Finding Peace with Nature During My Semester in China

Nov 12, 2018 11:45:00 AM / by CAPA Study Abroad Ambassadors

In this post, Nicole talks about her experience visiting Guilin, a city in central China, and how this trip led her to connect with nature.

It wasn’t until the trip to Guilin that I realized my love for nature and how happy I was to be in China. Known for its unique landscape of limestone karst hills, Guilin is a city of world renown natural beauty. 

The Guilin trip, organized by East China Normal University, invited all international students to explore the beautiful scenery of the Guangxi Zhuang region. After a nine-hour ride in the bullet train, we started our adventure. We visited the Elephant Trunk, the Longji Terrace, Xingping Town, the Lijiang River, but my favorite place was the Gudong Waterfall.

Everyone in my Mandarin class was excited for the Guilin trip to arrive. My Mandarin class consisted of five people including the professor. It was a small class but it helped all of us get our questions answered. One of my classmates was Kate–she is a German student pursuing an educational career. We quickly became best friends during our program and decided to go to the Guilin trip together. All we had to do was to wait for the day to come!

CAPAStudyAbroad_Shanghai_Spring2018_From Nicole Castro - Guilin trip 2

When the day of the Guilin trip finally arrived, a group of 40 students ventured to the Hongqiao Train Station to ride one of the fastest trains in the world. Once we arrived to Guilin we checked in and went to get dinner at a local restaurant. The food in mainland China had more flavor than the Americanized Chinese food I would eat in a mall back home. I ate a lot of seafood and duck while visiting Guilin. In our first night, majority of the students had the chance to try the steamed Li river fish, a fish caught from the Lijiang River. After dinner, we were all so exhausted from travel that we went straight to bed.

Our second day in Guilin started with a visit to the Elephant Trunk. My friends and I took a lot of pictures of this area because of the rare silhouette of the rock that looks like an elephant. I bought a professional camera before studying abroad and it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I took incredible photographs and videos of all my experiences in Guilin and other parts of China.

Throughout our trip in Guilin we had a tour guide, Catherine, who explained the history of the places we visited. We climbed a mountain to see the Longji Terrace. It was extraordinary to see the rice fields at such high altitude. Seeing the rice fields reminded me of a scene from the movie Mulan where the main characters departed to war and went through rice fields while singing “A Girl Worth Fighting For” song. 

CAPAStudyAbroad_Shanghai_Spring2018_From Nicole Castro - Guilin trip

On our third day in Guilin, we visited the Xingping town, the Silver Cave, and the Lijiang River. While getting into the boat in the Lijiang River, our guide told us to take out a 20-yuan bill and look at the painting. She told us that the design of the bill was inspired by the mountains that surround the river we were sailing on. On the fourth day, the instructors planned a visit to the Land of Idyllic Beauty and the Gudong Waterfall. I decided to wear jeans that day, which became an issue later that day. Once we arrived at the Gudong Waterfall my excitement more grew every minute. The tour guide gave us the option to climb the waterfall for a reasonable price. Kate and I immediately said yes without thinking of the type of clothing we were both wearing. I received a waterproof poncho, a helmet, and a pair of handmade sandals designed to climb the waterfall. I was a bit worried about the sandals coming off while climbing but I took the risk.

Walking towards the waterfall felt unreal to me. Water was running through my handmade sandals tickling my toes. While climbing the waterfall, I felt incredibly happy, adventurous, and motivated. I never experienced so much excitement in my life until this experience. Getting to the top of the waterfall felt liberating.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Shanghai_Spring2018_From Nicole Castro - Gudong Waterfall

I truly felt connected with nature, its sounds, its smells and the friends that I experienced it with, created an unforgettable memory. That same day I called my mom and told her: “Mom, I feel in peace. I felt a connection with nature while climbing the waterfall, walking down the rocky stairs with my handmade sandals… I want to take you here one day”

This experience made me realize the importance of conserving the environment, taking time to enjoy nature, and spending time with the people I care about. CAPA gave me the opportunity to become an Ambassador and tell my story to others. I hope my story helps students interested in studying abroad to look forward for the adventures that they are about to experience and to find a connection that will make a positive impact in their lives.

Thanks, Nicole!


Meet Nicole Castro, a Suffolk University student studying Global Business and Marketing. She studied abroad in Shanghai during Spring 2018 and is a CAPA Ambassador this fall.


Learn more about the CAPA Ambassador Program

Topics: Shanghai, China, Nature, Weekend Trip, Cultural Immersion