When I returned to Shanghai after a weeklong field trip to Sichuan, I realized just how little time I have left in this wonderful city and, rightfully so, got a little emotional. I had just spent a week exploring a new part of China and making friends with people in my program I had not gotten to know yet. And in a little over a month I have to leave? How is that possible? This is what’s been running through my head the past couple days.
1. A semester abroad isn’t enough time
Though my semester is still not over, I feel like it has flown by. I’m nowhere near ready to return to the United States. I feel completely settled in and content with my life here. I can’t imagine leaving. I honestly think that studying abroad for a year is the best way to go because three months just isn’t enough time to see everything, make serious language gains or gain exposure to everything your city has to offer.
2. How am I supposed to leave my friends?
It’s crazy how quickly friendships form while abroad. It’s like repeating freshman year all over again. The shared culture shock plays a big part, but having small classes and living in the dorms also contribute to the strong bonds that form. I’ve become incredibly close to a few people and gotten so used to seeing their familiar faces around campus, that I can’t even imagine what life will be like without them. Almost all the friends I’ve made go to schools on the East Coast, so it’s unlikely that I’ll see them any time soon. Thinking about that really scares me and makes me sad.
3. So much to do, so little time
I feel like I haven’t seen, done or tasted everything that Shanghai has to offer. Obviously that’s an impossible feat, but I’d like to at least come close. While my mom has been visiting me in Shanghai this week, being with her has allowed me to explore more, and I really appreciate that. I didn’t realize how expansive Shanghai’s subway system is, so now that I know, I’m definitely going to take greater advantage of my weekends.
4. Going beyond my Shanghai
There’s so much more to China than Shanghai and Beijing. After going to Sichuan and hearing about my roommate’s experience in northwest China, I realized that I definitely need to return to China. There’s so much I haven’t seen, so many cultures I haven’t experienced. China’s has such an interesting mix of cultures because it has small villages and huge cities. It also has a big Muslim influence in certain parts, which I find fascinating. Despite China’s various levels of development, continuities of habit, religion and culture have largely remained intact. I realize I’m studying abroad in such a diverse country, most populated country in the world, and I don’t want to leave.