I was in the first semester of my degree when I applied and was accepted as a delegate on the 2018 GLP China Symposium and it is safe to say that the experiences I had on the trip have had a significant impact on my life. Not only have I learned a lot about China, eaten some of the most delicious food in the world, and made friends with some incredible people, I’ve also gained a new appreciation for China and for my degree in ways that I didn’t expect. These are my top three reasons why attending the China Symposium has been my favourite Uni experience so far:
1. A greater understanding of and connection to China and Chinese people
Before visiting China, I had relatively little knowledge about China. I had met many Chinese people, eaten Chinese food, and knew of Chinese New Year. What I didn’t realise was that China is an incredibly diverse place, with 56 different ethnic groups, remarkably beautiful landscapes and impressive cities, and a huge variety of cuisines all with their own distinct flavours.
The thing that most struck me during the trip was how seamlessly China integrated both ancient and modern values and customs into everyday life. It was amazing to see traditional temples in amongst skyscrapers, to hear about the cultural stories and meanings behind the places we visited, and to explore towns and cities that have been so visibly impacted by the history of the country.
After returning to Australia, I feel a much deeper connection with China. Not only have I added Mandarin to my list of languages to learn and craved Chinese food to no end, I also feel I’m more capable of understanding and engaging with Chinese people, Chinese culture and global issues. For me, these have been some of the most valuable lessons and skills I have learned so far.
2. Life-long friends and the best memories
Many people have told me that the friends you make while travelling will be your friends for life, and this has been especially true for the friends I made on the China Symposium. Before meeting the other delegates, I was nervous, unsure of how I’d fit into a group of 14 people, and worried that I wouldn’t like them or they wouldn’t like me.
Luckily, the other delegates turned out to be some of the most caring, funny, supportive, smart and all-round amazing people I’ve ever met. From celebrating a birthday, to asking questions of our briefing hosts, to joking with our guide, to long bus rides, to taking in incredible views, to constantly eating delicious food, to matching our shirts, to taking the best photos (and videos), I really couldn’t have asked for a better group, a better experience or better memories.
3. A greater sense of belonging to the GLP and to my degree
There was one particular moment during the trip which has deeply impacted me since. While watching the Lijiang Impressions show, a performance in which hundreds of actors tell the stories of different Chinese ethnic minorities, I felt overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude – to the actors who shared such a meaningful performance with the audience, and because I had the chance and the ability to be in such an amazing part of the world and to learn about incredible people and cultures. Anthropology is my major and I already knew that people and culture inspire me, but feeling so connected, happy and grateful really reminded me of why I decided to study what I do and has since continued to remind me.
Having had such a wonderful experience on the China Symposium has also encouraged me to take more opportunities to learn new things, experience different cultures and meet new people, which I believe is what the GLP is about. And so, I can confidently say that the GLP China Symposium has been the best experience I have had at university so far and would definitely recommend this amazing opportunity.