July 15, 2016

Scholar Voices: My eye-opening journey through China

Fourteen of our Earl Woods Scholars had the pleasure of traveling to China this summer on a 10-day excursion that took them to Beijing and Shanghai. The once-in-a-lifetime experience, hosted by Ourgame, parent company of the World Poker Tour©, was the first time many of the students had traveled outside of the United States. For Efosa Erhunmwunse, a rising junior at Ithaca College, the experience was life-changing. From participating in a three-legged race with school children to standing 263 feet above the ground, Erhunmwunse’s time in China was unforgettable.   

During my stay in China, my cohort and I were given the opportunity to meet children at a local school in the countryside. The joy the children expressed on their faces when we jumped rope, accompanied them for lunch and ran the three-legged race was the most humbling experience. Giving back to those children allowed me to express my gratitude for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Prior to entering the elementary school, I assumed that the students had the basic outdoor activity infrastructures such as monkey bars, swings and other playground components. Contrary to my beliefs, the students’ main sources of excitement and physical activity were any recreation that implemented running or jumping rope. Even though they lacked an abundance of materials they were highly satisfied with playing double dutch, single rope, tag or the three-legged race. Through this event, I was able to learn that I need to be more grateful for the possessions I have because there are people in other parts of the world who have less than me but manage to still live their life to the fullest. 

While we were in Beijing, we visited Wangyu eSports Arena, which is a gaming facility where people go to play various video games on computers. eSports Arena was my favorite organization we saw because of the game we played called “World of Tanks.” The object of the game was to divide into two groups of four army tanks, where each team had to kill off their opponents and the team who was first to annihilate the other won the game. I enjoyed this the most because my cohort and I were able to take a load off and just enjoy being in each other’s presence.

My favorite meal while in China was anything that had broccoli and peanuts because the way they were seasoned and roasted was exquisitely delicious. The Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai was the most exciting place I visited while in China because we were over 263 feet in the air. Honestly, that was my very first time being that high in the sky and still be able to look at the city of Shanghai underneath me. My three highlights of the trip were going down the slide on the Great Wall of China, learning calligraphy, and most importantly having the 10 days to catch up with my cohort about our sophomore year and plans for the summer. 

Through this 10-day trip in China, I was able to understand what it means to live in a communist world compared to a capitalist country like the United States. I learned that the government is solely responsible for the limited media access the country has because certain social media sites or news outlets cannot be viewed without a VPN. Personally, it was difficult to transition into that type of lifestyle because I am so accustomed to accessing various online sites however and whenever I please. 

Another culture shock I experienced was the amazement many Chinese people demonstrated when they saw two of my peers and myself whose physical attributes correspond to the African-American race. Initially, it was sort of funny, but after a while I started to feel uncomfortable because the attention turned into an invasion of privacy. People continued taking numerous pictures and recordings of us without our permission. After a couple of days, I asked why this was happening and learned it was viewed as a good thing that people wanted to take pictures and recordings of me because they found me and my peers very beautiful. At that moment, I learned that certain pleasantries and gestures that I would normally find socially inappropriate in America were signs of enthrallment in China.

Overall, this trip was the most eye-opening because I was able to challenge my personal point of views about China and Chinese people. For example, I thought Chinese people were very conservative and anti-social to non-Chinese or Asians, but in reality they are very outgoing and social to foreigners. Consequently, my misconception challenged me to be more open-minded to new ideas and perspectives about a country I did not know before. Lastly, I learned I am the type of person who enjoys traveling to different countries and places outside of America because it allows me to be more culturally aware of other people’s customs, beliefs and lifestyle that may be different from my own. 

I want to thank God, the Tiger Woods Foundation and Ourgame for blessing me with this once-in-a-lifetime trip. I will cherish this for the rest of my life. 

Champions of the unexpected for 20 years.