Life in China

August 27th, 2014 marked a BIG day for me. It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life, a new experience. On this day, 10 Davidson students embarked on the Davidson in Shanghai program, a program that I longed to take part in the moment I became a Wildcat. While I was filled with excitement for the new experiences and opportunities coming my way, I could not help but also feel a bit afraid and nervous about the leap I was taking.

Shanghai is known for being one of the biggest cities in the world. With this being said, I could not help but wonder: how would life be like, would it be too crowded, too noisy, how would I be received by the locals, would I be able to fit in, would I be able to properly communicate with the locals in Chinese given my two years of taking language classes at Davidson?

I have been in Shanghai now for almost two months and I can safely say that I have enjoyed every minute of it! Sure enough, I struggled at first to gather myself and adjust to the new, robust lifestyle. But, little by little I felt like the city was beginning to take me in as one of its own. The constant blaring of horns, whistles, and sirens no longer phased me, andI was beginning to get more comfortable with not only the Chinese communal style of eating–where each person orders a dish meant to be shared with the group–but also with the utensil they use to eat, chopsticks. I no longer felt like a 外国人even though I still looked and dressed like one.

The biggest challenge, however, turned out not to be adapting to the eastern, city-life, but in communicating with the locals. Although I came to China with two years of language experience under my belt, I felt like I was still a novice the moment I tried to bargain for items at the market or order food at restaurants. Not only did I find myself struggling to express myself with the limited vocabulary that I knew, but I also found it difficult to understand what was being said my way since many locals here would be speaking to me in their local dialect, Shanghai-nese, and not in Mandarin. Although some of my Chinese friends have told me that the two languages are similar, to me, having many ways to go before I consider myself to be fluent in Mandarin, both languages sound completely different.

While there is still a language barrier between me and the locals, I will not let it discourage me from continuing to pursue my dream of mastering the Chinese language. Every day, I am thankful to all of those who made my being here a reality. Being in China has definitely improved my language skills (even though I still have a long way to go) since I am constantly being exposed to Mandarin. Although Davidson has taught me well and prepared me for this trip, nothing is better than living in the environment where the language is used 24/7.