While finals week is underway back at home, I’ve been marching to the beat of a different drum in Shanghai. My semester started incredibly late – a solid month and a half later than ND – to accommodate the Chinese New Year, and now I’m paying my dues for the extra weeks of couch-time I logged back at home. It’s a bittersweet time to reflect on the experiences my classmates stateside are having; finals are undeniably stressful, but I secretly love the building sense of anticipation that comes with the unstoppable advent of summer. As other friends abroad return home and as my classmates prepare for their summer endeavors, I’ve taken stock of my time in China thus far and how I want to set the tone for my remaining weeks at school.
Firstly, I want to live lighter. I had been warned about how easy it is to overpack for a semester abroad, yet I still fell into that all-too-easy trap. I’m not rolling in excess items, but a more basic selection in my closet and fewer unnecessary beauty items would be preferable. In my travels both around Shanghai and its surrounding cities, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of having only the basics. A lighter backpack and less time spent packing / organizing / unpacking gives me more opportunities to do what I am here to do – go out and explore China.
Secondly, I want to be more mindful. Shanghai’s spring weather is beautiful, something I’m forced to realize every morning on my fifteen minute walk across campus to class. My sense of time running out, exacerbated by seeing my friends from other study abroad locations actually returning home, has made me take a new look at how I spend each day here. Unfortunately, too much of my time is wasted playing on my phone. I would much rather be spending it taking in the sunshine on a stroll next to the river, people watching on the busy streets outside the main gate, or getting my homework done early so I can enjoy a leisurely dinner off campus. Hopefully, being more mindful of my time use is something I can carry through the rest of my semester and even take back home with me.
Finally, I want to be more patient. Coming from America, China is a country that demands patience. Making mistakes as a semi-fluent foreigner, from ordering the wrong menu item to catching the wrong bus, is unavoidable. It was easier at the beginning of the semester to accept the eccentricities of Chinese culture with patience because it was all during an adjustment period. Now, however, I’ve found myself less patient with the people I interact with on the street, and even with my American classmates as I start to feel more and more enthusiastic about returning home. My spring break this past week helped me to take a step back, reset, and remember the type of traveler I want to be.
With less than five weeks left, I know the rest of my semester will fly by. A refreshed attitude and a renewed commitment to embracing my Chinese life will ensure that I am going out on a high note!