As I write this I'm about 10 hours through my 15 and a half hour flight from Hong Kong to New York. It's hard to believe that in just a few hours my incredible semester abroad in China will really be over.
Last Friday, after a stressful week of final exams, my Dad arrived in Beijing and we both attended SYA's Christmas party. The faculty did a very good job of integrating the Chinese host parents with the American parents and students, and most SYA students put on performances or demonstrations from activities they had been doing during the semester. For example, I did my Tai Chi routine with some of my friends. I was also chosen to be the student speaker at the party, so I recounted some of my experiences living in Beijing and had a chance to thank all my teachers and the host families.
Being in Beijing with my Dad was fun because I was able to take him to all of my favorite spots around the city and act as a tour guide for him. It was also exciting for me to put my language skills to good use getting us around. The first day we went to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Jingshan Park, and HoHai lake, where we rode special ice-bikes on the frozen lake. While in Beijing, we also went to Olympic Park, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace.
From Beijing we took the bullet train to Shanghai. I enjoyed our stay in Shanghai, and I can definitely say that it is my favorite Chinese city I have been to so far. It is amazing how much more modern the city feels than Beijing, especially in the Pudong New District, which consists almost exclusively of soaring skyscrapers (including the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower) that were all constructed within the past 15 years.
Finally, we flew to Hong Kong, which was very different than I had imagined it would be. I liked that most of the city is very concentrated along the coast of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, making the city very walkable, which is quite different from both Beijing and Shanghai. However, because of its origins as a British colony, I was expecting to find a modern and Western city, but I actually found that most of the city seemed far less modern than Shanghai and much of the infrastructure older than Beijing. One of my favorite finds in Hong Kong was the small area of Stanley, located on the opposite side of Hong Kong Island from the main city. It was interesting to find a more quiet, suburb-like area just a 20 minute drive from downtown Hong Kong.
With Hong Kong my final destination in Asia, it's now time for me to return back to the U.S. In just a few hours, I'll see my family again after so much time away, and I am looking forward to that. Thank you for following my photo blog! I hope you have enjoyed reading about my experiences over the past semester.