22-year-old Alex Berry is from Albany, Georgia and is studying Industrial Engineering with a Chinese and Business minor. Ai “Anna” He, 21, is also studying Industrial Engineering and came to Tech from the Sichuan Province of China. While the two had some classes together here in Atlanta, they didn’t formally meet or become friends until they arrived in Singapore to study abroad in the Singapore-Beijing program. When the two recently met up, they reminisced about the program as Alex recalled getting “a little too adventurous” during a group trip to Thailand.
Alex: Yeah, we’d just come back from Thailand, and maybe I was a little too adventurous. When we were eating food, you know, there’d be this beautiful, wonderful street market. And of course, I had to try everything. You’re only in Thailand once, Anna.
Alex: And we got back, and unfortunately I started having pain in chest, So I walk to the hospital, check myself in, and they didn’t let me out for four days.
Anna: Yeah, that’s sad. You lost four precious days at Singapore, right?
Alex: It was really sad. Maybe one of the hardest parts of it was, on the one hand, you really got to go and see some of the kind of the background of Singaporean healthcare system. On the other hand, I kind of realized how much I missed being in class with all of you guys, honestly, every time I would wake up, one of the defining things I remember is that you guys would be there. There would always be someone there to visit me, even while I was sleeping, and that really meant a lot.
Anna: That’s so sweet. you know what I loved you the most for in that program is that you’re willing to try out everything. So I can take you to so many different places. You know, a lot of our group members, they’re just scared of, like those strange foods in China, I guess.
Alex: Or they would say, “Hey, let’s go to Subway.” And you’d say, “Ew.” Or, “Let’s go to McDonald’s.”
Anna: Oh, no. I mean, when we were in Beijing, I think I took you to some— well, I’m from Sichuan so that’s pretty like Sichuanese restaurant, so it’s something like the hot pot, the spicy, with a pot with so many strange stuff in there. You remember that?
Alex: I distinctly remember whatever plate that we got had two distinct types of spices. I think you described it as fa-la, which is kind of a generic name for spices, and va-ma. And va-ma for, you know, and correct me if I’m wrong, but ma is kind of like this numbing, this numbing spice, that makes your entire mouth go numb, but you guys didn’t warn me about it.
Anna: Well, we are pretty used to it, so we-
Alex: It was just so strange, because I’m taking my first bite, so I’m saying, “This is amazing, this is so good, this is delicious.” And then, all of a sudden my mouth went numb, and I couldn’t— I had eaten so much at the same time that I couldn’t communicate why I was freaking out, so I’m just in the restaurant going [mumbling noises]. And you guys are just laughing and laughing and I am not laughing at this point in time.
Anna: I’m sorry for laughing. But did you like I though?
Alex: It was wonderful once I understood what was happening.
Anna: Okay, that’s great. So, I know America is a nation that emphasizes diversity and morality a lot, so perhaps we don’t talk about the nation as a whole, but for Georgia Tech, we have so many different students from all around the world. What do you think? What benefits or what good stuff you think that such diversity brings to the school?
Alex: I remember my freshman year here. I go into a bathroom, and simultaneously I hear three different languages being spoken. I come out of the bathroom, there’s another three languages being spoken in the hall, and I’m thinking to myself, “Oh my goodness.” Even if everyone is talking about the same thing, how they’re talking about it, be it the expressions they’re using the languages they’re using—they’re all so extremely different. And for me, it made me so happy to be here, so excited, because Georgia Tech had kind of made the world very open. It had brought some of the best elements of the world to this environment we call Georgia Tech. It’s a big difference when you go to maybe an Indian restaurant, and you get some food and you’re like, “Oh, yeah I really like Indian food.” Versus when you can maybe— like when we were in Singapore and some of us had the opportunity to go and visit friends who were maybe South Indian in heritage, and they would actually cook for us. They would go and really describe what all the flavors were, what all the spices were, and it really helped absorb you into the culture of the food. So it’s not just a one-off experience, It’s a deep dive into someone else’s reality. And that’s what Georgia Tech is every day if you open your eyes and just look around, you have the chance to dive into someone else’s reality, and because of the amount of diversity we have here, it’s something you can never get tired of.