Goodbai, Shanghai

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I remember three Augusts ago when I stepped foot upon the sweltering heat of this city. The unbearable humidity was frustrating, and the language barrier even more so. Even as someone who used to live in Korea, China was such a foreign place to me. I’m not one to get really personal, but moving from the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia to a bustling oriental city in the middle of high school, I took a while to find my place between friends, school, and family (and multiple existential crises that still tend to happen occasionally). But as much as I struggled in the beginning, I’ve had some pretty cool adventures, learned priceless lessons, and made some of the best friends. Now the time has come to say goodbye to this amazing city, but I’m proud to say that Shanghai will always be like home to me.

Wow. Getting kind of too emotional thinking about leaving. Hopefully I’ll come back someday!

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During the two years of high school I spent in Shanghai, I found that you could really find friends that have a deeper understanding for you than anyone else. Because I moved across several countries, I was often the new kid at school, and truthfully, it was never easy to approach someone and start being best friends. But the friends I made at international school had gone through what I was going through, and I had friends who would save a seat for me at lunch, pull almost-all-nighters together, rave at concerts, and just be there when I needed someone to talk to. And I can say that I would do all of these again, and more, for the best friends I made in Shanghai.

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And this semester was something different altogether. Even though it’s such a cliché thing to say, when you come back home, everything looks the same, feels the same, smells the same, but something is different….and you realize that what’s changed is you. My own sister told me how much I’ve changed; not the kind of change that makes you seem foreign and distant, but the gradual kind of change that makes you realize that you’ve grown and matured as a person. I had a lot of stories to tell after spending some time in New York, and I had a lot more friends to share them with.

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People ask me why I chose to study abroad in Shanghai, when I’ve already lived here. I could have gone to London or Prague and traveled all across Europe, but I guess I thought it was right to spend as much time as possible hanging out with my family. After all, my parents and my sister are my ultimate supporters and friends, and I don’t want to make them feel like I’m just a remote part of their life doing her own thing. Also, thinking about how I was a college sophomore already made me a bit restless because it made me realize how fast time was passing, and how little time I had to spend time with my mom and dad. Commuting from my house to school every morning and back was quite a challenge, especially when you’re dying to hang out with all your friends over at the dorms! But all in all, I think I learned to cherish what was good in my life, accept the troubles that come in my way, and appreciate the little perks of life in Shanghai, because I knew what it felt like to miss them.

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I’m gonna miss the ginormous saved ice at Bellagio, my church, the all-too-often encounters with my high school teachers in my neighborhood, the crowded Shanghai subway (and the 987 public bus aka my school bus), three-hour lectures, nerve-wracking presentations, my favorite day trips to the French Concession, the amazing Sherpa delivery service that I discovered too late, my four adorable students I got the privilege to tutor this semester, the somewhat relatively milder Shanghai winter weather, Chinese holidays, TaoBao, my daily cappuccino at the second floor café of NYU Shanghai, the tiny streets of Tianzifang, being my Korean self in Gubei K-Town, Strictly Cookies and their deliciously evil banana cookies, cheap bubble tea (grass jelly, yum), ordering shoes from ASOS, my microwaved oatmeal breakfasts, night outs and sleepovers, complaining about the air quality but never actually wearing a mask, the fake market, puzzles with the whole family, our super awesome Ayi, listening to Shanghainese I can’t understand, oh, and so much more.

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I’m ready to start a new chapter of my life, and I’ll be having some fun time in Seoul in January 2015!! Can you believe it? 2014 is already over… There’s still so much I want to say about getting to live in Shanghai, but I don’t dare put them into words, because words would just not be enough. With nothing but good vibes, goodbai, Shanghai.

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