I have come to realize that as much as I enjoy trying new things, I am both excited yet hesitant when I need to step outside my comfort zone or bubble. I think this stems partially from moving around a lot while growing up, however, I have always enjoyed the sensation of being both “foreign” and not “foreign” to places. Although, regardless of where I am, I have the tendency to make sure that there is some familiarity so that I do not enter a new environment completely “alone”. When I went to boarding school, I was quick to establish my central friend group which my days then revolved around before I was willing to try out for the school choir. When I chose to attend NYU, I made sure to know the classmates from my high school that were going there before I made my decision. Similarly, studying abroad in Shanghai, I quickly created a bubble of familiarity where most of my days are spent either at school or back at my apartment. Although I had explored the areas close to school and home, it was more that they became incorporated into my bubble rather than me stepping out of it.
Personally, the academic building at NYU Shanghai is a bubble in itself. When you enter the doors, it sometimes feels as though I never left NYU New York. Granted that the building itself and the layout is much newer, the overall atmosphere with professors and students speaking english makes the experience no different from New York which is both good and bad. It provides a sense of comfort and peace and is a much appreciated safe haven when you are studying at such a fast past and hectic city as Shanghai. However at the same time, if you choose, you can remain within in this bubble the whole time and in a way that defeats the purpose of studying abroad. Initially I was tempted, however, my yearning for excitement pushed me to push my boundaries and since I was already in Shanghai, I thought that an adventure was well warranted.
The first time I stepped out of my bubble was when a friend who had taken care of my dog during golden week invited me to visit her apartment. This was the first time that I left school by myself and did not catch a “didi” to go straight home. I decided to download the community bicycle app and bike over to her house. It took around 25 minutes searching for a bike that was not “taken” and was around a twenty minute bike ride over where I passed by many shops and stores that were not geared towards foreigners. Her apartment is located in a newly constructed area nearby a bridge which leads to even more development zones however I was able to meet a lot of expats who were living in the Shanghai area but not native to Shanghai or the NYU community.. Although by doing so I did not necessarily step out of the ‘cultural bubble’ however I stepped out of my own personal bubble focused around academics.