I cannot think of a more fitting end to our trip than a visit to the Great Wall of China at Badaling. While the Great Wall is easily China's most exalted sight, it is also representative of one of the major themes that has resonated with me throughout this trip: the stability of the nation of China. The Wall, which stretches 6600 km, has survived over 2,000 years. More than just a pile of bricks and mortar, the Wall pays homage to the resilience of Chinese culture. While I was very surprised to see how westernized Shanghai and Beijing were, the cultural events in which we participated, such as the acrobat show and the many delicious round table dinners, evinced that the culture of China still flourishes amidst the Subways and Haagen-Daaz shops that have sprouted up across the cities. We heard a great deal from various scholars and businesspeople, natives and expats alike, not only about the uncertainty of China's future, but also about its tumultous, and at times saddening, past. Just as the Wall has survived centuries of weather and war to continue on as one of the wonders of the world, I have learned that the Chinese people have overcome countless hardships and continue to preserve what I found to be one of the most fascinating cultures I have every studied.
When juxtaposed to China, the United States seems infantile in culture and history. Throughout the course of this trip, I have been constantly reminded of the richness of the Chinese culture, and my respect for the nation has only grown during the visit. I'm confident that I will pass on this respect to my peers back in the States. However, there will be no way to adequately convey how small one feels standing atop one of the towers on the Great Wall; just one of the many amazing experiences we had on this trip of a lifetime.