In his first address to students, Head of School Matt Levinson P '21 shares his perspective on what it means to "hit the brakes."
Deciding to spend two weeks this summer in China on a Pingry Global Education program with a group of students and faculty members was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Throughout the program—titled "Journey to the East: Pingry-China Exchange 2019"—I consistently interacted with my peers and was completely immersed in the culture and lifestyle of the Chinese people. Time flew by rather quickly with an array of daily activities that made my head spin, though in a pleasant sort of way. Exposure to a new country and culture can be an exhilarating experience.
The competition between the United States and China—be it economic, political, or cultural in nature—dominates the news. In the States, there exist more than a few misconceptions about China. With most Americans unable to travel and experience firsthand the realities of Chinese life, the American media largely feeds them negative stories about the flaws and inadequacies of the Chinese system. I was anxious to learn the truth for myself.
Upon our landing in Shanghai, I was awestruck by the unique architecture and sheer size of the city. It literally felt like ten times the size of New York City! Taking the elevator up the Oriental Pearl Tower provided me with the greatest aerial urban view I have ever experienced. Afterward, we shopped for hours in the gigantic and complex maze of shopping malls with an unlimited selection of clothing, merchandise, and Asian cuisine. Following Shanghai, we boarded a train to Quzhou, a city about 400 km southwest in the Chinese inland. Hosted by a generous Chinese family, I experienced life as a student for four days at Quzhou No. 2 School, Pingry's sister school in China. I felt so welcomed by the school, my host family, and townspeople, all of whom combined to make a fantastic experience with memories and friendships that I will never forget. With a bit of practice, I learned to write Chinese calligraphy with ink and make dumplings. On our last day, it was very difficult having to say goodbye to the people to whom I had created such deep connections in my short time in Quzhou. Finally, we concluded our trip by visiting Beijing, where we climbed the Great Wall and I ate the best Peking Duck that I had ever tasted in my life. I bargained with dealers at the famous Silk Market and I think it's fair to say I learned a trick or two about how to bargain.
Throughout the entire trip, I picked up multiple skills about traveling, navigating, and even basketball with our peers at Quzhou No.2 School, but most importantly I was able to expand my knowledge of the Chinese language, people, and culture. I was able to see a country from the inside out for two weeks and gain a different perspective than that offered by the American media. I was able to make new friends with students from China and deepen friendships with students from my own school. For that and much more, I am immensely grateful for the experience.
To date, I can say with a great deal of certainty that China has been my favorite travel destination and I hope to return to reunite with my peers in Quzhou and perhaps even climb the Great Wall once again. The entire trip was an eye-opener in several respects and a great learning experience. I would like to thank Mrs. Yu, Mrs. Romankow, Mr. Murdock, and others at Pingry for enabling a wonderful program to China.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, email@example.com