East Asia Travel Scholar Ayesha Sehgal reports on an amazing five weeks in China
Thanks to the generous support of Exeter College’s East Asia Travel Scholarship I spent an amazing summer in China with experiences I will truly cherish forever.
I travelled around China for almost five weeks, arriving in Qingdao at the beginning of July. There, I stayed with a host family for three weeks and acted as a camp leader for LAN international, an education consultancy which aims to improve English skills and global outlook amongst Chinese children. The camp I was a leader in was the Youth Leadership Camp, working with slightly older children (aged 14-19) who wish to study in America or England. My favourite thing about working with the YLC was that there were three camp leaders and four campers, which meant that my group of two was the biggest! This meant we could have intensive, one-on-one classes focusing on each child’s strengths and weaknesses, aiming to replicate the education style they would receive abroad.
From Qingdao, I travelled to Beijing and spent four days exploring the history of the city from a base of Beijing’s famous hutongs. I then travelled onto Chengdu, where I spent a day at the panda reserve – even getting to see two new-born baby pandas! – and a day at Dujiangyan Irrigation System.
After Chengdu, I flew to Shanghai, and was excited to explore the city – including The Bund, TV Tower and museum – as well as the famous Tongli water town and neighbouring gardens. Whilst in Shanghai, I also had the opportunity to meet an Exeter alumna, which was so lovely and almost like a little taste of home after a month away!
After leaving Shanghai, I headed to Hong Kong to conclude my journey. Being in Hong Kong at the same time as the protests was a little frightening, but I never felt unsafe, and it was fascinating to be there during such a charged time. In Hong Kong, I also met a number of other Exeter alumni, all of whom had such interesting career paths and journeys and were kind enough to share them with me. I had an absolutely incredible time meeting and speaking to every single one of them, and only regret not having enough time to meet more!
I was able to improve my Mandarin by talking with my host family, new camp friends, and people I met along the way. This experience was invaluable, and I am so excited to continue learning Mandarin at the language centre back in Oxford, with the hope of returning to China again soon!