Thomson Elementary Special Education teacher Patricia Cummings entered another world and has returned to share her story. In December, Mrs. Cummings visited China by invitation from Beijing Normal University through People To People Ambassador Programs.
The university, located in Beijing, China, is a teacher training institution that grants doctoral degrees in education. The ambassador program provides foreign educational travel experiences for professionals or students.
"It was a once in a lifetime experience... I could rattle on all day about my visit," Mrs. Cummings said. "I would love to go back again."
While in China, Mrs. Cummings visited universities, elementary schools and special education classrooms in Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Mrs. Cummings said she was impressed that the young people in China had a great respect for each other and an obvious respect for their elders.
"In the classrooms, the children were all excited to see us," she said. "It gave them the opportunity to practice their English."
Mrs. Cummings said she learned a few Chinese words and phrases during her two-week visit, mostly shopping-related phrases for all the peasants who try to sell to tourists.
One thing she did enjoy while there was the cuisine. Mrs. Cummings said now that she is back home, she wishes she could keep eating the same foods she had in China because she lost weight even though she was eating all the time, and never felt hungry.
"It's just the way they prepare it... I didn't know what I was eating half the time, but it was so good," she said. "The food was nothing like our Chinese restaurants here in the states."
In addition to the educational experiences, Mrs. Cummings got to visit the Great Wall of China, the Museum of Qin Dynasty Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses, Tiananmen Square, Buddhist Temples, a silk factory and Repulse Bay Beach.
"When I heard the name of it, it didn't sound good," she said with a laugh. "But it was a beautiful beach. It was the opposite of the way it sounds."
Even though the markets were crowded and traffic was heavy, Mrs. Cummings said the atmosphere was totally different from big cities in the United States. She said the drivers were "aggressive, but not angry, and there was a lot of traffic, but no accidents."
"Everything was nice, peaceful and calm. The minute I got back in Los Angeles, I knew I was back in the U.S. because everybody was rushed and impatient. Over there, it was so calm."
Since her return home, Mrs. Cummings has been giving presentations about her trip at her school and at churches. Although she paid her own way, Mrs. Cummings said she wishes to thank the McDuffie County Board of Education for allowing her the time off to take the trip, and she plans to use the experience in her classroom.