Victoria Kwong is an eighth grade student who attends Boston Latin Academy in Boston, MA. Here, she writes about the lessons she learned from her first international travel experience.
By Victoria Kwong | Student Traveler
In the summer of 2010, I spent two months in China, visiting Hong Kong, Macau, Gongbei, and Fujian on a tight schedule. I had a great time with my family on this trip, but there were many unexpected situations that occurred. Since this was my first trip outside the country, I asked a few well-traveled friends for tips about traveling. Even with some knowledge beforehand, I wish I had done a little more research on my own. Here are a few things you should keep in mind before leaving on a journey to a new country.
About a week before my trip, a neighbor of mine, who had already been to China, warned me about the weather I was likely to face. I didn’t take this information into full
consideration and ended up packing only a few summer clothes. When I got to my final destination in Hong Kong, I noticed that the air was humid and my clothes were sticking to my skin. Unfortunately, it wasn’t any different in Macau, Gongbei and Fujian. It seemed everyone in those cities owned an umbrella or a hat, and eventually, I became one of those people. When preparing for your trip, make sure you do some research about the climate of the place you are visiting. Bring a good amount clothes to change into, sunscreen, and at least one comfortable and sturdy pair of sneakers if you know that you will be traveling a lot on foot.
2. Cultural Differences
Differences in language and culture were a major challenge I faced while in China. I was used to communicating in English, not Cantonese, the dialect spoken in the parts of China I visited. Even though I can speak Cantonese, I only use it with my family at home, and I learned there was a big difference between using it at home and in a new country.
One cultural difference that took getting used to was my expectations for courteous language. I felt like I didn’t hear people using “excuse me,” “sorry,” and “thank you” in the same situations I would expect in the U.S. I expressed my frustration to my parents, uncles and aunts, but they told me that the behavior I received from people was not unusual. Rather, it was expected. There may be a big gap between your culture and the one of the place you are planning to go to. Behavior that seems impolite to you might not necessarily be considered impolite to others in another country.
My relatives in Macau took my family on a few tours of the streets so we would be familiar with the place while on our stay. One place we were taken to was the Ruins of St. Paul and the Venetian Hotel, which I absolutely enjoyed. I did not plan for the places I wanted to visit, but luckily, my relatives and my parents’ close friends did. Apart from the incredible views, I also absorbed many interesting facts. I can guarantee you that creating a To-Do list will make your stay more enjoyable! Look in brochures and decide on the sites you may want to see. You do not want to waste any of your precious time!
It was sad leaving my relatives in China, but I was glad that I had the opportunity to visit. I was able to add to my knowledge about my parents’ hometowns and the experience of world travel. On my journey back to Boston, I decided that I was going to do more traveling in the future. Now that I have taken my first daring adventure outside the country, I know how I can make my next one even more pleasurable. I have learned that traveling gives you many benefits. First, you learn a vast amount of information about the world around you. Second, you will find yourself becoming more confident and ambitious. Lastly, you will have many memories to cherish and stories to tell others. There is a great difference between reading about traveling and experiencing yourself. Remember to be prepared and have fun while you have the chance. Have a safe and memorable trip!