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Beijing Day 1

We finally landed at around 4:30 pm China time after a 14-hour flight from Chicago. We were all exhausted, as you can imagine, but I was still excited to finally be in Beijing! I took this picture from the plane window as we were descending:

From the airport, we went to the UCAS Campus where we attended the welcome dinner. The food was great, and there were lots of delegates from all over the world. It made me even more excited for the judging tomorrow.

After dinner, we walked to a store to buy some water and snacks. I took some pictures of the food there. It was interesting to see American brands, like Oreos and Chips Ahoy, in Chinese. 

That is all for now. I’m pretty tired from the flight and we’ve got a big day tomorrow, but I’m excited for what is to come!

Beijing Day 2

We woke up early, had a great breakfast, and walked over to the gymnasium where the competition would be held to set up our posters. I captured this view of the city and the mountains behind it on our walk. It was a little cold and drizzly, but still enjoyable.

Here is the gymnasium where our posters were:

I was impressed with how fancy our exhibits were (they had little lights!) and how elaborate the others’ projects were:

Once I got my poster set up, I was proud to have my project there among the ones from all around the world. I realized that I didn’t feel competitive at all; rather, I was just excited to be there and happy I was able to have this experience. 

I soon made friends with the students around me. They were from all over the world: China, Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Russia. We had a great time talking about the differences between our countries and our research projects.

At the end of the day, we were really tired from all of the excitement. Dory and I relaxed with a cup of tea before bed:

Let’s see what tomorrow will bring!

Beijing Day 3

Today was a lot warmer and less foggy. I managed to capture a picture of the city with the

Great Wall in the background:

In the morning, our exhibits were open to the public, and the gymnasium was packed with people looking at all of the projects. I had a lot of people look at and take pictures of my poster, and many asked me questions. My favorite one was man who, after hearing my summary about the implications my research has for future colonization of Mars, said, “So Mars is like a cold desert, right?” I said, “Yes, exactly!” He replied, “So why would we ever want to go there?”

Dory and Arjun came to visit my exhibit:

After lunch, we heard talks from a few of our peers at the competition. One of the students from the Czech Republic did research about using different kinds of mathematical networks, like Erdos-Renyi and scale-free networks, to model the spread of disease. We actually had been talking about Erdos-Renyi graphs in my math class just before this trip, so I found this fascinating. 

In the evening, we had the special awards ceremony. There were so many amazing performances! I was really surprised at how elaborate everything was — for a science competition, they sure pulled out all the stops.

I wasn’t expecting to get any prizes, but I actually won 2nd place for Scientific Innovation, and got a big foam check for 3000 yuan. It was very exciting!

After that, we got together with some of the students from Australia, Czech Republic, and Russia, and played cards:

Today was a fantastic day, and I can only wait and see what we will do tomorrow!

Beijing Day 4

Today was another fantastic day. In the morning, we went to the final awards/closing ceremony for BYSCC. Like the one last night, this ceremony had a lot of great performances.

Then, when the awards came, Raymond and I won second prize and Dory and Arjun won first! USA represent!

After that, we went back to the hotel to prepare for our trip to the Great Wall. Here’s an interesting tidbit about me and the Great Wall: I visited it when I was five, and even then I was obsessed with astronomy. You know how they say that you can see the Great Wall from space? Well, my five-year-old brain turned this into that you can see into space from the Great Wall! When we got there, I was determined to climb up to the very top to finally be able to see into space. I was crushed to learn that this was not the case. 

Nevertheless, today I donned my finest pair of sweatpants and climbed the Wall. We took a cable car up, and climbed over a good bit of the wall before climbing back down the mountain. I took a lot of great pictures!

I’ll never forget this trip to the Great Wall. It seems fitting that my passion for astronomy was what brought me back to it again. Maybe in another 13 years you’ll find me back here. Who knows what I’ll be doing then?

Beijing Day 5

Today we left the UCAS campus after breakfast and took a bus into central Beijing. On the way, we passed by the Bird’s Nest Stadium from the 2008 Beijing Olympics! It was so big! I couldn’t believe I was seeing it in real life.

We checked into fancy new hotel. I’m rooming with Dory again. We’re definitely having fun together! I’m glad I get to experience this with one of my good friends.

After that, we went to the Summer Palace. Historically, it was where the emperor and empress went when the weather was nicer to relax. It was dominated by a huge lake called Kumming Lake and a tall hill called Longevity Hill. The weather was so beautiful, and the Sun sparkled on the water. 

The Summer Palace was absolutely breathtaking. I could have stayed there forever. It is definitely my favorite place we’ve gone to. 

After getting back from the Summer Palace, some of the adults took Arjun and I to a hot-pot restaurant (you have a table of seasoned boiling water and can put meat, noodles, vegetables, etc to cook and eat). While we were there, we were entertained by a dancer who could instantly change the color of his mask. 

Today was another amazing day. I feel so blessed that I’m able to go on this trip, meet the fantastic people I have met, and experience all of these wonders.

Beijing Day 6

Today I woke up and put on my penguin suit (aka business formal) for a trip to the US Embassy. After seeing Chinese flags for a week, it was strangely refreshing to see a US flag flying in downtown Beijing. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the embassy, but I took a picture with the seal outside:

We were greeted by Nancy Sung, head of the Chinese branch of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The embassy was beautiful! There were courtyards and fountains and lots of artwork. Nancy took us on a tour, and then we sat and talked. I instantly liked her. Trained as a biochemist, she has a deep knowledge of science, but she also has a talent for articulating it clearly and concisely. Talking to her really made me think about science as a global quest for knowledge. 

After that, we had lunch in a Chinese restaurant in the hotel.

Then, we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. There were lots of people, but it wasn’t that crowded. 

The Forbidden city was formidable, to say the least. It’s gigantic, and the architecture is so elaborate. It’s hard to imagine how much sheer manpower was required to build it such a long time ago. The attention to detail was absolutely astounding. 

In the evening, we went to a Peking duck restaurant. I was touched that everyone wished me happy birthday. The food was delicious, and it was an amazing way to spend our last night in Beijing.

While I want to see my friends and family again, I’m sad that we’re leaving Beijing today. It’s been a fantastic experience, and one that I will remember for the rest of my life.


Editor’s Note: Dear Ana Sofia, one of the very best moments of the trip was you moonwalking across Tiananmen Square. The video is blurry and oriented all wrong (all my fault), but here it is so we all can remember…

At the Forbidden City, there was a building with a sign with the Chinese characters that said set high principles and seek peace. I know you will do just that and so much more. Mebane

Ana Sofia Uzsoy

Ana Sofia Uzsoy is a student at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics.