China: A Reflection

Adam Dalton
June 7, 2015
Me in Ordos, Inner Mongolia


3 months after entering China and beginning my study abroad semester, I’m sitting in a cramped lounge in Toronto’s Pierson International Airport awaiting the small Air Canada plane that will fly me home to the Midwest. Reflecting back on my time in China leaves me with mixed emotions, conflicting feelings, and an overwhelming sense of amazement that I was able to experience everything China (and Japan) has had to offer in the past 3 months. Being a second-generation college student from a lower-middle class family who grew up in a town in America’s heartland; studying abroad seemed to be an infeasible proposition just a couple of years ago. However, thanks to Grinnell College’s and IES Abroad’s generous assistance I have been able to experience an absolutely life-changing journey over the past few months; for which I am extremely grateful. Thanks to both of their help, I am now the first person in my family to have studied abroad!

In terms of this last post I am going to utilize one of my favorite formats; lists! Since it would take me tens of pages to even begin to describe my experiences and feelings regarding China, using lists will not only save everyone’s time but also make the post more concise and easy to understand. It’s been a great run this past semester, I look forward to continuing to explore the world, and I genuinely hope to make my way back to China in the future.  To everyone who has been reading my blog all semester, I would really like to thank you for all of your support and I hope you will enjoy my final post. Below, please find the aforementioned lists I made regarding my China experience.

       The Good (I’ll miss these things about China)                                                                   

1.         The chance to experience a Chinese culture and society everyday; which lead to sometimes confusing albeit always exciting situations.

2.         The opportunity to easily practice my Chinese language skills with native speakers.

3.         China’s incredible culinary diversity, which lends itself to many fantastic dishes. I’ll especially miss: jianbings, xiaolongbao, and fry dumplings.

4.         Chinese prices, when I go back to the United States I will pay substantially higher prices for nearly everything; such a realization will be a rude awakening for me.

5.         The convenience of Shanghai, basically anything I could ever need/want exists within a one-mile radius of my apartment.

6.         The amazing variety of events/festivals Shanghai has to offer. For example: just in the month between mid-April to mid-May I had the options of attending the Shanghai Auto Show, Shanghai Fashion Week, the Shanghai F1 Grand Prix, Shanghai Soccer matches, Midi Independent Electronic Music Festival, USATF Diamond League Track Meet, and many more!

7.         Family Mart. Hands down the most convenient convenience store I have ever been to, plus their easily door opening jingle is easily the best of all time.

8.         Shanghai’s nightlife, I have never been to a city with such a thriving and international nightlife scene.

9.         Seeing my program-mates every day.

The Bad (I won’t miss these things about China)                                                                   

1. The smog and water pollution. It will be fantastic to be back in the United States, where the water and air (presumably) are not imminently threatening to my health.

2. The lack of green space in Shanghai. Being a nature person, the utter lack of grass/trees in Shanghai was disheartening.

3. The difficulty of running in Shanghai. Street vendors, massive crowds of people, traffic that has arbitrary laws, and the lack of running trails made running in Shanghai insanely difficult.

4. Everyone staring at me/asking to take pictures with me. Although this wasn’t annoying at first, after 3 months of constantly being stared at I am ready to become relatively anonymous back in the U.S.A.

5. The lack of fresh vegetables and fruits that aren’t fried. Traditional Chinese food= no un-fried veggies.

6. Squat toilets…no explanation needed.

7. Every bathroom in existence being used almost exclusively as a place where people chain smoke to avoid non-smoking laws (since over 50% of China’s adult male population smokes).

8. Being elbowed by grandmas for seats on the Shanghai metro; I’m totally not kidding about this…the aforementioned situation occurred daily.

9. Media censorship

The Confusing (I still don’t understand these things about China)  

1.      Why people will wait 2+ minutes to wait for an escalator to take them up one flight of stairs when there are available stairs with no people on them…

2.      Why people will do bizarre repetitive exercises (such as swinging their arms back and forth for a half-hour) in public.

3.      Why Chinese people will sit in a nightclub at a private table and commonly sleep or be exclusively on their phones.

4.      Three words: Fancy Pizza Huts

5.      The fact that Kenny G is the background music to China; go into any hotel/restaurant/mall and you are bound to hear Kenny G at some point. If I hear Kenny within the next year it will be too soon.

6.      Why everything comes wrapped in at least three separate layers of plastic. Maybe to simultaneously ensure freshness and environmental degradation.


Adam Dalton                                                       

Adam Dalton

<div>My Name is Adam Dalton and I am currently a junior at Grinnell College majoring in Economics and Chinese Studies. I am originally from Mason City, IA and will be studying abroad in Shanghai with IES Shanghai next semester. Aside from academics, my interests including playing guitar, enjoying the great outdoors and running (I am a member of Grinnell&#39;s T&amp;F and XC teams).&nbsp;</div>

2015 Spring
Home University:
Grinnell College
Chinese Language
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