I had never imagined that I was going to step out of my comfort zone by going to a foreign country. I come from a close Hispanic family, and for them this trip was hard to accept.  Nevertheless, I took this challenge for granted. Traveling to China with 15 students from our Honors Institute at Hillsborough Community College was a mind-opening experience.

We went to five different cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Leijing, Xi’an, and Dunhuang. What was surprising to me was that I did not have culture shock. I have seen places as poor as China on the Caribbean Islands of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Many people in China live a very poor life, but they are happy with what they can live with. We visited many villages, and the people had to drink water from the ponds. But, what influenced me the most was their happiness for their limited resources.

Although I love Americanized Chinese food, I was not used to the “real” Chinese food. I had lost a couple of pounds when I came back from China. I ate turtle, duck, frog’s legs, and exotic meals that I did not even recognize.  I missed my food so badly that by the second day I was craving a burger and steak. An interesting fact is the Chinese don’t give out fortune cookies.  According to the guide, that is a tradition followed by Americans.

China is full of thousands of years of culture. I remember going to the first Buddha’s temple in China.  We couldn’t even take pictures. Inside the temple, I saw people praying to the east and west with a smoking stick. Xi’an, which is what Chinese calls the “real” China, is rich on ancient culture. We went to another temple in Xi’an, and we danced with these elderly ladies that sang about peace and love. In addition, we had the amazing opportunity to visit the site where they found the terracotta warriors. We met the gentleman that made the discovery; he is still alive.

Finally, my favorite parts about this trip were the Gobi Desert and the Great Wall of China. I had never been to a desert. I had never realized that a lot of history occurred in this desert. For example, the eggs of the dinosaur were first identified in the Gobi Desert, and the desert is a main source of various important fossils finds. What’s awesome is the way we traveled to the Gobi Desert: camels. We camped in the desert that night. The sky was so clear that we could see satellites in orbit. Now, the Great Wall was an adventurous experience.  It was like a dream come true to walk in such an ancient historical site. There were two ways to exit the site of the Great Wall of China, a wired cart or a ramp. Anthony, my twin brother, and I had the opportunity to go down 10,000 feet down the ramp, which was fun!

Overall, I can urge those college students that have not traveled abroad to save some money and try it. It will change your perspective about the world.  Traveling really makes a better version of who you are.

*Check out the $5,000 NSCS Scholar Abroad Scholarship that opened in September. If you’re not ready to travel yet, there are more opportunities to apply for the scholarship each semester.

Kenneth Rosario is a student at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Honors Institute. His intended major is physics because he is passionate about the language of math and how one can use it to describe the nature of the universe.  He’s the historian for NSCS @ HCC’s chapter, a church leader, and a National Leadership Council Advisory Board member. The bible is his central reading because it helps him grow spiritually and personally. In his free time he loves hanging out with his friends and family and having long lasting conversations.