It’s been a busy first full week of classes in Shanghai which, along with academic stimulation, also brings a more subtle challenge: Where do I sit?
As any college student will tell you, establishing “your” seat early on in the semester is critical in ensuring your desired outcome from the class.
Looking to snag full credit for participation? The front row is for you! Trying to sneak in a couple extra zzz’s in your 8 a.m. class? You’ll have to beat out competitors for a coveted back row seat.
My personal seating philosophy is second-row, off-center, mostly because this usually places me near a window. To me, glancing out a window during class is like a microscopic brain vacation. I love watching the trees, the sky, and the people passing by.
Since this was, as I mentioned previously, my first full week of classes, I’ve done a lot of looking out the window. Neither the trees nor the sky nor the pedestrians are similar to the views I’m used to in South Bend, but they are all the more intriguing for it.
Most buildings surrounding my classrooms are monstrous sky-scraping apartment buildings that are filled with an incredible number of people. The sky is sometimes blue, but it more often has a hazy gray tinge due to the city’s pollution. There’s a whole new set of native plants that wave in the breeze. I like to think that every window I look out of during the day gives me a different snapshot of life in Shanghai.
The windows of my dorm and classroom are great tools for reflection (and no, I do not mean to check my hair throughout the day). They give me a chance to observe the world around me, but they are also limiting. I don’t just want to see Shanghai; I want to truly experience it during my time here. When given the choice of seats, that means choosing to face a window instead of looking at a wall.
However, it also means making the choice to step through a door into the unknown instead of simply watching the view from inside. There is a time to observe, but there is also a time to experience and to feel and to do. In my development as both a Chinese speaker and a citizen of the world, those are the times that will be most rewarding. I am challenged to always choose new instead of comfortable, and to walk through every door that is opened to me.