It’s been a week since starting classes at Shanghai University. I have truly enjoyed my time here thus far, and it only just begun! I’m getting to know my classmates, who are from all over the United States. There are a total of 18 of us so I imagine that by the end of the five weeks here, we will get to know one another well. Everyday has had its own notable experiences. Already I can say I’ve met people from different countries with intriguing stories. I’ve conversed with locals and have survived some purchases on my own, even a spontaneous back massage with essential oil at a massage place walking distance from Shanghai University. Tonight, while going to the People’s Square (heart of Shanghai, Ren Min Guang Chang) for a business talk, other students and I navigated ourselves throughout the Shanghai metro station. I’m glad we were put in the position to figure out how to get back to our dorms. During past trips, I have always depended on family when travelling via the metro, taxi, bus, etc. I’ve recently learned that since 1995, the Shanghai metro station has gone from having one line to about thirteen now! This fast-paced development was a primary example used in tonight’s business talk discussing China’s economy and business opportunities (more on that later).
Yesterday a few others and I ran into Joe, a student from Kenya who I met the first day I moved in, very friendly. He introduced us to his friend Miranda, who is from Mexico and has been in China for nine months. We all spontaneously tried out the cafeteria on campus (many of our first time; Joe and Miranda were pro’s at getting around in the cafeteria). Thankfully, he showed us where to go, how to load money onto our student ID’s, and where to dispense our trays. The food was not bad. I think a picky eater would have a hard time, however. The food wasn’t displayed as beautiful as the fancy restaurant food I have regularly been experiencing, but the price was decent. While eating, I learned some interesting things about these new friends of mine. Miranda, from Mexico, will be in China for three more months, so her trip is a year long. She met her boyfriend about four months ago, who is from England. After she moves back home to Mexico, her boyfriend will go back to England for three months and settle with her in Mexico. Meanwhile here in China, Miranda found a job playing with kindergarteners and teaching them how to sing. This was enough to pay for her rented apartment in Shanghai. Miranda was a vibrant individual I had the privilege to meet. It was obvious she was enjoying her time here. Joe from Kenya, I learned, has a Masters degree in Psychology and is now studying Chinese. He has been in China for six weeks.
It is amazing meeting people you’d never expect to cross paths with. I enjoy those conversations in which we are eager to learn about one another, where we are from, how much Chinese we know, what we are doing here, etc. On this trip so far, I have seen beautiful city sites, especially at night. I’m expanding my vocabulary in my Chinese classes and learning tai chi for the first time. I’m meeting new people, and making new friends. I’m slowly but surely learning my way around Shanghai University. I’m planning future day trips with my classmates and even considering taking a cooking class with my friend Arthi. I have had simple conversations with locals and made purchases. I am working on finding a potential language partner on a conversation exchange website. I’ve gained professional perspective in terms of making the right choices to reach success. I’ve already had my fair share of the best fruit one could ever have, litchi. As mentioned before, a few others and I, along with the program director attended a business talk tonight in the city center, People’s Square. It was held in The Book Room coffee shop and was a great time to network and hear three speakers, aka “China Hands”, individuals following a tradition of people who came to China to explore, learn, experience, and excel. Listening to these Shanghai executives and entrepreneurs provided great perspective. Through their personal stories, success factors, and industry tips, we were able to take back fresh insight. “Marketing dynamo” Nancy Pon, grew up in Turtleford, Canada, a small town of 504 people. Unexpectedly, she was able to cross a lot of things off her personal bucket list, including becoming a TedX speaker, and acting in a commercial. She came to be on an advisory board of a successful business in Shanghai. Her perspective and tips were enlightening. She advised that in order to reach success, you must be willing to change and commit to what you want. Adil Husain, an “economic maven” is from Pakistan. He was offered a job in Shanghai, dropped his previous job so that he could intensely study Chinese for two months. His program did not allow the students to speak unless it was in Chinese. Studying was a day-long thing, in addition to meals. The intensity of this program and Adil’s dedication to learning Chinese was inspiring. I was especially intrigued by “connector extraordinaire” Angie Eagan’s story. She moved to China in 1995 from San Francisco and ended up staying. Her main takeaway was that anything is possible in Shanghai and nothing is possible in Shanghai, meaning it all depends on what you set yourself out to achieve and what is possible within you. Angie believed that if she were to stay in the United States, she would not have the same opportunities Shanghai had offered to her. While Nancy said knowing Chinese language is necessary, Adil said it is possible to thrive professionally without knowing how to converse and get by in Chinese, however it is more difficult. After the event, I personally asked Nancy Pon what mainly helped her learn Chinese. She said she intensely studied Chinese for one year and she is still not fluent. Attending this event gave me fresh perspective and motivated me to learn Chinese and succeed in my profession.
I’ve already experienced so much and I look forward to recording my future experiences so that I can carry them with me always.