It still hasn’t fully hit me that I was able to travel halfway across the globe and had the opportunity actually to live in China! *takes deep breath* WOW! Although I had two previous study abroad experiences, my time in Shanghai definitely brought about new discoveries and breakthroughs. Even after I considered not writing at all, I still chose to do so. Through my writings and travels, I was able to think critically and to reflect on my life as a young Black man. From my very first week in Shanghai, I knew I was embarking on a journey that very few who look like me could hardly fathom, let alone make a reality. All I could think about was how I wanted to help others like me to gain these experiences and to make traveling the world their reality. This new outlook meant not only living life to the fullest and taking advantage of every opportunity, but also fully connecting to an experience that was not just for me. Ironically, I was searching for people of color almost everywhere when I first arrived, yet I soon realized that our humanity is what connects us, not the social constructs that Western society has instilled.
Don't be fooled. Studying abroad is no easy feat, but I have always believed that if you allow the what-ifs and negative energy to dictate your decision-making, then you are already setting yourself up for failure at life. One of the most important lessons I learned in Shanghai is that you have to see the good in every situation, and with all the adversities I faced, it was absolutely necessary. Of course, there were the expected cultural adjustments such as the language barrier, which took a LOT of patience--but after a few classes, a little tutoring, and a touch of confidence, I was able to get around just fine. Even with minor issues like subway etiquette, bathroom amenities, and roommate misunderstandings, I got over them with time. Once this happened, I garnered amazing relationships and created a solid support system/network with those both in and outside of my program; some even considered making Shanghai their home. Within weeks, conversations and hangouts evolved into new friendships and even the progression of my website and overall brand.
Shanghai was a life-enhancing experience that I will hold dear to my heart forever. Now that I am back home in Louisiana, I realize that my time studying abroad represented so much more than I thought it would…leaving everything and everyone I love, growing stronger in faith, and building on the foundation a life in the States had laid out. My core intentions for my study abroad experience in Shanghai were to plan out career goals and to immerse myself in a brand new culture. However, what started out as very little expectations and pre-planned goals transformed into falling in love with a city I could call my home in the future. From each experience, I not only gained a greater sense of self, but also was able to stick to my original goal of realizing my preferred career path and developing meaningful relationships all while checking off a few more items from my bucket list. Ultimately, I now have a new understanding of what it means to be a global citizen: one who sees the world without condition and is able to step wholeheartedly into unknown and sometimes uncomfortable territories with both optimism and enthusiasm.
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<p>Jonathan Thibeaux hails from Lafayette, LA and is a 5th year biology major at Morehouse College. A self-proclaimed "media enthusiast, writer, motivator, and certified dreamer,” he is working hard to catapult himself from a pre-medical past into the world of media and television. At Morehouse, he served as the Senior Co-Chair of the Campus Alliance for Student Activities, Co-Campus Based Leader for the Gates Millennium Scholar Group, Maroon Tiger Columnist, and Presidential Ambassador. Choosing to defer his degree for a year, he will be spending a year in Shanghai, China and Cape Town, South Africa for an immersive educational experience. Through his blog and affiliations he hopes to provide a safe and inspiring space for teenagers and adults to document and experience their lives, without the pressure to conform to social constructs. He hopes to one day work in Marketing as a television executive and possibly even becoming the talent of his own show. This fall he will be blogging for Shanghai, China.</p>