Chris O'Day

CIEE: Shanghai, China in a Global Context

Term: Spring 2008

Major: International Politics

Standing in line for what seems like hours, I begin to visibly show impatience. I have been in China for three days and I’m still irritable from the jetlag. My host parents and host brother are chatting away, talking about god knows what. I can speak Mandarin relatively well, but the local dialect they are speaking is completely foreign to me and I can’t understand a single word. The line inches forward. My host brother, Tony, can speak English so I take advantage of that. I keep asking him what we are waiting in line for, but he doesn’t tell me. He only says that I will find out soon. We are in what is called ‘Old Town’, in the city of Shanghai. The buildings in ‘Old Town’ are actually brand new, but you wouldn’t know by looking at them. The builders used classic Chinese architecture to create an illusion of age for tourists.

Chris

The line begins to move slowly, and then picks up some unexpected speed. Soon, I feel like I’m in a wave of people. We surge up two flights of stairs, and into a room with a dozen small tables. My host family sits me down and a waiter brings out bamboo containers full of some doughy balls. Everyone is looking at me, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone. I am the only white person, waiguoren, sitting in the restaurant. Three days in and I am already being evaluated by the Chinese people! My host father says, “Chi chi chi”, encouraging me to try the food. The only thing left for me to do is eat, so I pick up one of the dough balls with my chopsticks and put it in my mouth. I bite down. My mouth is immediately burned. There was a boiling broth in the ball! Needless to say, everyone in the restaurant laughed as I let out a yelp, but after I recovered, I laughed too.

Up until this point, I had been shielding myself from Chinese culture, using jetlag as an excuse to board myself up in my room. I think I was a little overwhelmed by what I saw. Shanghai, a large Chinese city, was very different from the small American farm town where I grew up. When I chose to study abroad in China, I thought that it would be easy to adjust when I got over there, and that I would have few problems, if any, to deal with. I was wrong, but after that initial culture shock subsided, a world of new and interesting possibilities opened up for me. You might not study abroad in China, or anywhere remotely close to that country, but I guarantee that studying abroad will open your eyes to the many wonders of our world and give you experiences that will last a lifetime. Please don’t hesitate to stop by the education abroad resource room or email me at ude.usp|0105osc#ude.usp|0105osc if you have any questions.

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