Clara Mannes

Clara is a rising freshman from Atlanta, Georgia. During her 8th grade year, she studied third-year Mandarin at her school, Atlanta International School, and through this class was able to participate in EdOdyssey's program in China.

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Why did you choose this program?

Because the teacher of my Mandarin class organized the trip to China, it wasn't really up to me to choose the program. However, after my teacher announced that the trip would be organized by EdOdyssey, my family and I decided to do some research.

After seeing how professional EdOdyssey was and how well they kept me and my family updated throughout the time leading up to the trip, we felt that they were a great program that would provide a safe and amazing experience.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

EdOdyssey arranged the accommodations, transportation, restaurants, activities, and educational experiences that were part of the day-to-day itinerary. They were always readily available to answer any questions about the trip or the registration process. This was very helpful for me and my family, as my parents (especially my mom) had a ton of questions about what kind of vaccines I would need and what I would need to pack. They always got back to us quickly with the answers to our questions.

Overall, EdOdyssey really helped to organize almost every part of our trip to China. Because of this, the trip was very well organized which really helped it to be an amazing experience for me and my classmates.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would tell them to not go to China looking for America, but instead travel with an open mind, ready to learn about Chinese culture.

You should be like a sponge – ready to absorb all of the knowledge you can about the culture because before you know it, you will be back home again.

EdOdyssey made it really easy to do this, by immersing me and my classmates into the Chinese culture through many interactions with locals. I would also advise them to not forget to take chances, and try new things. If you don't, you might regret it later in life, because you never know if you will have the same opportunities again.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

EdOdyssey made sure to pack in as many activities as they could every day to make sure that we were able to experience as much of Chinese culture as possible. Here is an example of one of our days in Beijing:

We woke up early, and hopped on a bus to Tiananmen Square (天安门广场). On the way, the EdOdyssey representative, Peter McGovern made sure to tell us a lot about the facts and history of the Square. After taking a stroll around Tiananmen, we had baozi (包子) for lunch, and spent a while exploring Qianmen (前门) in small groups. This program allowed the students to be very independent – one of the many things I enjoyed about EdOdyssey. Next, we went inside of Tiananmen Gate to the Forbidden City. We were allowed to explore the Forbidden City for a few hours in small groups. Finally, we had a Beijing Roast Duck (北京烤鸭) dinner.

This is an example of a pretty typical day. We left the hotel early, and returned late. Because of this, we got to pack in many amazing activities to create a truly wonderful trip.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

In the days leading up to the trip, I started to become very nervous. I had never really spent much time away from my family, and this trip was two weeks in a country on the other side of the world! Of course, my family and I had some worries. For example: Would I get along with my host family? What if I didn't like the food? What if I got homesick?

Once I arrived in China, this nervousness immediately transformed into excitement. All of my worries melted away once I met my buddy from my host family. She was so nice and welcoming, and taught me a lot about Chinese culture.

All in all, none of my fears came true. My host family was super nice, the food was AMAZING, and everyday had such a full itinerary that I never even had time to think about being homesick, much less feel that way. EdOdyssey answered all of my and my family's questions and helped us feel much more prepared for the trip. They also ensured that the trip was safe and that we had absolutely nothing to worry about.

What is your favorite memory from your trip to China?

During my trip to China, I had many great experiences. When people ask me this question, they expect me to answer that my favorite experience was visiting the Great Wall of China or going to the Forbidden City. However, this was not so.

My favorite memory actually occurred while my class and I were staying in Huzhou, a "small" and relatively rural city. My class visited a local high school and experienced something far different from what we were used to in America.

Many of the students had never met someone foreign, and especially not from the USA. Once they found out that we were visiting, they flooded out of their classes, and some people even began jumping out of the second story windows just to get a look at the American students! They wanted to take pictures with us, get our WeChat usernames, and ask us all of their questions. I felt like a celebrity!

It was a really amazing experience because it allowed me to realize what different places in the world are like. It also opened my eyes to new perspectives, and allowed me to have life-changing realizations about how the world works in countries other than America.