Life as I Knew It

Jake Knotek
August 28, 2019
Charles Bridge in Prague

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 blog post.

I felt at ease during my last week in China. I was simply living each day in the moment, casually absorbing the features of the city and going about my business. It was a relieving feeling when I packed my suitcase that Wednesday night and only left out a few pieces of clothing to last me until my departure on Saturday. All seemed normal, and I was coasting towards my departure with increasing excitement. That Friday, my roommate, Andrew, checked his phone and saw headlines of typhoon Lekima making its way just south of Shanghai. We joked about flight delays, not thinking much of it. Later that night, our remaining group of four planned to get dinner where we did the very first day in Shanghai to finish it like we started. Right when we were about to leave, Andrew received a notification that his flight was delayed. We ended up sitting there for over an hour trying to help him figure out different flights that he could switch to, and eventually, he decided to call a taxi and take his things to the airport to go on standby. Abruptly, we were down to a group of three. In the next hour, I discovered that my flight was delayed by 24 hours. We were all up late figuring out our own flights, and when we woke up the next morning, Andrew came walking back into the apartments! His standby flight ended up getting canceled, and he was stuck in Shanghai for another two days. Long story short, we didn’t end up having the planned, sentimental, and relaxing end to our trip that we had expected. Multiple people said their goodbyes and went to the airport only to return back to the apartments the next day. I ended up going to the airport about 20 hours early because I wanted to split the taxi fare with friends, rather than pay it all myself the next morning. After a long sleepover at the airport, a throbbing headache, grumbling stomach, and hours spent on flights to Moscow and then to Vienna, I arrived in Bratislava, Slovakia with my family.

The week in Slovakia was amazing. I finally breathed clean air, enjoyed some authentic beer with my parents, and saw amazing architecture and history. It was refreshing to return to my grandparents’ condo each night that week and play Uno while enjoying my grandmother’s delicious food. We took a trip to Prague and Vienna as a family, eating lots of ice cream and savory street food. That week was a step closer to home, but I was definitely yearning more than ever to return home by the end of the week. Especially after being on my parents’ schedule for a week full of trips and constant walking around, I just needed to relax. 

Finally, the day came that I returned back to the homeland. For the first time in a while, I was able to take a long, deep breath as I stepped off of the plane. Excitement came over me and I hurriedly brushed past the crowds of people to check out of the airport. I sat in the car on the ride home, finally able to use 4G LTE data again, quickly texting and snapping all my friends. That night, despite my jetlag and exhaustion, I went out to see the friends that I had waited eleven weeks to see again. The next three days were full of doctor’s appointments, buying essentials for my dorm, spending time with my little brother, seeing some friends, and packing (again). Before I knew it, I was back at school that Wednesday. The next few days were full of various meetings and moving freshmen into their dorms. It wasn’t until yesterday that I really got to fully sit down and relax in a permanent setting. My room is now complete and will be my home for the next few months.

To be quite honest, I am still numb. I have rarely thought about Shanghai in the days that I’ve been home. In fact, Shanghai is fuzzy in my head, as if it were all a dream that never really happened. I feel almost as if I never really left school, since I went straight from Spring semester to China and now right back to school. The main thing that I miss right now is the relaxation of this Summer. While I went to work Monday through Thursday and constantly found things to do with my friends in China, it was all on our own schedule. Now, my life is full of deadlines again with emails that need answering, meetings to attend, people to see. As I already begin to feel the stress of life as I knew it before China, I keep thinking back to the carefree days of the Summer. I’m sure that I will start reminiscing on China more in the days to come, especially when I see the friends that shared the experience with me. I already grow nostalgic as I scroll through pictures of the Summer. All in all, while I am thrilled to be back in an environment that I know so dearly, I miss my lifestyle in China. I miss getting out of work each day and then doing whatever I wanted with my close group of friends, which I will never be able to spend time with in the same fashion again. This Summer definitely taught me a lot about what it means to be independent, especially in a completely foreign setting, but it was also a once in a lifetime dream to be somewhere with zero serious obligations. Combining my Summer experience in China with my life at Lehigh, I look forward to this semester to maintain a balance of independence and trying new things like I did in China while continuing to fulfill my obligations.

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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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