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When I made the decision to spend my Fall semester in China, everyone told me studying abroad was the best decision they’ve ever made. A couple months later, I started receiving e-mails about things to prepare for my two-week excursion through Western China before classes started in early September. I knew I was going to feel excited because I was going to a new country, frustrated because of the language barrier, challenged due to the rigorous academic courses, and personally, homesick since I have never been away from my family for this long.

I can confidently say that since I have been in Beijing, I have gone through all of those emotional states and more. In the first two weeks, my TBC group of 48 students and eleven advisors traveled from Beijing-Lanzhou-Xia’he-Tibet-Turpan-Kashgar-Tashkurgan-Urumqi-Beijing. Honestly, I can say these two weeks were alone the most eye-opening fourteen days of my life. Looking back on the excursion, not one person had told me the constant emotion that really explained how I felt: humbled.

Out of all 1,337 pictures I took, this picture from a Tuyugou village in Turpan on August 27, 2015 was the picture that represents my entire journey. This isn’t one of the pictures you plan, where you focus the lens just right, letting a specific amount of light in to make the shot perfect. This was a click of my camera just because I was exploring with my friends in the free time we were given. As I walked around that small Tuyugou village, I started to notice how primitive this village was. I noticed stacked brick and adobe shacks with roofs made from straw, piles of garbage and wood tossed into heaps around the roadside and a washing machine that was nothing more than a waist-sized-tub and a hose. Never before have I ever been in another place that has humbled me more than this one had.

As we walked around the small group of about twenty shacks that made up the village, I couldn’t help but notice the people. I noticed two men and a woman mixing water and clay together to make bricks for a wall in their house. I watched the sweat bead off their exhausted faces, their hands, caked with mud and clay as they moved in a beautiful rhythm. I then noticed two little boys, probably brothers, around five and seven, kicking around an empty water bottle in an alley. I couldn’t help but notice their tattered mud stained clothes, worn out sandals and dusty ankles, but it was nothing compared to their faces. These two little boys were glowing with the most indescribable smiles I’ve ever seen. Their enthusiasm and energy lit up the dark alley as they squealed for joy while chasing each other. My heart instantly melted.

I am so unbelievably blessed to be able to have had such an eye opening experience in a part of the world I had never known existed. Never in my life have I felt so humbled to be in the presence of people that literally have nothing, and yet at the same time, have everything.


By Kari Osowski, Loyola University Chicago, Fall 2015 Student