Hong Kong, China
Over the summer, I had the privilege of working in Hong Kong for a summer job with the Center for Talented Youth as a Residential Assistant. While there, I lived in the dorms taking care of K-12 children from around the world. Hong Kong was easily one of the most bustling and vibrant cities that I had ever had the pleasure of visiting.
Their public transportation system is by far the most efficient subway line in the world. Trains come every 10 minutes on the dot, and how a city so large and dense can maintain such a spotless railway system is beyond me.
Hong Kong is very small in terms of geographical size, but there are so many different sights and places to visit, that it was impossible to get the full experience in the three weeks that I spent there. One of the most breath taking places that I saw while in Hong Kong was the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.
It was a secluded little place near a random Ikea, but once you got there, it was just a massive amount of gold life size buddhas all lined up, leading to a hilltop monastery that was filled floor to ceiling with little buddha figurines.
You had to walk about a half of a mile up a very steep set of stairs just to reach the main part of the monastery. All of the while, it is pooring rain while still maintaining a solid level of humidity. Needless to say, I sweat through my shirt immediately.
But once we finally got to the top, after passing the various different buddhas, we saw some of the most peaceful images in the world. The top of the monastery gave way to a view of the industrial jungle that is Hong Kong.
Buildings and skyscrapers were surrounded by lush trees and a low hanging mist in the air. Around me were historic sculptures that represented the souls of people who had passed and reached a point of nirvana in the eyes of the Buddhist religion. It was one of the most spiritually moving experiences in my short life, and I look forward to chasing that feeling again.
This summer I had the opportunity to be a counselor for Sanborn Western Camps, an educational western camp for boys and girls from ages 8-15. It is located in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, so my job entailed leading girls on a multitude of different outdoor activities amongst the mountains including hiking, canoeing, mountain climbing and developing other outdoor education skills. This opportunity allowed me to really see and explore a part of North America that most people do not have the opportunity to visit.
While we made good use of the many different exciting hikes and campsites, we also traveled off camp property to continue and explore the surrounding mountain ranges.
My favorite trip was off camp property in Pikes National Forest. My co-counselors, nine campers and I traveled off property for a four-day mountaineering, backpacking trip with the main intention of climbing Mt. Silverheels and the Continental Divide. Where we were in the Pikes National Forest was very near to Breckenridge, Colo. for all you skiers. And, for all the fans of South Park, we climbed what some believe to be the lone mountain in the background of the show (because the show is based off a real town in Colorado named South Park, yes). We camped in the forest for three nights and were able to traverse a thirteen-mile area, which for nine twelve-year-olds is a huge accomplishment. The summit of Mt. Silverheels was possibly the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. It was not on a different continent, and being from Colorado, it was something I could have always had access to, but when the sun rose over the ridge, I felt as if I was in an entirely different world and so lucky to be able to experience something so breathtaking and humbling at the same time.
My other favorite trip off property was when we led a canoeing/paddleboarding/fishing trip to Eleven Mile Reservoir. This is a man-made
reservoir that provides Denver drinking water. It was amazing to experience our water supply in such a different way
This summer I was able to travel all around my home state and really come to appreciate where I live. I feel so blessed to be able to live in such beautiful places; however, sometimes I feel as if I fail to really explore where I am. I am so worried about my life in the future or where I want to go that I don’t realize that where I am is beautiful. This summer allowed me to appreciate that beauty up close.
I’ve always loved traveling, I mean who doesn’t? Therefore, I was extremely thankful to be able to study abroad sooner than my junior year. I arrived in London in mid-May and would be living there until the beginning of August, so I had time for all the exploration the city has to offer. Of course my time included going to class, writing papers, and working at a magazine internship, but the sightseeing and traveling is the more interesting part.
One of the best parts about my time in London was the location of our dorms. Right across the street from the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a few blocks away from Hyde Park- there was no excuse not to get out and see all that London has to offer. Out of all the museums I visited in London, the Victoria and Albert was hands down my favorite, thanks to their extensive collection of artifacts spanning from centuries and centuries ago to present day. They even have a courtyard in the middle where you can relax in the grass with a Pimm’s Cup (one of Britain’s signature cocktails). Hyde Park is London’s biggest park and it is the perfect spot for morning runs, leisurely walks, picnics, and just hanging out with new friends. We even got to go to a Taylor Swift concert in the park at the end of June. We didn’t have tickets but tons of people just sat outside the gates and listened to the concert.
I am extremely obsessed with food, so it goes without saying that I spent a lot of time in London trying all the amazing food the city has. British food doesn’t have the best reputation compared to other European countries like Italy and France, but if you take some time to explore, you’ll find a ton of amazing options. My best food experience would be the multiple trips I took to the famous Borough Market. This sprawling part indoor/part outdoor market has produce, bread, cheese, meat, and tons of prepared food stalls. You could make a meal out of the samples alone, but it would be a shame to miss out on the grilled cheese, smoothies, Indian food and more that Borough Market has for sale.
When you’re in close proximity to tons of other European countries, you can’t pass up traveling to other cities on the weekends. I braved the nine
hour bus trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, then a few weeks later my friends and I took a cheap flight to Amsterdam.
I’m so thankful for the time I got to spend in London. Not only did I learn through my classes and my internship, I also got used to living in a big city. I took the Tube almost every day all over the city, bought groceries and cooked for myself in the dorm, and made friends from other colleges. I got to see The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper, saw Taylor Swift in concert (well, almost), and tried more new foods than I ever have in my life. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back during JYA.
A little over 100 years after it was the bustling capital of Virginia, the town of Williamsburg was just another sleepy college town. Now in 2015, it has become a haven for the revolutionary war enthusiast and the average vacationer alike. By stepping into the colonial district of the town, you cross into 1776: costumed workers pass out flowers in the street, and you can quite literally hear whispers of revolution as you mill about the streets. The mix of old and new is striking: strollers mingle with horses, running shorts are interspersed with full skirted dresses, “totally” is melded with “indeed, sir”. You can’t spit without hitting history.
Colonial Williamsburg revolves around Duke of Gloucester (gloss-ter) Street, the mile long road connecting William and Mary College with the capitol. Along Duke of Gloucester are shops. Some are typical tourist traps while others are homes to the craftsmen. Cooks and bakers use authentic recipes and recreated kitchens to create the smells and sounds of the time, asking children if they can identify any of the smells: is it ham, or chicken? A dance troupe performs for the town and teaches period dances to those brave enough to make utter fools of themselves in front of strangers. Everywhere you look, history smiles back.
Indeed, active history is the name of the game in Williamsburg: come with your mind open and your comfortable shoes. Walk over to the asylum turned art museum, and experience a genuinely chilling account of mental health care through the ages. Take a tour of the Governor’s Palace and wonder if people in colonial times were colorblind or just that gaudy. Have a long conversation with a sassy continental army sergeant between orders barked at him by his general. Watch General George Washington ride into town on a literal white horse.
After hours, the fun turns spooky. Come back and search for orbs as a modern guide leads you through the town and recounts tales of the ghosts still lingering in this 300 year old town, and freak out when the modern inhabitant of the house turns a light on. Join the jury and question everything you know about your own values as you recreate the trial of Blackbeard’s crewmen in the candlelit capitol building. Williamsburg is like Disneyland for the eighteenth century.
Come, and come ready to learn. Come ready to take tours, come ready to hear James Monroe recite poetry, come ready to try spiced hot chocolate, come ready to dance, come ready to rebel. Come ready to step back in time.