About three months ago, on May 18, 2012, I arrived in Shanghai, China for a period of time that seemed endless. Traveling away from friends and family has become something that feels like a common occurrence, but this time traveling over 7000 miles away, it felt, and it proved to be, entirely different. This year I begin my senior year of college, a thought that in itself feels over 7000 miles away. Making the decisions to leave the country that contains the people I care deeply about–people who make my heart explode with laughter and love–when I knew I’d only have a limited time remaining with them before the “real world” starts was not an easy decisions. However, I knew that spending this spending my summer in China would be a decision that would forever change me.
When I arrived here it was 3AM and raining terribly, I hadn’t slept for hours, and exhaustion was just setting in as the need for my brain to function in another language was just beginning. Besides the urging desire to land in a bed, me brain raced with thoughts of “What the hell did you get yourself into Bobby!?” and “If I could go home now, I would!”. While these may have been the thoughts of an intimidated and sleep-deprived Bobby, I can’t help but consider those as true thoughts from the heart. Tonight is my last night in Shanghai, and as I say my goodbyes and revisit my favorite sites I can’t help but appreciate what I have learned this summer.
My first inevitable thought is that people, no matter where they are from, are truly wonderful. While some may believe that people are inherently bad, I however have had experiences that prove just the opposite. Whenever I have felt lost, hopeless, confused, or in need of assistance there has always been someone willing to help the wayward traveler. This thought has also reinstated my faith in the power of a smile. A smile can uniquely brighten someone’s day in ways that are often indescribable. So smile at people and prove that the world is filled with wonderful people.
Aside from concreting my conviction in people, I have also seen the strength behind having an open mind that is willing to learn, explore, and even fail. No matter if you’re in China, the United States, or having a conversation back in your home town, being willing to learn and understand something from another person’s perspective shows genuine maturity. It is an indication of a person who is willing to not be self-focused but driven towards being someone for others. These people are easily spotted as their smile, genuine cheer, and personality overwhelms. Finding these individuals prove the point that people are truly wonderful and further more creates a desire within you to become a person interested in others. An open-minded person, in my opinion, will always go further, be happier, and will find life more meaningful than any other person in the world.
Integrity, decisiveness, and intuition are the final pieces that I have learned while being in China. Having these skills can help you understand what’s being said in a conversation better than actually knowing the language and can help you and the people you’re with gain one another’s respect. I could not say more about the people I have been with that possess these gems and how much I respect their company. When your are with people who do not proudly display these properties, it is clear that something is missing.
Traveling abroad, and in a sense, living abroad are truly wonderful opportunities because as you grow and learn more about others and the world around you, you begin to learn wonders about yourself. I know that this summer I have grown in truly unique ways, and have made transitions in my thoughts that I would not have suspected on the plane ride over. As I remember the people back home, and their willingness to stay connected, I realize how deeply I care for those individuals. As I think of the sights and sounds of the people and places in and around Shanghai, I realize how connected our world is and how much we rely on one another. As I sit in my room finishing what could be my final blog posting in China, I realize just how truly amazing this summer has been and how much I deeply appreciate anyone who even glanced at this page. Thank you Shanghai. Thank your friends.
Also, while I know an “ode” is a positive thing about something, the YouTube video that will eventually be below is just the opposite… Enjoy it… whenever it gets uploaded as I work my way through the blocking of the Chinese government for one of the last times.