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China will always hold a special place in my heart. I have a family in China and have had many life-changing experiences here. I first visited China in December of 2012. My family and I nervously boarded the airplane for our two-week journey to go see my brother get married in a rural province in south-central China called Hunan. He had been teaching English in Beijing when he met a wonderful, intelligent, and beautiful woman.

While in China, I experienced many new things that shape how I see things today. Transportation, public behavior, and other social norms are incredibly different in the Unites States than they are in China. For example, in China everybody pushes their way onto extremely crowded subways and restaurant etiquettes are nearly opposite, along with many other non-transcultural boundaries.

There is one particular experience I had in Hunan that really helped me develop my empathy and gratitude for every little thing. I think about this experience very often and it is partly what led me to apply for the ACE program.

One day, my family and I took a walk down a crowded street in Hunan. Suddenly, a middle-aged man appeared at my side, straining for my attention. I was shocked to see this person dragging himself along the street by his torso. Although I don’t really know anything about that man’s journey, it seems our respective circumstances created vastly different realities. As I walked away, I thought about my own privileges. At times I feel guilty as I consider whether I have developed proper gratitude for such a great life. Recalling our brief encounter keeps me focused on what truly matters and gives me the ability to promote an empathetic attitude. It matters that I fully appreciate my life of privilege, because without those benefits I would not be writing this essay or experiencing this amazing trip to Yunnan.

“The ACE program facilitates not only an opportunity for me to gain a greater global perspective, but also provides a way for me to begin making contributions to the world.”

It is incredibly important to me that I always do my best to maximize my opportunities, because I owe that to myself, to those who provide opportunity, and to those who never get the chance. Many people have contributed to my ability to be here in Yunnan and I am eternally grateful for their genuine altruism. I now make sure that I am considerate and help others as I am able, particularly those who cannot help themselves and that I refrain from judging people, always remembering to consider each person’s unique circumstances. This personal philosophy matters to me because it is who I am, and it guides who I will become. It compels me to remember to return something positive to the world and to lift others up along the way.

I believe that the only way to increase empathy and gain a greater understanding of our global perspectives is to experience other cultures. The ACE program facilitates not only an opportunity for me to gain a greater global perspective, but also provides a way for me to begin making contributions to the world. While I am here, I am to use my prior experiences and understandings of Chinese culture to aid my ACE team members in perpetuating a respectful, worldly attitude and understanding that we are not tourists, but guests in one community’s home. Our group has been engaging in conversation surrounding American standards, although potentially seen as superior from a western perspective, and how these standards cannot be objectively judged as more a more correct method of life than those with unfamiliar cultural practices. As guests, we are responsible for appropriate transcultural interactions and the future of cultural preservation without the force of outside change.

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