Visit to China opens eyes about diversity

Lauren Huggler
Lauren Huggler wearing a jacket she bought in China and holding the cover for a group photo she purchased

My family moved to Penn Yan when I was 1 year old.  Since then, I have traveled around the United States on various vacations, but have never traveled outside of the U.S. borders.

As a an Adolescent Education-English major at Keuka College, I have learned that being open minded about diversity is essential in today’s school systems.  As a future educator, I will encounter a variety of unique and diverse students, and my education at Keuka College has helped me prepare for this.

In September of 2007 I learned that an Occupational Therapy professor at Keuka College was organizing a nine day trip through China in January 2008. 

She would be taking the group through Beijing, to the Great Wall of China, to Xi’an, to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, and to the coastal city of Shanghai. I knew that the opportunity to travel to China was most likely a once in a lifetime one for me, and decided to travel to the diverse country with the group from Keuka College. Seeing a culture other than my own would provide deep insights into what I will experience as a future teacher in America.

The excitement grew over the four months I waited for the trip to arrive, and I continually had visions of what my experience would be like; walking through downtown streets in Beijing, eating meals at exciting new restaurants, interacting with the local people.

These visions, colorful and exhilarating, were also mixed with ones of a struggling economy and underdeveloped country. Because of my naivety, I thought that China was not as advanced as the United States, and that the cities and communities were very remote.

Our plane landed in the outskirts of Beijing on Jan. 19, 2008 at a local airport. At nine o’clock at night, our tour bus slowly traversed through the inner city streets of Beijing towards our hotel.

It was during our half an hour trip from the airport to the hotel that I realized how wrong my vision of China had been. We were surrounded by tall sky scrapers, busy streets packed with cars, and local stores on all sides.

I felt like I was driving through downtown New York City, not a city in China.

At this moment, I came to understand how developed and technically advanced China really was. The cities looked just like any city in the United States, a shock to many people who were traveling with me.

Throughout my nine days in China, I learned about the many customs the Chinese people hold dear. I saw the country for what it truly was; a diverse one that was growing at a rapid rate economically and technologically.

I experienced how courteous the local people were and also that China has criminals just like we do in America.  While most were nice and accepting, the group I traveled with from Keuka College also saw those citizens who attempted to take advantage of the fact that we were tourists.

Overall, I came to understand and accept the similarities and differences between the Chinese culture and my own.

The insights I gained while traveling through the beautiful country are ones I will hold onto as a future educator.

The trip helped me realize that each student I will teach comes from a background different than my own and those differences are what make each person special.

Lauren Huggler, third from right in the front row, and the rest of the Keuka College group that travelled to China in January.