In 2007, my mom and I went on a trip to Europe. It was the first time I set my foot on land outside China. Before then I had only been travelling around domesically. After being in the air for a million years, the whole experience finally started from Rome, Italy. I still remember our first impression of Rome. It was kind of strange. Neither my mom nor I had expected that Rome was so noisy and croweded. When we went outside the airport, we saw tons of loud Italians walking by, shouting out language we couldn't understand. "Oh, this is familiar", I said. "Feels like the place we just left", my mom laughed. The 5 days in Italy was truly fantastic. I'm not a huge fan of European culture and history, (I'm more into East Asia) but I was still amazed by the rich cultural heritage that Italy has left.
Our European cultural lessons continued as we travelled through Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Eventually we were in Paris, France, which I thought was the highlight of that 16-day trip. I always tell people that no matter how much fantasy you have about Paris, once you get there, the city will still blow your mind. Paris, different from other metropolitan areas such as New York, Tokyo and Hongkong, doesn't intimidate you with stress and intensity. The whole city felt relaxing and comforting. Having a cup of coffee in an open-door restaurant and watching model-like passersby is pure joy.
In 2009, my parents and I went to Japan for 2 weeks. Japanese culture has had a huge impact on me when I was growing up. Just like millions of other Asian kids, I grew up watching Japanese cartoons and reading Japanese comic books. So going to Japan was like a dream come true. Compared to people from other places, East Asians probably would take a different perspective when traveling in Japan, and feel more related to its culture. But that's also the interesting part, because sharing the same cultural root makes us pay more attention to the differences. It's just fasinating to see that China and Japan have so much in commen, but at the same time, carry so many differences. It was during that trip when I discovered one of my biggest passions: East Asian studies.