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Stanstead Friendship Opens the World

By Emily Willis, Grade 12
Life is too short not to take risks. By a risk, I mean trying something new, exploring different places, meeting new people and experiencing things that are outside of your comfort zone. It may be scary, but challenging yourself only leads to growth with no regrets.

An experience I want to share with you that I thought I would never do, especially alone, was travel to China. Some of you might not think that this is a risky move, but for someone who has lived in a small town in Vermont all her life, it was pretty scary. This past summer, I flew to China to see my friend Christine. Christine is a very close friend of mine whom I met right here at Stanstead College. At first, when I was invited to go stay with Christine in China for 10 days, I was uncertain, but then I realized that I would most likely never get this opportunity again, and would regret passing up this adventure. I decided to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself, so on June 30 at 8:30 in the morning, I departed on my journey to China.

When I finally got to China after 17 hours stuck on a plane, Christine and her mom were at the airport waiting for me. After beginning a friendship with Christine 3 years ago, I finally was able to meet Christine’s mom, and even though she only spoke a small amount of English, it was still amazing spending time with her and learning about their lives in Shenzhen. Christine and her mom wanted me to see as much as possible, so we went to museums, amusement parks and to the Canon Tower in Guangzhou that had 108 floors. My favourite city was Hong Kong. I learned that people drive on the left side of the road and that the currency is different from the currency of the rest of China. Even though it was contrary to my way of life, it was a growth experience for me. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and experienced the amazing city of Hong Kong.

Whenever we went to a restaurant, I let Christine order the food for me and I prayed that I would enjoy it. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed lamb, and Christine’s mom had a different surprise for me each morning for breakfast. For someone who has lived in only one place her whole life, eating new foods was way out of the ordinary. I didn’t want to disappoint Christine by not liking their food, and even though the food was different, it was definitely food that I would eat again. I don’t even regret eating the food that I didn’t like, because I had the opportunity, unlike other people, to try the food in China. Eating pig’s foot wasn’t the best part about my trip, but at least I can say that I tried it!

Don’t let the unknown stop you from grasping opportunities to go somewhere new, because even if it seems distant and scary, people are more accepting than you might think. At one point during my visit, a little girl asked me if I would take my picture with her. I was so surprised, but I was honoured to be asked. She was probably about 10 years old, and the only words that her and her mom could say were “Hello” and “Picture?” The people there looked at me like I was some kind of unique creature, which I probably was in China because I was someone who they didn’t interact with very often.

The experience opened my eyes to a different culture. My first trip outside of North America was a success, and I would never have been given this opportunity if I hadn’t met Christine at Stanstead College. Attending Stanstead College is very similar to going to university because it opens the doors to making friends with others from all over the world. You can choose to stay in your group where you feel comfortable or take advantage of the chance to grow by creating new friendships.

At Stanstead College we participate in sports, clubs and have many more opportunities to learn about each other, so don’t forget to take the risk and talk to someone new. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up visiting a new country by the end of the year.