A Flight to Remember

Vivian Huang

Today was Day 9 of Junior Team Canada's Trade Mission to China! The day began at the stroke of midnight as people negotiated for space in others' suitcases to make sure everyone's luggage stayed underneath the weight limit for their flights in the morning. The two flights were scheduled for 7:45 AM and 8:10 AM, so we had to arrive in the lobby, luggage in tow, for 4:30 AM. My flight was the first and left on time, while the later flight was delayed by about an hour. My entire journey from Hangzhou to Chengdu was spent nodding in and out of sleep.

Tony Chen, JTC's biggest partner in Chengdu, greeted our group as we arrived at the Crowne Plaza for check-in. He is one of the founders of FutureLink, a Chinese program modelled after the mandates of Global Vision, and the Deputy Secretary-General of the Chengdu Canada Trade and Investment Chamber of Commerce. Our schedule for the next five days and our pairings for the 1-on-1 program were distributed a few minutes prior to meeting him. Tony welcomed us to Chengdu and reminded us about our briefing in the afternoon, before sending us off to freshen up in our hotel rooms.

Just over half an hour later, my Chinese roommate walked into our room. Her name is Hanwen (Helen) Deng and she is from Chongqing. Helen is developing a platform for English communication among Chinese students, to develop practical language skills and encourage discussion on various topics. She is going into Grade Twelve and interested in coming to Canada to for University, specifically Waterloo (Go Warriors!).

At 3:00 PM, we arrived in the auditorium of the hotel to be briefed by Tony and Amy about the reception and meet the other Chinese Youth Ambassadors aside from our roommates. CYA is comprised of youth from all over China just as JTC is comprised of youth from coast to coast in Canada. I spoke with Zeel after the briefing to go over the script for his speech at that night's reception, as I was his translator. However, rather than writing a script he actually only developed talking points which I was supposed to work from. Challenge accepted.

The Chengdu reception was held at the St. Regis Hotel and called the 4th Sino-Canadian Youth Leader Economic & Cultural Exchange Meeting since this is JTC's 4th time coming to Chengdu. The reception was an incredibly meaningful event with business leaders in various fields giving addresses regarding their hopes for the future, their global vision on how they wish to see Canada and China connect as we move forward in a globalized world, and the rapid pace of development worldwide but perhaps most evident in China's ever-changing landscape.

Aekus gave the keynote speech with Gigi as his translator, and was able to share the mission of JTC - to forge meaningful connections with China and to promote a productive bilateral relationship - with our audience which included members of the media! From the CYA side, my partner, Helen, gave a speech discussing how China is moving towards the future and what Chinese youth are doing to make the world a better place, including her personal projects. Following, Zeel and I took the stage to talk about the 1-on-1 program and how significant it is that we can build close connections with Chinese youth, using this opportunity to bridge the physical and cultural divides between Canada and China. 

After the speeches portion of the reception, there was a networking session. We were served a magnificent buffet and great refreshments while being able to connect with each other. I personally got to speak with individuals working in the education, natural resources and tech sectors, among others.

All in all, our day was spent learning about Chinese culture on a deeper level and further building a network of people who we can communicate with and potentially work with in the future.