Throughout my life, I have often found myself comfortably living in a bubble and sticking to my familiar schedule and spending my time with familiar people. However, I am consciously aware of this tendency, so I try my best to break out of it. I moved from a smaller town, to New York. I studied abroad two semesters. I got used to the sense of constantly being uprooted which helped me break out of the desire to constantly be comfortable.
Even though on the surface it seems like I am constantly changing and I am anything but comfortable, I still find myself not challenging myself and pushing myself enough. In Shanghai, we live in a dorm that’s somewhat far away from the heart of the city; there is not too much to do right outside. Most days, instead of pushing myself to explore and take the subway out to where all of the events are happening in Shanghai, I stay in the confines of my dorm, doing work or binge watching television. I often don’t go anywhere unless someone will go with me which is another bad habit of mine.
However, there have been times when I break out of this bubble and find the courage to challenge my comfort zone. I hope I can continue pushing myself to do this as we are now nearing towards the second half of the semester. I happened to have a childhood friend who moved to Shanghai shortly after graduating college and I have been able to hang out with her and release myself from solely hanging out with people from the NYU community. Through her, I’ve been introduced to local Shanghai residents and people from all over the world.
There have also been times when, despite even being with NYU students, I feel as though I am not just ‘studying abroad’ but I am actually becoming immersed in the community. A time, I believe, epitomizes this feeling the most was actually just last night. It takes a lot for me and my friend group to actually go out to a dinner or something of the sort just because of, how I mentioned earlier, we live so far away from everything. However, last night we rallied together and actually were able to venture off into a neighborhood we have never seen before.
After two glasses of wine, a delicious pasta dish, and some locals asking if we could take a picture with them, our group of four became slightly divided. Half of us wanted to continue the night and explore the area, while the other half wanted to get rest and go home. My friend Rachel and I were fueled by our desire to be adventurous. We decided to continue our exploration of Shanghai despite the fact that it would have been really easy for us to slump back into our normal comfort zone of going to our dorms.
The night took us to a karaoke bar where we tried unique Chinese drinks; however, we did still sing English songs. After we left the karaoke bar, we ran into street performers with a group of locals cheering them on. We joined in and even talked with a few who knew English. From there, we walked a half an hour and stumbled across a dance club. In there, I felt as though all cultural bubbles were transcended and all groups were united. We could have gone home early and had a good night of sleep but instead we stayed out until 4 in the morning and really felt the essence of the city.
Although I know for many people studying abroad, this is what every weekend is like. However, I believe last night was a huge stride for me in terms of how I’ve been living my life in Shanghai. I hope to continue to have more nights like last and constantly challenge my comfort zone.