by Emily Harder
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – This past month, I had the opportunity to travel to China with a group of students and faculty from Bethel College. Words can’t really express how an experience like that changes the way one thinks and acts.
Seeing a part of the world most people never get a chance to was such a privilege. I will never forget my three weeks in China.
The focus of the China trip was “business and economics.” I would like to mention here that I am not a business major. My reason for going was simply because China has always intrigued me: so many people in such a small area, and it’s halfway around the world.
I never thought I would actually have the chance to visit – especially since before January 2012, I hadn’t even left the country.
Once in China, our group stayed in three major cities: seven days in Beijing, four in Puyang and five in Shanghai. While Beijing and Shanghai were fairly touristy, Puyang was a bit more rural and the people were not accustomed to seeing foreigners.
This being said, we got a lot of stares in that city. Being the minority was a new experience for most of our group. While it may have been slightly uncomfortable, I think it was incredibly important to experience those feelings.
Our Beijing and Shanghai days were filled with sightseeing and visits to businesses. The Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City and the Olympic Village were just a few of the stops we made in Beijing. A homemade meal at a local family’s house in Beijing was definitely one of the highlights for me.
We also had the privilege of attending Peking Opera in Beijing and a Shanghai Acrobats show in Shanghai. One of the most exciting businesses that our group got to visit was also in Shanghai: Shanghai GM. Seeing cars be put together right in front of us was a bit mind-boggling.
In Puyang, our focus shifted from sightseeing to connecting with the Mennonite background of many of us. We met with the grandson of a Bethel graduate and got to hear his story. We also visited several small Mennonite-related churches in the surrounding area.
Although we couldn’t understand what all the church members were saying to us, their compassion and hospitality were easy to understand. They welcomed us into their place of worship with food, songs and hugs. The joy expressed by the church members when they were singing for us was simply magnificent. I am so thankful to have spent time with them.
One question I received upon my returned from China was “What was your favorite part?” My immediate response was “Everything.” Upon further consideration, I did manage to narrow it down.
The most incredible part of the trip for me was spending time at the Great Wall. Our group spent a morning there climbing and taking pictures. I’m not sure which amazed me more: the view from the top or the sense of accomplishment I felt after getting there.
Either way, I can’t express how grateful I am to have experienced all the things I did on my trip to China.
Emily Harder is a sophomore from Newton. Leaders of Bethel’s China interterm trip, Jan. 3-21, were Jim and Shirley Goering, North Newton, and Allison McFarland, Bethel professor of business and economics. Other student participants were Dustin Abrahams, Canton, Sean Claassen, Elmira, Ore., Jordan Esau, Hutchinson, Rachel Evans, Bel Aire, Kyle Howard, Halstead, Jenae Janzen, Newton, Arthur Kauffman, Burgettstown, Pa., Doug Kliewer, Lenexa, Abram Rodenberg, Halstead, Matt Shelly, Newton, and Paul Voran, Newton. Jacob Goering, North Newton, and Bethel President Perry White and his wife, Dalene, were also part of the group.