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Tracing My Roots

By Kayla Guo

It’s funny how we are conditioned to believe that graduation is the pinnacle of a four-year college education. While yes, it would have been nice to have a day dedicated to celebrating four-years of sweat and tears with beloved friends and family, I have come to realize graduation is but a formality. The true outcomes of these four years are the relationships we’ve built and the invaluable lessons we’ve learned along the way. For this, I owe a lot to the Hoeft Technology & Management Program—its faculty and students. One of the most rewarding experiences I have had in the program is the international immersion trip to China. Below is my reflection on this trip, written nearly a year ago:

Four weeks ago, I embarked on an international trip with 58 classmates and an uneasy feeling about international travel in such a large group. While many of my peers spent the first few days awing over exotic sights and sounds, China was a homecoming to me. The entire trip represented an exploration of my identity and cultural background.IMG_4969.JPG

In Mandarin there is a saying, “chang hui jia,” meaning come home often. When my grandma said it to me the first night in Beijing, I realized that I had been away for too long. She had changed so much. The strong-willed woman, who used to scold me for eating too much candy, was now as frail as a feather that any small breeze could blow her off balance. And my grandpa, though nearly deaf, never missed an opportunity to deliver a spontaneous joke.IMG_4966.JPG

To me, this trip was not an impressive boat cruise on the Bund nor trying new dishes at the myriad of restaurants we went to. It was a humanizing experience. This trip was about sitting around my grandma’s dining room table reminiscing with family, over plates of fresh fruit that she had worked all day to prepare.

When my grandpa, whose memory is fading, told me that he can still picture us watching Tom & Jerry at the children’s hospital, I remembered how much my family has sacrificed for me to be where I am.IMG_4967.JPG

When I observed the factory employees at the Boeing composite plant, I thought back to the man I spoke with at the Zhangjiakou nursing home. His contribution as a farmer is the reason why China had and continues to prosper as the second largest economy in the world. He and millions like him are why we are able to build lavish infrastructure and why we are able to industrialize. And now, his children—who, as he explained, are working in the city—are carrying on his hard work, perhaps even at a Boeing plant.IMG_4964.JPG

When I visited the middle school and learned from my younger counterpart that she is balancing the course load of nine classes, I was speechless. She told me that despite being second ranked out of her entire grade, she wanted to be an artist. While the U.S. education system is much more lenient, China does not leave room for students to pursue passions outside of STEM. But she was not discouraged, rather motivated to work diligently to achieve her dreams. Her and her classmate and gave me hope that China will continue to be an example of strong work ethic and commercial success.IMG_4829.JPG

By the time our trip had come to an end, I was no longer uneasy but empowered. I had acquired 58 close friends and a wealth of personal stories that inspire me. I gained knowledge that I plan to not only leverage in business but to integrate into my life. I come from a country of 1.4 billion humble, hard-working people, a city of dreamers and doers. I am a product of the people who have unconditionally loved me and people who have worked tirelessly and selflessly. Living thousands of miles away from home changes a person but often, I will try to make it home.


Kayla Guo

Kayla is currently in T&M Class XXIV and is a senior in Accountancy and Finance with an additional minor in Spanish

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