Local News

June 22, 2014

A learning junket to China

Dalton State student dreams of returning to teach

Faced with an 8,000-mile trip from Georgia to China, Natalie Silva actually became physically sick.

“I was in denial at first about going, and didn’t really believe it was happening,” said Silva, 27, a Dalton State College student. “Then on the way to the airport I actually became terrified. I was really scared, and thought, ‘What have I got myself into?’”

Even though she had flown before, she suffered from motion sickness that was multiplied by severe jet lag.

It took a trip to the Great Wall of China — as one of 30 students in the University System of Georgia Summer Study in China program — to bring her around.

“That was very exciting, that’s when it really hit us we were in China,” Silva said. “We were surrounded by people who don’t speak English, and they wanted to take our photographs.”

The summer study program is a scholastics travel program that allows students to become steeped in a foreign culture through classroom study and visits to some of the places they’re studying. Silva, a 2006 graduate of Southeast Whitfield High School who is pursuing a dual degree in history and teaching, said she prepared for her trip by studying Chinese history. While there for 28 days, she chose art history and Asian geography as her classes.

Silva related the day she enjoyed most was the group’s visit to the famed Temple of Heaven.

“I think it’s around 3,000 years old, and the buildings are made without nails, it’s just wood pieces they somehow managed to put together,” she said. “It’s where the emperor would go to worship.”

Then the students went shopping at the Pearl Market, but she got bored.

“I looked up and saw a stairwell on the fifth floor, it looked so small and I thought, ‘Well, we’re probably not supposed to go up there,’” she recalled. “But I kept staring at it and eventually I just went up there. So I opened the door and it was like bam, you’re on the roof of the building, and there were rose gardens and benches everywhere and you could overlook everything and you could see the Temple of Heaven off in the distance and the gardens around it with evergreens. Then you could see this main road with skyscrapers just right there, so it was like you could see the past, the present and the future all at once. It was amazing, I loved it.”

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