Sun | May 19, 2019

My trip to China on the Yale Young Global Scholars Program

Published:Monday | August 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMDavid Salmon/Contributor
David Salmon, deputy head boy at Wolmer's Boy's School, stands on the Great Wall on his trip to China this summer. David participated in the Yale Young Young Global Scholars Program.

The following is an exposition written by David Salmon, deputy head boy at Wolmer's Boys' School in Kingston, who, this summer, participated in a course by the Yale Young Global Scholars Program, which was organised and administered by Yale Center in Beijing, China. The course undertaken by Salmon, 'Asia in the 21st Century', resulted in his journey to China, along with 90 other participants from 25 countries, where he was exposed to new cultures and perspectives on global issues.

In the article below, Salmon reflects on his trip to China and the lessons and experiences garnered.

Words are inadequate when being used to describe my memorable summer experience this year. The highlight has been my visit to the People's Republic of China - the first time I have ever travelled outside of the Western Hemisphere. This was done through the Yale Young Global Scholars Program, which has facilitated a rich cultural exchange between 90 participants from approximately 25 countries. This experience has encouraged my personal growth by giving me a new perspective of national development, given the geo-political landscape in which nations operate.

A notable aspect of the course, cultural immersion, began almost immediately after disembarking the airplane. The enormity of Beijing's international airport defied expectations, as the soaring ceilings and airy interiors were suitable additions to the city's catalogue of architectural marvels. It was evident that this impressive display of modern architecture was matched by the scenic views of Beijing's towering skyline. Other examples of modern architecture included the Beijing National Centre for Performing Arts and the 798 Art District. The shimmering reflection of the centre's glass dome glittered on the pristine surface of the surrounding lake. Underneath the placid waters, museums dedicated to Chinese performing arts lined the polished corridors. This dedication to arts is replicated throughout the centre, through the interior panelling on the dome, or the well-furnished theatre halls and diverse statues


An emphasis on visual art


Moreover, this dedication to imagination extended to the visual arts as depicted in the 798 Art District. Originally an abandoned industrial complex, this zone has become the focal point for modern artists who seek an outlet to display their creations. Participants were left amazed by works done by artists such as Xu Bing, who intertwines traditional and unconventional materials such as ink, matches sticks and silkworms in his pieces. The central thread that unites his collection is creativity with an idiosyncratic touch. That theme extends throughout the complex, whether one is viewing the copper exhibition or the artistic design of old, brick warehouses varnished with glass, glistening steel and vivacious murals.

For centuries, Chinese architecture also displayed this fascination with art. By the second day, participants visited the Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs. Like the airport, the Great Wall's vastness impressed me. It is a perfect example of the architectural feat that can be accomplished when a people set their minds to a task. The Ming Tombs, on the other hand, serve as testament to the meticulous nature of artisans during the golden age of Imperial China. This obsession with enormity and intricacy was harmonised to create stunning structures like the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. The golden tiled roofs and design of the palace complex represents the heart of Beijing. Words that came to my mind that embodied these expansive structures were "hard work and sacrifice". This tenet personifies contemporary thoughts of Chinese society.


A look at global issues and development


Additionally, all participants were immersed in knowledge of pertinent global issues. This served as the foundation for the seminars and the lectures in which we were engaged. The lectures spanned topics on renewable energy, international relations, national security, China's efforts to reduce poverty, among other topics. However, the most impactful lecture was done by Wu Qing, former people's deputy and civil-rights activist. Her life story challenges the 'corrupt politician' stereotype and serves as inspiration for young people who aspire to change their circumstances. This personable lecturer of small stature discussed many lessons through her 'life story'. She encouraged the participants to acquire a wholesome education and "learn to analyse" in order to achieve personal independence.

Similar thought-provoking sessions came from seminars conducted by the programme instructors and by our peers. Given the overarching theme of this programme, 'Asia in the 21st Century', most of the seminars focused on the path Asian societies, like China, took on their road to development. My group focused on the post-colonial economic development in Singapore and Malaysia. Comparing these two countries was consequential, as both undertook different routes to achieve development, with varying degrees of success.


Yale Young Global Scholars Program unique


Participating in the Yale Young Global Scholars Program was a unique experience that is written in the pages of memory.