The China Buzz by Justine Barron
As a student enrolled in the Travel and Tourism program it has always been a goal of mine to go abroad on an international internship. Sounds like a pretty fair tradeoff, huh? Send me to a foreign country, I work for six months. Here’s the best part, not only do I get real industry work experience in a luxurious hotel but I get to live, travel, and experience the culture all with the money I make as an intern. Many of the opportunities for our program include destinations in exotic places such as the Caribbean, Maldives, and South Pacific Islands. Instead of choosing exotic, I traded in my tan for a cultural experience that I will never regret.
The excitement I felt before leaving was building up and I was on a mission to tell everyone. But to my surprise, the reaction I was getting from those around me wasn’t what I expected. For the first time I was going beyond the comfortable boarders of the United States to venture into an unfamiliar culture and the response I received was, “Why China?”
Well, I say, “Why not?”
China: An enormous nation built upon one of the earliest known civilizations; rich in history, culture, excellent food, beautiful landscapes, rapidly growing cities, a booming economy, and home to billions of proud citizens.
The country that was mainly cut off from the western world has only recently been revealed. What they have to offer is even greater than what many may have expected. Business in China is growing faster than most can keep up with. One industry that is emerging in most recent years is Tourism. The world caught a glimpse of China’s hidden charm during the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing and then 2 short years later at the World Expo in Shanghai. The Chinese business culture is drawing in all kinds of visitors from different regions of the world. Many of which are excited to explore this beautiful country. Luckily for their tourism industry they already have the foundation to satisfy this demand.
At 22 years old, I am fortunate enough to have experienced firsthand what the China buzz is all about. Where ever you go in the country—whether it is Beijing in the North, Guangzhou or Hong Kong in the South, Shanghai to the East, or the mountains region to the west—there is an endless list of cultural, historic, natural, and modern sites to see. Each region emits a different vibe drawing in countless visitors. Only being in the country for 6 months, with almost 80% of that time contributed to work, there was little to spare for travel. To do and see as much as possible, corners had to be cut. Spending an afternoon in the busy international city of Hong Kong, after a full day of work taking a 13 hour overnight train to modern Shanghai, and saving up 5 off days to visit the breathtaking historic city of Beijing would be the sacrifice.
My placement was in a smaller city of only 3.5 million residents. Taiyuan, unlike the larger cities such as Beijing, is less developed and English is scarce making everyday life a little more difficult for a foreigner. An average day to the store consisted of getting on one of the many crowded buses, strategizing a plan to make your way to the back, counting how many stops until you need to get off, and making sure you don’t get trampled on the way out. As a westerner this way of life took some time to adjust to.
Many challenges came along with living in a developing city on top of not knowing the language. Being from an individualistic culture it was natural for me to do things on my own. But, figuring out how was the hard part. In the beginning, ordinary tasks were overwhelming because of the language barrier but learning how to communicate without words became instinct. Another struggle came from being an outsider looking in. My whole life I’ve lived in an area where I was the majority. Spending time out of this comfort zone has given me a different perspective. I feel blessed to have lived in a smaller, less known city because of the experience that came with it.
With its thriving economy China’s cities are growing fast and Taiyuan is no different. I could see infrastructure and modernization happening before my eyes. This was truly incredible to witness. Upon returning home I was surprised to hear China was the focus of conversation; on the news, the front cover of TIME magazine, and even at the dinner table. Since then people have asked me what the buzz is about, “Why China?”