On August 31, 2017 at 20:06, I landed in Shanghai at Pudong International Airport. I was supposed to arrive after 16:00 but the flight was delayed for over 3 hours coming from Toronto. Although over the years I have had the honor of travelling around the world, this was a move like no other and I knew it will not be an easy one. China has always been the place on my list to travel to, but never thought it would be for Masters degree and living in Shanghai as an International Student. There were lot of questions than answers but this was one opportunity I couldn’t let pass by.
September and October of 2017 were the hardest as it was the adjustment stage. The food, language, culture and environment was all new. I had went from a very busy time in Edmonton, Canada with community activism to sleeping almost everyday before classes began in Shanghai. I felt lonely, stressed and was not eating well. Because of the language, there were times I knew not of the food that I was ordering and once it came, my stomach was not in agreement most of the times. At times I was very frustrated and very much home sick. I missed my family, friends, community and the awesome work in the community with DAYA. If this was my first abroad experience, with no doubt I could have bought a one-way back ticket to Canada, but I knew better! As a former Refugee, not much as come easy throughout my life. So I took courage and told myself this is just the beginning and the adjustment phase shall pass. Our classes began in mid-September and I was very excited to be busy with school. I am studying Masters of International Relations at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). Our classes are fully taught in English with local and international teachers. As our district is Songjiang, far from the center, not many local people speak English besides the students.
Although the classes of our program are fully in English, we are also taking Mandarin class and it didn’t start until early October. In September, I was still having a hard time to adjust to the new environment and when the language class began in October, I felt like the impossible had just started. Every week we would learn new words and there was a test of the new words learned with their English meanings. The Mandarin class became very busy than my own Masters program since at times I was overstressing because I didn’t understand most of the time what was going on. I was very far behind and when the teacher would ask me something, it took awhile to register what was being asked. There were even days I would want to miss the Mandarin class because I had no idea what was going on most of the times. I told myself that the solution is not to missing classes but working hard. When life throws us with a challenge, the solution is not to give up or run away, but face it and try to make things better. I took courage and started asking fellow local students who I had become friends with for support with the class lessons. Whenever we would learn new words, I would ask my friends for support going over and over again until I knew not only the meaning but also how to write the words and trying to get the tones right. This extra support outside of class made me starting to slowly love the language. The more I learned, the more support I received, and the more the Mandarin class finally started to become so much fun. In the class the teacher and fellow students started to notice how I went from ZERO to responding almost right away and having fun in class. Life and learning started to become awesome again! The solution was not to miss class, but to ask for the right support and work hard accordingly. And with the right support, I started achieving the nearly impossible. When we’re in the process of achieving, we feel that we’re unstoppable and ready for anything that life might throw at us.
I was back home in Canada for the month of February 2018 for semester break and it was great to even practice my Mandarin once in awhile. Also, I flew with Hainan Airlines (a Chinese airline) and I was even ordering my food in Mandarin!! It is amazing what can happen in few months! When we don’t give up, but instead work hard to achieve what our mind thought were the impossible, life feels amazing. I am now back in Shanghai for the second semester of the program and so excited to get going again. The goal is to engage more with locals and speak fluent Mandarin. Pictured below is a young girl who was sitting next to me in flight coming back to Shanghai!! We were speaking in Mandarin and English as her English was great! And she was helping me with my Mandarin. There’s this amazing quote by Paulo Coelho which says, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Although the move to China was very difficult at the beginning, I continue to witness the amazing love, care and support from all those around me. Friends are always there to support me in any way possible. I am humbled to now call China home and I couldn’t wait to come back for the second semester. Although it was sad to once again leave home, I was filled with great excitements to come back to China to continue my program and learning the language. I am grateful for everything and can’t wait to see what God has in store for rest of the year!
Please kindly stay tuned on this site and my social media platforms @HumanitySeed for continuous experience and adventure of life in China!
#HumanitySeed: For the love of Humanity and Travel