The Semester in Photos

I share some never-before-seen pictures from the semester! Take a look back at the past four months!

Hi, everyone! At our graduation ceremony this past week, the Alliance staff members gave us an incredibly sweet and thoughtful gift: a CD with all the pictures they’d taken throughout the semester!

It’s been great to take a look back on my time in Shanghai this past fall, and pictures serve as a great reminder for all of the things I’ve managed to squeeze into one semester. So enjoy this little gallery, and I promise that a longer reflection post is on its way!  Continue reading “The Semester in Photos”


Qinghai Field Study Trip: Reflection

It’s that part of the blog where I sum everything up! All of my extra feelings about the Qinghai trip!

Sunday, October 12th, 11:51pm

Well, now that I’m back home in Shanghai, it seems as good a time as any to do a reflection post on Qinghai! Overall, I really loved the trip. I didn’t mind the extended bus traveling or unexpected changes to our itinerary because being in a totally different culture was just such a cool experience.

Even though we were technically in Qinghai, for all intents and purposes, we were really in Tibet. We were on the Tibetan Plateau, the culture was entirely Tibetan, and none of the locals referred to their home as Qinghai. We were about as close to Tibet as we could get, and culturally, I don’t think we missed out on much. Continue reading “Qinghai Field Study Trip: Reflection”

Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 6

On day seven, I wrap up my awesome home stay experience with a delicious breakfast, then all the Alliance students head back to Xining! On our way, we stop to play basketball with some monks! On day eight, I bargain for souvenirs!

Saturday, October 11th, 10:18am

Now that I’m back on the bus, I can say that hands down the home stay was my favorite part of the Qinghai trip.

Last night, I had a bit of trouble sleeping just because I got ridiculously hot for some reason. I took off my sweatshirt and changed into shorts to get comfortable.

It was a bit too cloudy to really see the sunrise, so instead of waking up early we slept in until our tour guide knocked on our door to say hello and to tell us that the first snow of the season had fallen in the middle of the night. Continue reading “Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 6”

Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 5

Day six is busy, busy, busy! We visit another monastery and an art school! We watch students paint thangkas before playing with adorable children at a small school! Then it’s off to my Tibetan home stay! One night in a rural village! Will I survive?!

Friday, October 10th, 3:33pm

It’s been a grey, chilly sort of day, and the weather seems to mirror everyone’s mood. People are starting to hit travel fatigue, and I’m definitely feeling it, too.

This morning, we took a very short drive over to Rongwo Gompa Monastery, which is the biggest monastery in the region with about five hundred monks in residence. The monastery itself was nice; it wasn’t as beautiful as the first monastery we went to, but it felt more authentic. Less tourists, more wear and tear, that sort of thing. The Buddha statues were still very impressive, though, towering above us in every temple. And we got a group picture with a monk! Continue reading “Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 5”

Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 4

On day five, I travel to Kanbula National Park and take the most dangerous bus ride ever! But it’s worth it for the beautiful views! Gorgeous autumn scenery and a cruise on the water!

Thursday, October 9th, 3:31pm

Whew! It’s been a long day, and it’s only 3:30pm!

We checked out of the hotel bright and early this morning and boarded the bus for an afternoon at a national park. During the two hours on the bus, I had a seat to myself and I totally conked out the whole time. When we arrived at the park, we got out to stretch our legs for a bit before boarding another bus, which was smaller and used specifically for driving around the mountains in Kanbula National Park.

Riding on the bus was as crazy as riding an amusement park roller coaster. We were driving on narrow mountain roads that were very steep and very close to the edge of even steeper cliffs. The bus driver drove at a breakneck pace the entire time! We flew around corners, bumped up and down the rocky terrain, and narrowly made it past other cars on the road. It was simultaneously terrifying and a lot of fun.

Continue reading “Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 4”

Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 3

On day four, I sled down sand dunes, visit the beautiful Qinghai Lake, and meet a family of yaks! My life is definitely a lot more exciting than it was a year ago!

Wednesday, October 8th, 1:10pm

On our way to Qinghai Lake, we stopped in a desert area to explore the sand dunes. The area was obviously set up for tourists because they had ATVs for rent and sleds for the sand dunes. But I loved it anyway!

I’ve never been in a desert before, so the most experience I’ve had with sand dunes has been at the beach. At this high altitude, I was huffing and puffing anytime I tried to walk up any sort of slope, but it was worth it for the stunning views! On one side were snow-covered mountains, and on the other was the beautiful Qinghai Lake, which looked bluer than the sky. It was like standing in a postcard.

Continue reading “Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 3”

Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 2

On day three of our trip to Qinghai, I explore a Buddhist monastery and learn about the monks’ way of life, visit a giant Buddha factory, and browse through a Tibetan market!

Tuesday, October 7th, 3:45pm

Whew. Day two has been kind of exhausting, but also very cool.

We spent the morning at huge, touristy Kumbum Monastery, and we had the option of either going off to explore on our own or following the tour guides around. I’m so glad that I stayed with the tour guides because I could learn about the history of the monastery as I was walking through the temples. Here’s a summary of what I learned from my tour guide (who was a former monk himself):

  • There are four schools of Buddhism, but regardless of the school, the end goal is always the same: enlightenment.
  • According to our tour guide, Buddhism is more of a way of thinking than a religion.

Continue reading “Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 2”

Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 1

The adventure to Qinghai begins! On day one, we fly out from Shanghai. On day two, I learn about environmental issues in Tibet, visit a mosque, hike up a mountain, and eat yak meat!

Sunday, October 5th, 11:15pm

Let the adventure to Qinghai begin! For the next seven days, I’ll be traveling with other students in my study abroad program and with other Alliance students from Beijing to northwestern China! We’re going to be touring a rural area that’s sure to be very different than Shanghai, and at this point in the semester, I could really use a break.

Anyway, our official trip began when we left from Old Tonghe around 4:30pm. We arrived at the airport about an hour later, and then we all had an hour to kill while we waited for our flight.

On the airplane, we were all pretty well split up so there wasn’t a whole row of Alliance students. I sat in the very back row in the middle seat. There was a young man sitting by the window, but no one sat down to claim the aisle seat, so I was really comfortable and didn’t feel too claustrophobic. Continue reading “Qinghai Field Study Trip: Part 1”