Shanghai, China: Where Crossing the Street is a Real-Life Game of “Frogger” By April Wong '12 Guest Writer
One of my friends jokes that when they go back home, the one-liner they’re going to use in response to the question “How was China?” is going to be “I found myself there.” That might be an exaggeration for me, but I can definitely say that studying abroad in Shanghai was rewarding. I came to China not only for academic reasons, but also to get a feel for a country that is and will continue to be a huge player in world politics and economics. Coming here has shown me just how diverse China is, which shouldn't have been too surprising considering its sheer demographic magnitude.
There are so many things that I will miss when I'm back at Scripps. I will miss the enticing smell of the street vendor's sweet potatoes that I always want to buy until I remember that I don't actually like the taste. I will definitely miss my host family and all the friends that I've made here. The public transportation here is amazing during the day, although I won't miss the fact that the subways close at a ridiculously early time. I'll miss cheap shopping and yuan baozi ($0.15 steamed buns). Most of all, I will miss talking about life with my host family over post-dinner tea and walks.
Some things in China were not so easy. Crossing the street is a real-life game of “Frogger” (watch out for the buses because they won't even slow down if you're in their way). At the beginning even buying things from the nearby Trust Mart (the Chinese version of WalMart) was daunting. I was even more awkward than a freshman in high school because I came to China not speaking any Chinese. And even despite being in English, some of my classes were hard to adjust to because the professors were Chinese, and thus were not completely confident teaching in English. Living in a home stay also added some complications because I wasn’t always in contact with my friends in the dorms too often, so I often missed outings to places around Shanghai, and had to figure out things to do on my own.
Despite these challenges, I've become so much more comfortable now than I was in the beginning. It's always ironic, though, that as soon as you start getting comfortable and finding a balance in life it's just time to leave. I'm sure other study abroad students would agree with me that somewhere in the middle of the program you start feeling like you want to go home, but when the time to leave comes, you really don't want to go. Improving my language skills was probably the number one thing that made me feel more comfortable because it made me less scared to go places on my own. Also learning how to bug people (especially my Chinese friends) to take me places so I didn't have to go on my own made a huge improvement.
I don't think I've become a different person after my short time of study abroad, and I don't think I've "found myself" in China. I will, however, have gained a lifelong love for Shanghai, and a much deeper and more intricate understanding of what China is. I've created deep friendships with fellow classmates, my Chinese teachers, and my home stay family. Although my time in China wasn't always a breeze, I think that overcoming the obstacles I experienced and having this semester to look back on has been absolutely worthwhile.