“I can't imagine a better way to explore one of the world's great cultures in such depth,” says Social Studies Teacher Christopher Masello, who was one of the adult chaperones on the trip. “The best part must have been the time we spent in Guangxi Province, where there was an incredible landscape and a variety of distinct local cultures. We had countless memorable experiences which were truly life-giving and enriching.”
“In an ever more globalized community, it's important for students to not only appreciate other cultures, but to be in close proximity to those with different backgrounds, lifestyles and beliefs,” adds College Counselor Jamie Simon, who also served as a chaperone. “Knowing that there's a larger world than Wilmette, Chicago and the United States should inspire students to continue to explore their world and to experience the value of diversity.”
Joining Masello and Simon as chaperones were Foreign Language Teachers Yuling Guo and Marlene Ren. Continue reading below for an overview of this exciting trip.
Ramblers arrived in Beijing, China’s capital city, weary but excited for the adventure ahead. After a night’s rest, day two kicked off with a tour of Beijing, which has served as the capital for five dynasties over a period of 800 years. Ramblers visited Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, ancient alleyways known as “Hutongs,” walked around Wangfujing Street—one of the most famous shopping streets in Beijing, attended Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and enjoyed a delicious dinner.
Students received a tour of the astonishing Great Wall, mainly constructed in the Ming Dynasty and considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the world. For senior Elizabeth Balentine, this was the most memorable part of the trip. “Not only did I learn old stories and facts about China’s history on my way up, but I also was able to admire the stunning scenery,” she says. “We learned how a manmade structure could compliment the hills in China while still serving as a defense.”
Students then walked the Sacred Path of Ming Tombs and visited one of the largest Jade Centers in Asia. The day concluded with a relaxing visit to a traditional Beijing Laohe teahouse that features Chinese performing art shows daily.
Ramblers enjoyed a delicious breakfast tour at the Summer Palace, the largest preserved ancient imperial garden in China. Later they visited the Beijing Bayi High School to learn Chinese Calligraphy and the school’s history. Students then visited the 798 Art District where they explored galleries, art centers, artists’ studios, design companies, restaurants and more.
On the last day in Beijing, students visited the Temple of Heaven and practiced different exercises for the body, mind and spirit. Ramblers spent the rest of the evening shopping at the Silk Street Market and took an overnight train to the city of Xi’an.
Upon arriving in Xi’an, Ramblers visited the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, often regarded as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Students then visited a ceramics art factory, followed by a stroll through the Muslim Quarter to visit the Grand Mosque and explore the Islamic food market. They ended their night in Xi’an with a tasty imperial dumpling banquet dinner.
Day seven continued with a visit to the Ancient City Wall, the most complete of its kind in China. Next, students flew to Guilin, which translates to “Forest of Sweet Osmanthus.” This city is known for its unique scenery, amazing landscape and rich ethnic cultures. Ramblers ended the day with a tour of Elephant Trunk Hill.
Day eight consisted of a relaxing cruise along the Li River while enjoying a delicious lunch onboard. Students had the chance to walk along the 1,400 year old West Street and enjoyed watching a show over the Li River called “Impression Liu San Jie.”
As their China adventure continued, Ramblers explored the beautiful Yangshuo Local Village, visited the Longsheng Rice Terraces and experienced foot fish massaged. On day ten, students were amazed at the extraordinary limestone formations of the Reed Flute Caves. They also learned more about Chinese Tea culture by touring a tea plantation. Following their flight to Shanghai, they walked along the famous Bund, a mile stretch along the Huangpu River, to view the colonial architecture of European design.
Day eleven continued with a visit to the Ming Dynasty Yuyuan Garden, one of the four greatest Chinese gardens, and a tour of the Hengshan Road known for its vibrant architecture. The evening concluded with a visit to the shopping district of Nanjing Road where Ramblers enjoyed an exciting Chinese acrobatic show after a delicious dinner.
The trip concluded with breakfast at the hotel in Shanghai where Ramblers were staying before heading back home to Chicago.
“The China Trip was definitely a memorable experience, and I had an absolute blast,” says Lauren Vallace ’19. “After learning about Chinese culture for the past three years in a classroom, it was amazing to see and experience firsthand what we had studied. My favorite part of the trip was hiking up the LongSheng rice terraces. I will never forget the gorgeous view from the top of the mountain we hiked.”
“This trip was a blessing. It was a great opportunity to experience new cultures and participate in new activities,” says senior Elizabeth Balentine. “Trips like this expose us to ancient traditions, beautiful architecture and Chinese cultures. Places like these are raw pieces of history that we can walk through. Through China, we really felt the beauty of age.”