Sunday May 22, 2016

Week One in Suzhou

Okay, so it was more than a week. 10 days, but, for ease of journal keeping, let's call it a week. I'm starting to adjust to my classes, and the semester is already 1/5 done! Time is flying by...one Wednesdays and Fridays, my school day is from 8:00am - 6:00pm. I don't mind waking up early as it gets light here at about 5:30am.

This weekend, we went on our first excursion, "Old Suzhou," the 2,500 year old city that Suzhou Industrial Park grew out of. I have concluded that it is impossible to put into words the amount of people that call China their home. I mean to say that, everywhere you look, there are at least 5 people in your line of view. In populated areas, there are too many to count. In the garden we visited, the amount of people was staggering. The very peaceful and beautiful place became overrun with thousands of people trampling over each other with selfie sticks trying to take pictures of the picturesque landscape.

My experience thus far has been very positive with the Chinese people. They have been very accepting and communal. There is an extremely strong sense of heritage and culture that radiates from them. The dresses the old women wear are gorgeous. They are made from delicate material with extremely intricate designs and striking colors. Sometimes, the dresses are fitted with little embellishments like jewels, and each dress is very different, leading me to believe that they are handmade. The effects of massive industrialization may be a challenge for China, but what is admirable is the Chinese people and what they have accomplished. Millennia-old architecture, song and dance, food, clothing, writing and collectivism separate China from any other country on the globe.

I have gotten over the initial shock of being in a different country, but many barriers still remain. What I have found to be the best solution for my problems is to just relax and work through them one at a time. This can be hard to do because things happen very quickly here, and it can be intimidating. Basic tasks like ordering food and navigating around town test your patience on a daily basis, but the general anxiety is fading, and, as each day passes, I become more comfortable with my environment. Constantly being tested and being in stressful situations has helped me learn things about myself that I had previously not known, taught my important life skills and developed my confidence. I am looking forward to another week of adventure and skill building, as well as our trip to Nanjing where we will visit some sweet museums, watch an opera and go to Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum.

Andrew Szappanos, Junior, Entrepreneurship

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