Westfield High School graduate Mark McBride is studying abroad in China this semester and will bike across the United States this summer
By Mark Robinson
Mike McBride is on quite a journey already. The 2012 Westfield High School graduate is studying abroad in China this semester as a Purdue University junior.
“I liked the idea of going to China because it was very different from the U.S. and literally on the opposite side of the world,” he said. “I wanted to gain new perspective and try something different, so I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity. I knew I would learn a lot and have experiences like no other. The study abroad program through Purdue Mechanical Engineering also was very impressive and a great opportunity for my future career.”
McBride, a mechanical engineering major, is taking three engineering classes (thermodynamics, control systems and material science), as well as Chinese 101 and two classes on Chinese culture/history.
“Everyday has been an adventure and an opportunity to see something new,” he said. “I live in downtown Shanghai, which has 23 million people, so I’ve met people from all over the world. I’m also here with about 30 other engineers from Purdue, so I have made some great friends. I miss all of my friends and family at Purdue and elsewhere, but I do my best to stay in touch with them despite the 13-hour time difference. Studying abroad has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I encourage everyone who has the chance to do it.”
McBride has seen most of the major attractions including the Yu Gardens, People’s Square, Chongming Island, many parks, extravagant shopping districts, temples, museums, markets, Qibau ancient water city and “The Bund” area which has the second and seventh tallest buildings in the world.
“At the end of February, I will be flying to Hong Kong then Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand for Chinese New Year which is the time I have off for spring break,” he said. “I also plan on taking weekend trips to the Yellow mountains, Avatar mountains, Beijing to see the great wall and forbidden city, Xian to see the Qin Terra-cotta Warriors, Hong Jo, and likely other small trips to temples and hot springs.”
McBride left from the U.S. on Jan. 10 and will return May 17.
“Everything has definitely not soaked in yet, but the world already seems like a smaller, more welcoming place,” he said. “I can see myself doing much more world travel or even working and living abroad in the future. I’ve learned that I can adapt to live and make the most of almost any situation despite language barriers and vast cultural differences. I’ve learned more about myself and my place in the world in the last month than I could have ever imagined. I’m excited to see what impact my time in China has on the rest of my life.”
McBride also is preparing for a journey of even greater significance in the summer.
That’s when McBride will join 100 other college students from around the nation on the Journey of Hope, a 4,000-mile, cross-country bicycle ride to raise money for people with disabilities. It will benefit The Ability Experience, a nonprofit organization owned and operated by Pi Kappa Phi fraternity that has raised more than $15 million since 1977 to aid those with disabilities.
McBride learned of the opportunity when he joined the Purdue chapter of Pi Kappa Phi. Though he lacks a cycling background, the mechanical engineering major soon realized this was a challenge he had to accept.
“A number of my fraternity brothers at Purdue have done it in the past and had just an absolutely incredible experience,” he said. “I started getting into cycling about a year ago with the intention of doing this trip.”
Each rider must raise at least $5,500 in donations to make the trip (McBride’s goal is $7,500 and he is about a third of the way there), with the total benefit expected to exceed $650,000. Just as important, McBride said, is that riders stop at schools and disability support organizations along the trek to make donations and see how their dedicated efforts have an effect.
Before then, however, McBride must train while taking classes in Shanghai and traveling around a nation he’s never seen before. Even though he’s in a foreign land, he said his training regimen won’t be altered much.
“If I was at Purdue, it’s cold and snowy for most of the spring semester,” he pointed out, “so I’ll be doing most of the same indoor stuff that I would be able to do – riding indoors, running, staying in shape.”
Journey of Hope riders leave from the West Coast starting in June along one of three routes, with all intersecting Aug. 8 on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. They must average about 75 miles a day on the voyage. McBride sees it as more than a physical journey; one of exponential personal growth.
“The thing I’m most looking forward to is just spending the summer helping others and not really being focused on myself,” he said. “In college, I think a lot of people get caught up in striving to do the best for them and are very focused on their own personal achievement. So instead of an internship or something like that, I’ll be spending every day helping people with disabilities with the basic needs of life and helping improve their lives by providing money and help.”
To help support McBride’s ride with a donation, visit support.pushamerica.org/goto/michaelmcbride or mail a check made out to “The Ability Experience” with “Michael McBride – JOH” written in the memo line and mail it to: The Ability Experience, P.O. Box 241368, Charlotte, N.C. 28224.
Meet Mike McBride
Birthplace: Richmond, Va., but grew up in Westfield most of his life
Family: Parents, Jim and Cindy, and sister, Melissa.
Hobbies: Sports, movies, music, reading, working out, traveling with friends, and anything adventurous such as skiing, camping and boating.
Favorite food: Peanut butter and banana, but Chinese dumplings are now a close second.
Farthest distance traveled on bike? 100 km or about 60 miles on one ride.
Music you listen to while training? I can’t listen to music on the road because it’s dangerous, but in the gym my favorite artists are Imagine Dragons and OneRepublic. I listen to a lot of different music and many podcasts as well.
Personal quote: I love quotes and keep a long list of my favorites, here’s one. “If we did all the things we all the things we were capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” -Thomas Edison