My Experience Abroad in Shanghai, China

I have to say that coming to China for my fall semester of junior year was one of the best choices I have ever made. Initially, I was very hesitant to even apply to this program in fear that I would not be able to complete my major once I return to Davidson College or that I would be missing out on something back home. However, now I can say with utmost certainty that everyone should go abroad at least once! Being in China has taught me many things about myself and how I am able to handle being in a new environment completely on my own.

While in on the Davidson in China program we did a lot of traveling as a group. Our first stop was Yunnan Province. While there we were exposed to various Chinese cuisines and cultures. We were in Dali, Kunming, Lijiang and other places as well. The most notable thing while traveling around those different places were the people that we interacted with. Even though each place is roughly three to four hours away from one another each city was completely different from the previous one. In Kunming, it felt like I was in a less chaotic Shanghai, but when I was in Dali I felt like I was in a rural area surrounded by mountains. It was like going from Boston, Massachusetts and in a couple of hours landing in the midwest of the United States.

Aside from traveling and interacting with the people that live in those areas, the food in China is amazing! There is this app called Dianping that many of us found useful when trying to find new places to eat. That app is similar to what the Yelp app is in America, only it is completely in Mandarin. If you love spice and are willing to try things that initially may not come off appealing then living in China will be easy. There were some places where I was able to get a taste of Western food when I was feeling a little homesick. The best experience I had while in Shanghai was eating at a rooftop restaurant on the Bund at night. It was beautiful to just sit above the Huangpu River and enjoy my delicious Italian meal while admiring the Pudong district across the way. Basically, just try everything while in China because you never know what dishes you may end up falling in love with.

There were some culture shocks that I was not expecting. I knew that not having a Western toilet was going to be a little challenging, but I did not realize what it would mean to be Asian in China. I have had both positive and negative interactions while explaining my nationality to some of the local people. On one hand, I have had people be fascinated and continue to ask me questions, while I have had others blatantly exclude me from conversations or argue with me that I am Chinese once I told them I am Cambodian. This was something I was not prepared for nor knew I would experience, but it still does not take away from my overall experience in China. I would return to China in a heartbeat if given the chance. It is amazing to be able to immerse yourself into another culture and being able to speak a different language. This was my first time ever traveling outside of the United States and it has convinced me that I need to travel even more. 

I wanted to include a picture of a woman that I ended up having a close but distant relationship with. She is the bing lady next door to the building I attended class in. I went to her stall every day to order the same thing and after the first or second time I went she began to remember me. She would greet me with a smile every day and smirk at the fact that I was back again. Her shop has been open for 10 years and I can understand why. If you end up being on the Davidson in China program, go to 国年路 and visit her. It is interactions like this that make going abroad worth it. I loved the community that I lived in and the experiences that I had while traveling.