Caleb Kostreva is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A public policy and civic leadership; social science (global studies emphasis) major at Howard Payne University, he is studying abroad in Shanghai this term.
In this week's post, Caleb talks about why he chose to study in China, and his first few days living in a new culture.
As I begin this post, I am flying over Japan, about an hour and a half away from Shanghai. After I land I will be flooded with an environment that I haven’t been in since I was in China 12 years ago; the language, the culture, the food, everything that I am accustomed to in America will be different. As every minute passes, I am both nervous and excited to experience the adventure of the disorientation and lack of familiarity. With that in mind, I figure this is an appropriate time to put my goals for this semester into words.
Photo: Preparing to board my flight from Denver
GOALS FOR STUDYING ABROAD IN SHANGHAI
Why did I choose to study in China? Among other reasons, I took some Mandarin in high school, and I eventually want to become fluent. I see this as the best option for me right now to help accomplish this goal. This way, I can expand my understanding and application of the language astronomically.
I want to better understand the culture and the people. The United States is blessed to be a breeding ground for ideas and subcultures, but that can only take a person so far. I want to truly become a diverse individual going beyond race, gender, religion, or any other “labels.” This requires a knowledge and understanding of people and ideas. I aspire to bring people together and unify us behind common interests throughout all of my life, and so I hope to understand and live in China’s culture as any Chinese person would – to step into their shoes.
My third major goal in the next three and a half months is to have the opportunity to have an impact on people. I am hoping to volunteer at an orphanage in Shanghai. I will likely write more on this as the logistics fall into place, but this is the one goal of mine that I look forward to the most. I love interacting with people, and I think that this will “make” my semester in China worth every moment (not that it wouldn’t be worth it otherwise).
FIRST IMPRESSIONS ON ARRIVAL
After being approached outside of customs by a taxi driver trying to charge me extra, I rejected him and got into a another taxi to arrive at East China Normal University. It finally began to hit me that this would be my home for the next three and a half months. I have been able to get around and communicate better than I had expected with my little knowledge of Mandarin, and am thankful for the basic understanding of the language that I have.
However, having that basic knowledge of Mandarin means that I know just enough to get me in trouble; for example, I went to order food for supper, and recognized one character had “bird” in it, and another was “noodles.” I assumed it was chicken and noodles, and thought, “How bad can it be?” As my food was being prepared, I looked up the words in my Chinese dictionary, and I began preparing my tongue for something I had not expected. I had ordered Duck Gizzard Soup. It was certainly not the worst thing I have tasted, and am glad that my first meal was memorable, but I will probably not be repeating that meal anytime soon.
Photo: My first meal: Duck Gizzard Soup
Orientation has begun, and it looks like I will not be alone in my quest to become more than a tourist. The entire program is oriented around delving beyond the surface of the global city to experience as much as possible as the locals would. This morning, my roommate and I began exploring the immediate surroundings of the campus, and I am sure that as the semester progresses, that radius of familiarity will expand dramatically. Even from what I have experienced and observed, I am amazed by the city and culture. My senses are overwhelmed as I take each step along this new path, and I look forward to the jaw-dropping, stunning semester ahead of me.
Photo: The lily pond on campus – part of my exploration
Caleb's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.