I truly can’t believe I’ve been back in the United States for over a month. So much has happened between the time my plane landed in Atlanta, GA 35 hours after leaving Beijing to this current moment as I sit on the couch in my new apartment in Athens, GA, that I haven't had time to think about what I've done, only what I'm about to do. From the moment I left China to the moment I started school a few weeks ago, I was constantly going somewhere. From Shanghai I went to a conference a week later back in the US.
Now that I’m back at school I’ve finally had time to reflect on this past summer, and that was an adventure in itself.
When I think of China, a rush of feelings and emotions flood my head more than memories. I find my mind going back to smells of frying oil and sounds of street vendors selling everything from pearls to laptops around me. Memories of the hot and humid weather as a result of the daily random shower storms. Feelings of confusion of not knowing the language around me is combined with the comforting reminder that the friends I made in my project who spoke English would be by my side. I miss the feeling of waking up knowing that no matter what we did, it would be an adventure because we were in Shanghai. The feelings of independence mixed with a fear of running out of data in case I did need help finding my way. My mind goes back to those times when I missed my friends back home, but would always be able to look around and see my new friends from all over the world. I remember how hard it was at times, but how easy it came to be when things settled down. The trek from the hostel to the metro station to the center where we worked comes to mind as a joyful but long memory.
With all of this, I do recognize that remembering how I felt and the sensations around me gets harder to do with each attempt. I am thankful for things like my “Shanghai Squad” group message which greets me every morning with 200+ message notifications as everyone besides me in that group lives 10 hours at least in the future. Luckily, I get to surround myself with my friends at UGA and know that across the world I have friends who I can reflect on this summer with.
A year ago if you had told me I would go to Shanghai, China alone for two months and work at a center for kids with autism, I would have asked you if your crystal ball was broken. Having this experience and all that came with it is something I’m proud of and thankful for. Leaving your comfort zone for the unknown world isn’t something that comes naturally to many, especially not me. But as someone once said,
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” -Unknown
This is part four of Maital's journey in Shanghai. Check out the other parts!
Part 1: http://aiesecus.org/blog/finding-myself-in-shanghai
Part 2: http://aiesecus.org/blog/how-a-bowl-of-soup-made-me-brave
Part 3: http://aiesecus.org/blog/why-did-you-choose-china-exposed