Written by Ryan L, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Beijing: International Career Pathways, Summer 2019
When I was younger, I traveled across South-East Asia over many summers with my family. First, we would fly to Hong Kong to meet my uncle and his family. After spending a couple days in Hong Kong adjusting to the time difference we would travel to another destination for a vacation. Locations included Thailand, Taiwan, and Shanghai. But the one place I never saw was the capital of China, Beijing. When asked about why I wanted to participate in the CET study abroad program in Beijing my answer was always to improve my knowledge of Mandarin and Chinese culture, but perhaps an ulterior motive was to complete what I felt was an unfinished exploration of what China has to offer.
Though some may argue that Tiananmen Square or the Forbidden Palace are the main tourist attractions in Beijing, I was most excited to visit the Great Wall. The Wall boasts a length of over 21,196 kilometers or 13,171 miles for those of you in the United States. Some parts of the wall have been renovated since their initial creation, but many parts have not.
The stretch we visited has not been heavily renovated, these parts of the wall are called the wild parts. Visiting one of the wild parts of the wall had many advantages and very few disadvantages, I would highly recommend going to these portions over the commercialized locations. There was absolutely no crowd at the wall; throughout the entire three-hour hike we only saw two other visitors. It was even more impressive to see that the wall was able to withstand hundreds of years of weathering than to see a renovated section.
Because the wall did not attract as many tourists, I could take in the wall and only the wall as I watched it unfold across the hills around me. All the photos I took were tourist-free and I was not pushed or shoved once. The sole disadvantage is the huge amount of hiking that is required to explore this area of the wall. The health app on my phone calculated that we had walked six miles, 16,000 steps, and 95 floors. So, my advice would be to go to the wild part of the wall when you are able to make that hike because you can always visit the completely renovated parts of the wall later in life.
Instead of my study abroad trip in Beijing to visit landmarks like the Great Wall completing my exploration of China, in fact my exploration of China is far from over. By staying in China, I have learned so much about the different regions and cities that China has to offer and I now know that just having visited a few of the major cities in South East Asia does not even come close to the completing the exploration in China that I now envision.