at UVic, which was last year.
Bearing that background in mind, travelling to a place as far and as different as China was wildly intimidating, but also wildly exciting. When the entire travelling group was together we were a total of 13, though we were often in smaller groups, and a few of us even came from different areas of Canada. I knew nearly everyone to varying degrees before going, and some of them were even my close friends. This was my first time travelling as an adult, and being largely responsible for myself. Intimidating, but exciting.
China was never on my list of places I wanted to travel to, and it’s a long list. I don’t have a particular reason, it just never stood out to me. By the end of the trip, I didn’t want to leave. And I’m ready to go back any second now.
Let me tell you, there’s no better feeling in the world than being terrified to travel to a place, only to find you feel almost more comfortable, confident, and happy there than you did at home. Trying the street food, attempting to communicate through a strong language barrier, navigating the metro, and piling onto a standing-room-only train was practically exhilarating
The first half of the trip in Shanghai was sightseeing, visiting temples, walking around the unique and diverse neighborhoods, completely failing at finding the warehouses at M50, and losing our minds in Muji.
The second half was almost entirely work focused; we took a bus early every morning to the international school where our summit was being hosted, worked all day, occasionally returned to the hotel for respite and then ventured out again to a different dining experience every night.
Being vegetarian (and admittedly a picky eater), I had some concerns about finding food I could eat. I’ll tell you, I and the other vegetarian nearly wept with joy upon discovering that the buffet restaurant we were dining at was entirely vegetarian. It was a spiritual experience. I won’t lie and say it was easy, but just learn how to say ‘no meat’ in Mandarin and you’ll do fine.
While the travel experience was in itself incredible, the two day summit we put on was equally as extraordinary. WE Stand summits began in Edmonton in 2015, and we’re coming up on our third year.
This was the second summit in China, and the first summit I had been a part of since the very first one. The summits focus on different kinds of leadership, and help young people establish what their vision for their life is, and put into words what their purpose is, and how to fulfill it.
We believe in personal growth and collective good, and that is the message we try to extend to students while also providing them with a map and tools to make it happen for themselves. Even being part of the team has helped me get clear on my own purpose, and what I envision for my life, not only for myself but in service of others. Learn more here.
If you have the opportunity to travel, SAY YES. Even if its somewhere that might not be on your bucket list, I can guarantee it has the potential to be the experience of a lifetime.