Next semester, I am studying abroad in Shanghai, China for 15 weeks. Going abroad is an extremely exciting opportunity, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy.
As someone who has never left North America before, I am anxious, yet eager, to travel somewhere new. With the last minute choice to study in China, I am counting down the months until I go. Among all of my excitement, though, is some definite stress and fear.
One of my first concerns is actually getting there. For me, the longest flight that I have ever been on was from Cleveland to Florida, which lasted about two and a half hours. The estimated travel time to Shanghai is about 24 hours in total, so I’m anticipating an adventurous time in various airports and multiple planes.
I have received numerous travel tips and tricks from my friends and family, so I am prepared to watch hours and hours of TV and movies, listen to music and hopefully sleep a lot. I was also advised to pack wisely and bring only items that are vital to my stay. In thinking about the grand scheme of things, I now realize that my flight is only of small significance to my overall trip, but I also realize that the initial goodbye and time on the plane will be tough.
Another element of my semester abroad that I am worried about is the major cultural difference between America and China. In terms of the language, food, etiquette, housing, and more, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous and feel pretty scared.
I’m particularly nervous about my Mandarin. Although I have heard that Shanghai is quite the international city, I still want to be able to chat it up with the locals and improve my language skills. Having taken Mandarin since middle school, you’d think I’d be pretty decent at the language, but to be honest, it is one of the most challenging subjects I have ever studied.
My teachers, professors, and international friends I’ve been lucky enough to meet have been a huge help, and urge me to be confident in my knowledge. I am willing to put in the work and practice, so hopefully I can get around the city okay.
With all of my worries, though, comes an immense amount of curiosity and excitement. Reflecting on what I think I know about China and the culture itself so far, I am excited to see what I’ve been imagining come to life.
One of my favorite YouTube channels, Yes Theory, has coined the term “Seek discomfort” and encourages people to branch outside of their comfort zone, not matter how big or small that discomfort may be. By going to China, I feel like I am seeking my ultimate discomfort. Having never been out of the States and only flying on an airplane for a maximum of roughly two hours, I am embarking on a journey that is so unfamiliar to me.
Yes Theory has taught me that these fears and anxieties are natural, but can be overcome if we are willing to push ourselves outside of what we are comfortable with. I am ready to challenge myself and see who I become after this 15 week journey. I am ready to seek discomfort, and I hope you will be too someday.