Published: January 30th 2013January 30th 2013
Shanghai at night
My new home starting February 23rd
Before heading off to China for the semester, I find myself in a strange limbo between vacation and school. All my Babson peers have already begun classes or flown off to their study abroad destinations. However, my program does not begin for nearly another month and I'm attempting to fill the time with my measely 15 hours of on-campus work and attending biweekly Mandarin language classes at Babson. Despite the "calm before the storm," my excitement and anxiety are slowly building. Chelsea, my Sigma sister and close friend throughout our travels in London, England last summer, studied in Shanghai last semester. I've been attempting to pick her brain and extract as much information as possible about her experiences in China to facilitate my own cultural learning curve. To my dismay, my latest discovery included her concession that local Shanghainese food is disgusting and that McDonald's will become my best friend... too bad I hate fast food even in America. I guess I'll have to find restaurants I like, learn to cook in less than a month, or make peace with the fact that I'll be living off spiders and dog for over 3 months.
Despite my apprehension of edible insects
and household pets, I am also losing sleep over the fact that I know very little Mandarin. Although my one semester (and counting) have created a solid, elementary foundation, I'm not sure the vocabulary I've been learning will really help me when I'm lost in the city, trying to figure out the public transportation system, or ordering food in a restaurant. Nevertheless, I recently purchased 2 travel guides to Shanghai and Chinese customs that will hopefully guide my travels and I'm bringing along my textbook to ensure all my useless vocabulary is close at hand. In other words, I'm really banking on the fact that people in Shanghai are pretty fluent in English.
What I've gathered from people who have traveled to Shanghai as well as those who live there, is that my life will be exponentially different. Some of the obvious aspects are of course the culture, the food, the language, the people, the currency, the classes I will be taking, and living in a big city. However, I expect that the other Americans on my program will be just as unfamiliar and unsettled with the surroundings as me and hopefully there will be alleviation in numbers. The
The East China Normal University where I will be studying for 3.5 months
whole reason I chose to go to China, other than the fact that it is up and coming for business, is because I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone and I expect to do just that. Which leads me to my goals for the semester:
• try food I would never have dreamed of eating
• have a full conversation in Mandarin with a native speaker
• wander around the city and stumble upon a "hidden gem"
• become a regular at a cafe, restaurant, or bar
• get a tailored suit (I hear it's a must)
• befriend a local, Chinese student
• travel to Chengdu (to pet a panda) and hike Huang Shan (or take a gondola up) to see the view
• travel to Hong Kong and hopefully Taiwan (depending on the visa situation)
• compare Chinese business to American business
• (if credits allow) enroll in the Organizational Internship
• meet with a business person and get their opinions on globalization
• gain conversational proficiency in Mandarin
• learn about business customs in China
• attend 90% of classes (there's no class on Fridays so that shouldn't be too difficult)
• make friends in the puny classes
• visit Babsonites studying nearby
That's all for my one-month-to-departure blog post. Tune in next time as February 23rd inches closer.