122 Days. By the time I return home, that’s how long I can say I’ve lived in Shanghai, China. Sounds like a decent amount of time, right? Eh, sure. But I know one thing for sure… It. Flew. By.
This experience has been rewarding in so many ways, I can’t even begin to mention them all. One of the most rewarding parts of this semester was being able to connect with my family that lives here in Shanghai. Before this semester, I knew them as my family that lived on the other side of the world and never saw. But now I’m so much closer with them and I actually feel connected to them. I also got to experience living in the city that my mother was born and raised in. Although Shanghai is completely different from how it was in the 70s, I still got to know the culture and lifestyle. I know for a fact that my mom is extremely happy I chose to study abroad in her hometown, and I feel so much more connected to my roots because of it.
I’ve also changed, as was expected, and I feel like a whole new person. I feel more independent, more cultured, more mature, and more open-minded. I think it’s safe to say my personality has changed this semester, but for the better. I’ve become much more appreciative of everything I have in life. Seeing how people live in another country allows you to reflect and compare it to how people in your home country live, and I’m very appreciative of the fact that I was born and raised in the U.S. I’ve especially become appreciative of my family, because moving all the way across the world will do that to you. This semester, I’ve missed my family more than I ever have and, although I’m so sad this semester is ending, I can’t wait to return home and see them all.
One thing I do wish I had been able to overcome this semester was my hesitation to speak Chinese. I’ve been taking Chinese for about two years now, and I’m still too afraid to hold conversations with native Chinese speakers. I was hoping this semester would help me to come out of my shell and be more willing to speak, but I think it actually did the opposite and intimidated me. Hearing native Chinese speakers talk made me criticize my own speaking. As a result, I became insecure about my pronunciation and refuse to speak unless absolutely necessary. I do hope that when I go home my mom will force me to practice my Chinese and improve my pronunciation.
In the future, I think what I’ll remember about this trip is definitely connecting with my Chinese family and heritage, and also meeting the friends I’ve made. I’ve made friends here that I feel like I’ve connected to so well (maybe because we’re all in the same scary study abroad boat) and I hope to remain friends with them for many years to come. I know for a fact that I’ll be coming back to Shanghai, because now it is a city filled with all the memories that I’ve made over these past four months.
As of right now I have about 10 days left here, and I hope they go by slowly! Leaving here will be very difficult, but I know I’ll be leaving with a heart full of love and memories that I will cherish forever. This was by far the greatest experience of my life, and I’m so grateful it happened. Zai jian, Shanghai.
- sh: Kayla Olivas