by Sonia Su
It took me three full days at home to finally unpack my two huge suitcases, but after four months abroad in a city I unexpectedly fell in love with, there’s something symbolic about unpacking that could have accounted for the delay.
Unpacking is one sign of settling in, whether it’s in a place you’ve never been before—or, in my case, at home after four amazing months. Maybe a part of me didn’t want to settle back in, despite all the comforts of being home. One thing’s for sure: a part of me knew that once I settled in, there would be a point in this rather uneventful future of a summer where I would begin to feel bored and long for the nonstop, often-exciting life of Shanghai—or any city, really.
The very act of finishing unpacking signals accepting the fact that I am back. I, a college student who turned 21 while in a country where a legal drinking age doesn’t exist. I, a college student who rarely partied, drank, or went to clubs before Shanghai. I, a suburban adult who has experienced so much more than ever expected. I, a forever-shy girl—no matter how often I like to think that I have become more extroverted, will always remain who I have been for 21 years.
Sure, it’s easy to think that people change after being immersed in an environment such as Shanghai’s. And no doubt, I have so many more stories I can now share. But the truth is, for the most part, I’m still who I was four months ago. Despite returning with a new haircut I initially didn’t like, a gel manicure I would never get in the States, new (fake) Ray Bans prescription glasses for which I proudly bargained, two tailor-made jackets (also bargained), I am still the same person underneath all the physical changes.
- Find chilling alone in a café (my current status) with my laptop or a book thoroughly enjoyable
- Blog daily and love it
- Would rather not drink alcohol but will now make the exception to enjoy further a night with friends
- Can’t really dance
- Can’t rid my latte addiction, despite only having one latte in four months
- Take pictures of my food and drinks, even if I don’t plan on posting it anywhere online
- …Talk about food and drinks too often
- Don’t drink enough water
- Often rely on my mom’s home-cooked meals
- Don’t exercise often enough or eat too healthily
- Tend to be an unnecessarily frugal weirdo. For example, my sister told me that while they were waiting for me to come out of the gate at the JFK Airport, my mom bet that I wouldn’t have paid the $5 to get a cart for my three large pieces of luggage. I came out somehow carrying all three without a cart. I mean, there was definitely no chance I was going to waste $5 on a cart I didn’t need. I know—I’m such a cheapskate.
And I could go on, but to think that I haven’t changed in so many ways is not exactly good, either.
- Can understand a heck of a lot more Mandarin (though speaking-wise, I could still use improvement/confidence)
- Appreciate the fun in going out to bars and clubs, despite my poor dancing skills
- Generally appreciate so much more in life, such as Internet speed, browsing the web without dealing with China’s censors, fresh air, and the things I mention in this article under things I won’t miss about China
- Have watched and analyzed about 10 films in Chinese, thanks to taking a Chinese film class
- Understand modern China better, especially through knowing more about Shanghai history
- Know so many people in Shanghai and can keep in touch with them via WeChat (my new favorite app. Just ask me all the ways I love WeChat). A few examples: the manager of Loonfung House, the manager of a yoga studio where I took an aerial yoga class, promoters of clubs in Shanghai, my two supervisors at Shanghai Expat, a Shanghai Daily intern, and several Shanghainese I’ve met through Shanghai Expat’s weekly networking events
- Am forever grateful for everything I’ve experienced and everyone I’ve met while in Shanghai, and
- Will add Shanghai to my list of possible cities to live and work in after graduating (in case you’re wondering, other cities are New York and Hong Kong).
Again, I could go on, but I should get to the main reason for this post—highlight my favorite posts out of about 120 from Shanghai. I hope you’ll go on this journey of reflection with me :)
FINALLY—The Day Before Departure: This post included a semi-jokingly made bucket list of items that I didn’t really intend to accomplish but ended up doing so anyway. I somehow accomplished everything in one way or another, except for impersonating an Asian pop star, sending my friend a postcard, or going on the Maglev and eating a green tea Kit-Kat (I’ve actually done those before this semester).
Day 41: Orientation: It’s interesting to go back and read my initial reactions to Shanghai, especially one dominated by my impressions of Walmart.
Day 45: Valentine’s Day: I will never forget this exhibition full of art by Kusama Yayoi that I actually loved. It was also interesting to see Chinese people celebrating Valentine’s Day but I certainly did not enjoy the crazy crowds everywhere.
Day 49: McDelivery: Even after such an amazing discovery, I actually never used McDelivery again. I loved the experience, though.
Day 53: Saturday Traffic: Several differences I noticed early on in the semester.
Day 57: First Day: Despite a shaky start to the day, I had a pretty great first day at my internship.
What Is Work?: Although not part of my 365 day photo project, this post reflected how many of us felt getting back into the routine of classes and work after such a long winter break.
Day 70: Epitome of Life: Bruno Mars. Enough said. Read it.
Day 81: Vintage Market: One of the funnier experiences speaking in Chinese with someone.
Day 95: ‘Arting’ On The Great Wall: I climbed the Great Wall and tobogganed down it for the second time. Never gets old.
Day 115: The Lucky Ones: My meal at the M on the Bund restaurant was not only the best I’ve ever had, but also free. I can’t appreciate having worked at Shanghai Expat enough.
Day 123: Hiking Huangshan: Who knew I could climb 10km in one day? And we even climbed more the next morning in the rain.
Day 143: Hangzhou: Hands down, this was my best weekend ever while in Shanghai.
What do you think? Any posts that you enjoyed reading? :)