7,354 miles

Jennifer Ushakov
September 3, 2014

7,354 miles. The number has been running through my head all day. That’s how far Harrisburg, PA is from Shanghai, China. And that’ll be the farthest I’ve ever been from home. In 22 hours, I’ll be on a plane on my way to live and study abroad for the next four months. It hasn’t fully hit me yet.

I’ve been to China once before (Beijing in May 2013) for a grand total of two weeks. I spent those two short weeks with a group traveling to many of Beijing’s touristy must-sees, taking it all in, and exhausting my poor camera – especially at the Great Wall because wow. After returning home, I knew that studying back in China was something I absolutely wanted to do.

P.S.- I’m typing this post while flipping through every “what if” scenario for the heaps of clothes still laying around me.

As far as what to expect once I get to Shanghai: I have absolutely no idea. And that’s the fun part, right? Taking a leap into that “great unknown,” really jumping out of my comfort zone, and taking on every opportunity thrown my way.

…tell that to the nervous/excited/terrified/eager knot in my stomach that appeared only a few hours ago.

–Whoa, forgot I still had these shoes…do they still fit?…oh, they fit great!…probably should throw them in…for old time’s sake…just in case…–

I’m excited to experience such a new culture and way of life — both of which are SO incredibly different from Western traditions. I want to feel that culture shock – whether it be with food, language, transportation, or minute differences in daily life – and be placed in those awkward situations where I’ll have to utilize my language skills to get by; I don’t want to have English as a fallback.

I want to get lost in the city and find my own way home. I want to barter with vendors for cheap goods. I want to go to the street market and try some bizarre food. Maybe these situations would make some people uncomfortable but I prefer to be pushed outside my element.

–The weather says there’s maybe, sometimes, once in a blue moon, a tiny bit of snow. So…three pairs of boots! No? But. Two? Fine, one pair then.–

English is the universal language of travel and, granted, I am going to one of the world’s largest metropolitan cities, which will make it tough to avoid. But I figure that outside the city – and even inside in the much less touristy areas – English is not as prevalent.

The thing is: I think to really appreciate another culture, it’s necessary to delve into all aspects – especially its language. Or at least make some sort of effort to connect with locals. Although English is convenient, I think the convenience and ease of it is exactly what takes away from the traveler’s authentic experience of a new culture.

–Wait, in all seriousness: what if I step in a puddle while wearing my wool socks, so I take them off to dry, and a hawk swoops down out of nowhere and snatches them? Should probably pack extras. …although…does China even have hawks?–

A part of me – as I’m sure anyone else would be – is anxious and terrified because, well, I don’t know what this experience will bring. I don’t know what to expect and I don’t know if I’m prepared for everything coming my way.

–Definitely. China definitely has hawks.–

But really, I’m eager because I know I’m about to have the adventure of a lifetime and I can’t wait for it to begin already :)

Jennifer Ushakov

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hi! Originally from Harrisburg, PA, I am currently a junior at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a degree in Finance with a minor in Chinese language. I&#39;ve been studying Mandarin since high school and am incredibly thrilled to have the chance to practice my language skills abroad this fall! In my free time, I love binge watching Netflix, experimental home-cooking, and spontaneous outdoor adventures. Come along as I explore the heart of Shanghai this semester!</span></p>

2014 Fall
Home University:
University of Pittsburgh
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