RMA Travels to China!


Ann Sumner Thorp

Half-way across the world, RMA students and faculty experienced an once-in-a-lifetime trip to China during spring break. Chaperoned by Ms. Covolo, Dr. K, and a few parents, the students began their journey at RDU, flying to Texas and then to China. We all bought an international prepaid sim card so we can still keep in touch with our friends and family.

While trying to battle jet-lag on the first day, the group visited Tiananmen Square where Chinese troops fired on protesters in 1989. Tiananmen Square is the seventh largest square in the world at 4.7 million square feet and is a popular destination for visitors. After Tiananmen Square, they visited the Forbidden City which is a palace that was first used in 1420, and the only person who had complete access to it was the emperor. Even the royal family had to get special permission to enter. Next, they visited the Summer Palace. Known for its gardens and beautiful architecture, the palace was built in 1750, damaged by war in 1860, and then later repaired in 1886. The Silk Market was the next on the itinerary, and the students and chaperones had the opportunity to buy everything from clothes to jewelry. The Market, famous for its silk, even has a silk museum. Later, the travelers visited the Beijing Haidan Foreign Language School, RMA’s exchange program partner. This was a great opportunity to see the school that is home to RMA’s exchange students.

Next came the moment many of the students had been waiting for—The Great Wall of China. The Great Wall of China is the first that comes to mind when thinking about China for most people; however, as described by a few of the students, it is not as “great” as you might think. As someone who has never visited China, I picture the wall as a massive structure, big enough to defend China against any threat. However, the students described it as shorter and narrower than they initially thought with lots of steps of varying depths and (of course) extremely long. On the Great Wall, the weather was completely different than in other areas of China. Instead of hot and sunny, the wall was cooler, and it even snowed, providing the students with an experience that they will never forget. Equally as big as the Great Wall, just in a different more economical context, is the JD.com headquarters. JD.com is basically the Amazon of China, and the students and chaperones had the unique opportunity to tour it. While staying at a resort in Sanya, Hainan, the group went to the southernmost point in China (Tianya-Haijano) and then took a bullet train from Sanya to Haikou. What a truly amazing experience!

When asked about one of the most interesting experiences she had experienced in China, Sadie Blackshear (11th) said, “The weirdest thing I ate was probably jellyfish, which had a terrible texture, and Hunter Nealey and Jack Pittman both ate fish eyes!” Sadie also said, “I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to go on this trip with such a lovely group of people! There’s something about traveling across the world with people that really draws you closer together and makes you feel like a family.”

Sadie also graciously provided a list of who went on the trip: “Dr. K and Ms. Covolo were the only faculty chaperones, and there were 16 of us on the trip. Lilly Chafin (6), Mary Farrell Chafin (7), Jack Pittman (9), Hunter Nealey (9), Sarah Stancavish (9), Haley McCall (10), Juhi Salunke (11), Morgan Spivey (11), and Sadie Blackshear (11) were the students on the trips, and the parents that went were Dr. Brent Chafin, Ms. Cindy Engrassia (Sarah’s mom), Mrs. Mary McCall and Mr. Logan McCall, and Mrs. Kim Nealey. Dr. K and Ms. Covolo were Jack, Juhi, Morgan, and I’s legal parents for the week :).”