You are here

Seeing China for the Very First Time— Again

June 5, 2016

    Being adopted from China, I always knew that going back to “the Motherland” would be a trip I had to take. After nearly twenty years, I found IES Internships and decided to go to the completely wrong area of the Motherland: Shanghai.

I was born in the far south region of China, Guangdong province, somewhere near Guangzhou. They mostly speak Cantonese and that’s about all I know for sure about Guangdong. For most of my life identifying as an adoptee and as a Chinese American wasn’t important to me, but that changed in the past few years. My decision to intern abroad in Shanghai and learn Mandarin doesn’t really connect directly back to a soul search for my heritage, more of an interest in the land where I came from.

I really started caring about where I came from during the 2008 Summer Olympic games in Beijing. I remember watching the opening ceremonies and being totally amazed. Since then I’ve taken an active interest in learning about China, but especially my identity within the Asian American community. Now I want to become as fluent as possible in Mandarin, and in 2022 I'll come back as a reporter for the Beijing Winter Olympics. I got some language learning apps, watched a Taiwanese drama or two, and took a language class last summer, but nothing compares to being fully immersed in the place.

I chose Shanghai over Beijing because Shanghai seemed like the one of the most cutting-edge cities in the world. As a journalism major, understanding China now sets a reporter apart.  I want to understand this part of my identity and get a job when I graduate in two years-- so a summer internship and language class seemed like the best of both. My program started about a week ago and now we're past the crash-course orientation,  awkward get-to-know-you phase with my classmates, and getting hopelessly lost every time we leave the dorm. Shanghai has gone from being this amazingly massive city to a new place to understand with some of the best culture (and food) to explore.

I don't feel "at home" or a special connection to the Motherland yet, I feel— and speak Chinese— like any other Westerner stumbling around the city. But I am glad I finally made the journey "back." Seeing China for myself means so much more than reading a book or seeing it online. None of it's familiar, but yet so much reminds me of places everyone knows. The touristy places? That's like Paris. The crowded streets? Just like New York City. The subway? A bit like Boston's T— if it were cleaner, on time, and faster. I've stayed around some pretty highly developed and privileged areas so far, but Shanghai isn't some Exotic Wonder of the Orient. It's a world-class city, possibly even classier than most in the States.

With over twenty million people, throwing myself into China’s biggest city might have been a bit ambitious. But I’m a bit ambitious, and now that I've been here for a little while, I'm not as overwhelmed. I figured out the subway, the people at my internship are great, and I like my classmates. I’m sure Shanghai will become home in no time.

From Our Blogs

Mar 21 12:57pm

My Trip to Ghana!

by Nia

This past week, I had the pleasure of traveling to Accra, Ghana with my home school, Howard University. I am a part of the fourth cohort of the Global Trilateral MBA Program, which connects students at multiple institutions around the world as we engage on consulting projects for real companies.

Learn more
Mar 21 12:44pm

Get Off Your Phone!

by Johnna

There’s one thing that the millennial generation can often unanimously agree on: our fingers are glued to our phones. It’s entirely apparent that today, the world is based around technology. This of course has its positives, but it also comes with an abundance of negatives.

Learn more
Mar 21 10:10am

An American in France

by Genevieve

Being an American in France looks different for just about everyone.

Learn more
Mar 20 10:56pm

Keen on getting involved

by Cat

It's three weeks into the semester at the University of Auckland, and I have started to become active in clubs and activities on campus. I play field hockey for the University of Rochester, so coming to New Zealand I knew I wanted to get involved in club field hockey here.

Learn more
Mar 20 4:22am

What I'm Learning in Rome

by Livia

We can’t forget the ‘study’ part of ‘study abroad!’

Learn more
Mar 19 8:49am

Estudiantes de Granada (Students of Granada)

by Michelle

Granada is a city that attracts a special kind of people. People here are looking to become immersed in culture, language, food, art, and so much more that this wonderful city has to offer. If you’ve been following my time here, then you’ve heard a little about what I’ve been doing.

Learn more