The impending departure from Shanghai is starting to dawn on me. Although I have almost four weeks left, the majority of my group leaves in less than two weeks. Even though I have been having a ton of fun, I have mostly felt as if I won’t really miss China. Not necessarily in a bad way, but more so—what will I miss about China? What will make me wish I were still in China when I return to America? Up until this past Sunday, I had thought nothing. I had shared countless fun memories with my friends here at different clubs, restaurants, and tourist sites, and I experienced amazing sites like the Great Wall and Haungshan. However, I kept thinking, I will be forever happy to have experienced this, but I am content to return home. Now, though, I experience my first signs of fear for leaving this amazing city and country.
Affordability and spontaneity factor into my everyday life here. I can choose where I want to eat on the fly, as local shops surround me and offer a variety of foods, and most shops are very cheap. My go-to dinner costs only eight or sixteen yuan, depending on whether I’m feeling one or two orders, which translates to about one to three U.S. dollars. At home, I have to assess the health of my current bank balance, pick and choose when I want to go out, and spend around ten or more U.S. dollars for a meal. A burrito at Chipotle, for instance, with guacamole and a side of Coke would cost over ten dollars. My boss gawked when I told her that it would cost about ten or more dollars to go out to breakfast in America, and she said, “You could buy all three meals of the day with ten U.S. dollars here.” Of course, part of this spontaneity is supplemented by the fact that I have a scholarship to be here with money allocated for food; if I were here on my own accord with a more limited budget, this feature would not be so exaggerated. Nevertheless, both the accessibility and overall cheapness of food here will be something I long for every day after my return home.
Chinese culture also intrigues me and was the reason I chose to intern in Shanghai. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed gaining a basic understanding of Mandarin and practicing it in daily conversation with my coworkers, program leaders, and locals. Even as English dominates the globe, I feel that it is important to learn or at least appreciate other languages. Locals strongly appreciate when I attempt to use the little I know, and it brings us closer together. They also are ten times friendlier than any stranger in America. Due to the low crime rate and heavy surveillance in Shanghai, I am never worried to approach anyone here; furthermore, they are just generally in nicer moods and more willing to help someone out. Additionally, I love the food here. The IES Abroad Center staff taught us how to cook traditional Chinese plates, and I intend on attempting to replicate some back home. Takeout Chinese food in America is just not comparable to the food here. Adding to this, I will miss being able to tour the various cultural sites of China, such as the Yuyuan Gardens, Ancient Village, Tongli, various museums, and even the financial district with its record-breaking skyscrapers not to be found anywhere else. While the financial district represents modern society rather than traditional culture, it still is a testament to the hardworking and speedy culture that the Chinese foster. When they want to get something done, they do it with no delay. I have gained numerous takeaways from the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had since being here, and I will miss this firsthand learning upon returning home to my familiar life.
As August 10th approaches, my eagerness to return to my friends and family grows, yet my nostalgia grows equally as fast, if not faster. While I would love to return to China in the future, I have no guarantee of this happening. August 10th could either be a goodbye followed by reminiscing throughout my future years, or it could be a see you later—who knows? All I know is that I have almost four weeks left to make the best of what has already been a transforming and unforgettable adventure. Gone are the days of napping after work to be rested for the next day. Now, I explore as frequently as I can on week nights, getting back late and waking up early. When I return home, I will sleep, but now is the time to ensure I sleep with no regrets.
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<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>