End of the Beginning

Jake Knotek
August 6, 2019

I quickly made my apartment my home when I got to China. My belongings are spread out all over the place: socks hang from a bungee clothesline along the window, various pairs of shoes scatter the apartment floor, the coins I accumulated throughout the summer litter my bedside table, a mound of dirty clothes dominates the floor space next to my bed. As I begin to consolidate these belongings and pack my suitcase, I have flashbacks to doing the same in my slightly messy bedroom in America ten weeks ago. I smile as I think back to my brimming excitement when packing for China and all the expectations that I had. I have had so many experiences that I never would have expected or even kept on my radar. This summer was full of life lessons and new experiences, people, and food. I was set on going to Shanghai Disney, the Kingdom of the Little People, the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, and the top of the Pearl Tower. I never went to any of these places, but I did go to Tongli, the Yuyuan Gardens, the fake markets, and Haidilao hotpot instead. After spontaneously touring different areas and listening to recommendations from locals, I learned that many things I planned to do upon coming here are overrated and sometimes expensive, whereas many of the smaller and subtle features of China have so much more to offer. Tongli was breathtaking, as I wrote about in my second blog post; the Yuyuan gardens offered an array of shops and more natural sights; the fake market was enormous, and the haggling and desperation to make sales that I witnessed was life-changing; and Haidilao spawned my new love of hotpot and my increasingly adventurous taste. 

I now sit at my office desk on my last Tuesday of work at Stune. I think about how I felt two Sundays ago: sad to see my new friends leave and extremely eager to return home. Those feelings, while still existent, have gradually subdued in the past week. Making it through this past weekend and realizing only one week remains, I am at peace with all of my feelings. I am nostalgic as I think about my trip coming to a close, but not overly sad. I am eager to return home and see my friends and family, but not desperate. I simply enjoy each day, not making a point to go out and do everything possible but also not vegetating on the apartment couch. In all my weeks of being in Shanghai, I do not think I’ve ever lived quite this way. It is a relaxing last week where I almost feel like a local. The attractions have now become somewhat common, and I live the remaining days simply while absorbing what is left of the experience. 

Last Thursday, my three remaining friends and I hung out at a nearby hostel’s rooftop bar area, which consists of ping-pong and some other games. We met an eight-year-old kid, Joseph, from Canada, who was turning nine that night. He told us about how he has been to 27 countries so far, and his parents either work online or find new jobs in each of these places. He told us of a friend he made and played soccer with frequently during his time in Zambia. Listening to Joseph, I gradually zoned out in sheer awe of his experiences. He is such a young kid and just roams around these countries with his parents, oftentimes on his own. I snapped back in when he proceeded to go into how he feels that he isn’t doing enough and as if it has been ten years since his eighth birthday! First, Joseph has not even been alive ten years yet, and second—not doing enough!? I cannot even imagine moving around so often and not having a steady home, but Joseph seemed unbothered by this and said at one point, “My parents tell me that making friends is my superpower.” This conversation was truly inspirational to me, and I would love to see where Joseph ends up in life, although I am not sure I ever will. 

Listening to Joseph and thinking about my own life, I realized that I am ready to experience more new things. Leaving Shanghai is not necessarily the end, but rather the beginning of something new. I long to visit California and Colorado in America, as well as different countries like Spain, Germany, and South Africa, among others. Having not traveled much in life even within my own country, this trip has made me realize my capabilities and ever-growing desire to continue traveling. I currently save up for a trip to Colorado over winter break and possibly a trip to California next summer. I’m not sure if I would have ever considered doing this had I not traveled to Shanghai this summer. With three full days left in Shanghai, I am at peace, knowing that Shanghai is not the end, but rather the key to the door of endless new experiences.

More Blogs From This Author

Charles Bridge in Prague
Jake Knotek,

Life as I Knew It

The past couple of weeks have been quite a whirlwind, which is why this last blog post has been delayed for so long. Let’s start where we left off in the last...

View All Blogs

Jake Knotek

<p>I am a junior in the Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) program at Lehigh University, studying chemical engineering and finance. At school, I am the President of the Chi Phi Fraternity and enjoy participating in service opportunities, such as tutoring local middle schoolers or leading recruitment for Dance Marathon to raise money for CHOP. I also enjoy snowboarding and traveled to the breathtaking Stowe, Vermont this past Winter. I have a passion for nature and currently intend to focus on alternative energy with my ChE degree.</p>

2019 Summer 1, 2019 Summer 2
Home University:
Lehigh University
Glenside, PA
Engineering - General
Explore Blogs