Scaling new heights
From Bethel to Beijing—and beyond
I went on the China study abroad program during fall semester of 2006. We spent the entire semester in China, except for four days at the end which we spent in Hawaii. It really is hard to limit certain parts of the trip as highlights, because it all was really amazing. We were able to visit the Great Wall three times; two of those we actually spent the night and camped on it. Even though we were housed in Beijing, we were able to travel frequently and visited cities, such as Shanghai, Hang Zhou and Xian, where we saw the Terra Cotta warriors.
We lived with a Chinese roommate for two of our four months in China. Besides this, there were several general ways in which we experienced the culture. We ate out or ordered out at local restaurants and stands for all our meals. We bargained at local markets several times. Finally, we attended a church regularly while there. Besides having a church family and being able to serve there, the church also offered us a chance to meet with people from all over the world. People from an estimated 50 different countries attended. So, besides our immersion in Chinese culture, we also experienced several cultures from our social life at church.
Language barrier no barrier to friendship
The one aspect that will stick out the most is living with a Chinese roommate. I can't really begin to describe what it was like. He didn't speak any English, which really helped us with our Chinese. Living with him let us experience the culture on all levels. The best part, however, was how we bonded with him. I was genuinely worried when I heard that he would be moving in with us. I thought the language barrier would totally prevent any real friendship from developing. Instead, we all got to know him well and learned a lot about ourselves as we began to communicate in ways other than language.
It made me a lot more sociable. As a previous homeschooler, this was something I have been trying to grow in a lot in the last few years. Being abroad forced me to develop more in that way. There really is no other way to meet the people and experience the culture than being completely outgoing. Mentally, it had an amazing influence on how I view the world and America. Differences between our country and theirs were really highlighted. It made us realize some of the negatives about our country, and it made us greatly appreciate the positives.
A spiritual experience
I also gained a real connection with the Chinese people. No longer are they just another people group in the newspapers. I'm starting to realize how real they are and how much more I should be aware of world politics. The largest influence it had was definitely spiritual. We were given several opportunities to do ministry, and each one was very rewarding.