The Home Stretch

Jake Knotek
July 28, 2019

It is currently Sunday afternoon, July 28th. It hasn’t even been 24 hours since over half of my group of friends left for America, and I already miss them. Shrinking from a group of nine to four adds an unexpectedly large feeling of loneliness and vulnerability. I have never steadily hung out with the same people for such a long period of time. We have shared eight weeks full of memories. We did everything together, from eating meals, exploring the city, or just hanging out in the apartments. If I wanted to get food but nobody else was hungry, at least one person would always still tag along for comfort and conversation. We would text throughout the days while at our different internships if we were not assigned anything to do, making various plans for the night and upcoming weekend, sending music recommendations, reminiscing on our Shanghai experiences, and sharing our individual American experiences from before this trip. I don’t think I’ve ever bonded as strongly with a group of friends this quickly before, which is a testament to human nature and the closeness that being thrown into a completely foreign situation together brings.

These last two weeks are definitely going to be rough without five people who each contributed immensely to my experience in their own way. Everyone started to experience acute homesickness after the seventh week in China. The five who were leaving, while extremely homesick, also felt very nostalgic that their trip was coming to a close. The combination of these feelings made the end of the eighth week the perfect time to leave, for they could finally return to all that they acutely longed for in America while also making a point to savor everything that they will miss about China in the week before they left. Now there remains four of us, still experiencing an acute homesickness which has only been emphasized by the departure of the rest of our group. In fact, I woke up this morning thinking that I was back in America, only to realize that I could still see the Shanghai Tower from my bedroom window. We face the dilemma of wanting to continue experiencing Shanghai these last two weeks while also wanting to save money to return home with. With my American friends and family so close in sight, thoughts of getting Chipotle with them, seeing a movie, driving to the beach and buying some Polish water ice on the boardwalk circle my mind. After working a non-paid job all summer, which I am not used to, my savings are the only money I have, and I would like to save most of my remaining balance for home. We used to walk around and explore the city without spending money, but this has become problematic with daily temperatures in the 90s, humidity making it feel like over 110 degrees, and smog making it harder to breathe. All of this contributes to a feeling of strandedness. We are in a huge, foreign city where we are supposed to be out experiencing things but are now refusing to with our eyes set on home.

I have no idea what to expect out of these last two weeks. Will they drone on or blow by quickly? What am I going to end up doing with my time if I am so reluctant to spend money? While I wrote this blog post, I also made a new iMessage group chat with the four of us that remain and an additional four students from IES Abroad that we did not talk to as much during our time here. I can see our two groups merging and becoming close, as both are facing the same exact situation. Having expanded back to a group of eight, I already feel more at ease and less alone with more people to communicate and relate with during the home stretch. I open up and post this blog now, as I am curious to reflect on this moment in two weeks—or maybe even just a week from now—and see how my feelings compare.

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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
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