Though I’d visited Wuhan before on a family trip in 2009, I had no idea what to expect when I revisited the city this November as a part of “Youth Creates Future,” the 7th Wuhan University International Exchange Camp. I am a bachelor’s student at Dartmouth College, the smallest of the eight Ivy League universities. This past week, I had the privilege to be one of the three students representing the Ivy Council at the exchange camp (the three of us came from Dartmouth College, Yale University, and Princeton University). As a Chinese American who loves learning more about her own heritage and meeting people from other backgrounds, I jumped at the chance to take part in this exchange.
In anticipation of my voyage to China, I eagerly envisioned what I might find upon arriving in Wuhan--towering buildings, friendly people, delicious food, bustling nightlife, historied architecture, and a city at work. The more I thought about the prospect of exploring Wuhan and the famously-picturesque Wuhan University the more excited I became.
The long-awaited day finally came. After nearly 24 hours of travel, three flights, and moderately severe jet-lag, we landed in Tianhe International Airport and were greeted at the gate by a group of energetic Wuhan University students who welcomed us to the exchange. I was immediately struck by their warmth, and I found it extremely comforting since we were so far away from home. Even as we made the subsequent drive from the airport to our hotel in the Wuchang District, I couldn’t help but admire the landscape that was laid out in front of me. The unending sky blanketed a vast terrain that was at first a grassy field, then an industrial region, and finally an urban cityscape that seemed ever-changing as we drove through it towards our destination. I was struck by the beauty of it all--so familiar, yet so different from everything I had known back home.
Our next week was busy and well-spent--through our activities, we were able to explore much of the stunning Wuhan University campus as well as the surrounding area. All parts of the campus that we were lucky enough to visit, from the lush Lover’s Slope to the breathtaking Laozhaishe dormitory to the serene East Lake, were sights to behold. I also learned an incredible amount about ancient and modern Chinese culture through the Wuhan University International Exchange Camp. We engaged in activities as diverse as kung fu, Chinese history workshops, and a Model United Nations conference focused on the One Belt, One Road project. I was constantly learning, absorbing, adding to my understanding of my heritage. And better yet, every person that I met during my time at the exchange or while exploring the city was kindhearted and welcoming, making me feel even more at home in Wuhan. With every new person that I met and each word of Mandarin I spoke, I felt my connection to my culture strengthened. With each empowering anthem, every pluck of a Guzheng string, each swift kick of a kung fu teacher’s foot, I felt more and more proud to be Chinese. I am extremely proud to have descended from such influential and noble people, whose modern-day impact is felt in nearly every corner of the modern world. The admiration I feel for China goes beyond actual words.
Though I was only able to spend a week in Wuhan and appreciate Wuhan University’s splendor for a brief period of time, I feel endless gratitude for this opportunity. I am so thankful that the Ivy Council selected me to take part in such an essential and galvanizing exchange in the first place. I would also like to thank the Ivy Council and the Wuhan University International Exchange Camp for sustaining a long-lasting and amicable partnership these past years, as without this friendship, we would have squandered a valuable opportunity to facilitate exchange between American and Chinese youth. Lastly, a huge thank-you is due to all the students and faculty of Wuhan University with whom we interacted with while we were there--thank you so much for inviting the Ivy Council to your gorgeous campus, welcoming us with such open arms, and extending your limitless generosity during our stay. Your kindness is appreciated more than you will ever know, and I truly enjoyed my time with you.
(Makisa Bronson is a bachelor student at Dartmouth College)
(Edited by Li Minjia, Wu Siying, Edmund Wai Man Lai and Hu Sijia)