This was a short two-day school week due to the Mid Autumn Festival. I had class Thursday and Friday and then it was already the weekend again. This weekend was not the most exciting (tummy issues due to eating Chinese food, which my stomach absolutely cannot handle…I think I need to stick to Subway salads (with my own added chickpeas), oatmeal, tofu, and hardboiled eggs…just to play it safe).
This week was also a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I had one of those “bad China weeks”, as us expats living in China commonly refer to days or weeks where life in China is just not going the way we planned and the “China way” doesn’t exactly coincide with our own ideals and philosophies. But hey, that is normal when living abroad. Not everything is going to flow your way. Just accept it. While most of the time I am able to fully embrace Chinese culture and accept that the way of life here is just vastly different than in America, sometimes I reach my limit and certain customs just start to push my buttons. Miscommunication, expired eggs 4 months past the date on the carton, multiple near-death experiences in cab rides, electronics scams with my phone plan were just a few happenings from my “bad China week.”
Aside from these frustrations, I think it was also hard coming back to Shenzhen after visiting my other home in Shanghai last week. In Shanghai, I spent time with my best friends (who are American) – we went running, ate at numerous Western restaurants filled with lots of healthy vegetarian foods, pampered ourselves with hair washes and manicures and just enjoyed catching up on life. It felt so familiar and cozy. I felt almost like I was back in America.
While I really like the international friends I have made here at PKU – they are fun, talented, adventurous, worldly, the list could go on forever… - I think it suddenly hit me how comforting it is to have friends who share the same culture, language and background as me like my American friends in Shanghai. Instead of longing for more Americans who share the same experiences as myself, I want to be more open to learning about the experiences, stories and traditions from my new friends who come from every corner of the world. I think I will be surprised by the connections that are made just by opening myself up and really listening.
Everybody wants to surround themselves with what is familiar and comfortable, but my journey in Shenzhen is clearly not about being comfortable. This whole journey is a massive step outside of my comfort zone. This journey is about learning, growing, pushing myself beyond what I ever thought was possible and discovering a world that is much larger than myself.
All that being said, this week was hard. I kind of lost my momentum and got thrown off track.
After a peaceful walk around campus, some self-reflection, some tea sipping, some Netflix watching, a few Skype sessions with my close friends back home, a healthy meal off campus and a hot shower – I feel ready to get back on track and embrace my life here in Shenzhen.
I have come to terms with the fact that being a grad student in China in not always going to be rainbows and sunshine, but rather an exciting adventure filled with MANY bumps along the way. I can’t let those bumps throw me off track. I think having routines and some predictability in my schedule will help keep me centered and balanced. I know life itself is a journey with many bumps in the road, but life abroad is a whole new level of bumps! I know I can do this. I know that this experience in Shenzhen for two years is going to shape me in ways I can’t yet imagine. I just need to live it as fully as possible and see where life takes me. For now, one day at a time!
Every day is a fresh start – what a beautiful thing! I woke up today ready to move on from my “bad China week” and turn it into a “fantastic China week”. After my self-reflection and newfound realizations, I feel a trillion times better. The two years here are going to fly by, so I need to do everything in my power to make the most of every single day. I am lucky to have the opportunity to study with students from all around the world, to have unlimited opportunities to practice my Mandarin, to travel around Asia and to learn for free! I know there are going to be a million more bumps during my two-year journey. I know I will constantly miss the connections I share with my American friends and family. I know I will encounter many more frustrations with cultural differences. It is all part of my incredible once-in-a-lifetime adventure and will make me stronger in the end. EMBRACE IT!
During my self-reflection, I made some goals for myself that I want to accomplish in the next two years. These goals will keep me focused, centered and energized. Bring it on!
- Learn how to properly conduct a tea ceremony and learn about the functions of different teas.
- Learn my way around Hong Kong and make it my “other city”.
- Find or create an expat running group (I have yet to find one!)
- Try different martial arts and choose one to focus on and really develop.
- Intensive Chinese study to reach the highest HSK level upon graduation.
- Travel to: Yangshuo, Guilin, Xian, India, Thailand and Vietnam.
- Get a meaningful internship in my second year that helps me discover my career direction.
- Learn my Shenzhen directions and feel comfortable biking around the city.
- Learn deep breathing and meditation techniques to keep me balanced.
- Successfully complete military training.
It’s a start! I don't want to make too many goals; otherwise I won’t be able to achieve them all.
Hope everyone had a great weekend!
I would appreciate any words of wisdom you want to share with me to help my “fantastic China week” start off on the right note.