Expectations vs. Reality of My Semester in Shanghai

Jun 22, 2019 10:44:00 AM / by Imani Wilson

Sometimes expectations won't go as planned when reality comes around; but part of being in a new environment is pushing yourself to adapt to change. In this week's post, Imani opens up about speaking in Mandarin, making friends, and missing food from home. She also shares with us about her overall progress over the semester and how she was able to bring out the best parts of herself while studying abroad in Shanghai.
Being in a new place really changes a person, sometimes temporarily and other times permanently. During this experience I had to know when to change and not to change. Immersing myself into a different culture made it easy to see what I need to work on as well as what I want to keep within my personality and actions in general. I had so many expectations for becoming a different person while abroad. I thought I had to become more confident and outspoken. There were so many expectations that didn’t go as planned, and I had to change my perspective about them.

Subway lookThe metro system was my friend in Shanghai. In the US, I never imagine getting used to it. 

When I came to China I thought that I was going to eat right, and continue working out. It turns out that I ate more junk food in China more than I did in the US. I would go to the convenient stores (like Family Mart) a lot. I think it was because I got sick of Chinese food and wanted something more American. The closest thing I could find to American snacks were Doritos, Oreos, chocolate bars, sliced apples, baby carrots, ice cream, and peanut butter crackers. I could’ve gone out to Texas Roadhouse, Shake Shack, or Cheesecake Factory, but they were kind of far away by metro. In total I developed a bad sweet tooth that will be hard to get rid of when I go back to the US.

Friends in FuxingI decided to randomly pick a place on the Shanghai metro map and my friends came along.
This is us in 
Fuxing Island. 

I thought that I would love learning Chinese a lot more by the end of the semester. I have definitely learned a lot of Mandarin while in China. I found out that I love learning Chinese at my own pace. This is something that is completely new to me. I usually learn better in class; however, for my Mandarin course I learned a lot better outside of class. With the amount of people who can help you improve your language skills outside a class, it was extremely easy to be corrected and learn all the time. Specifically, when I got laughed at a lot, I tried a lot harder to correct myself and my spoken Mandarin. Although, one thing that did stay the same was procrastinating on homework. However, I believe my mindset changed about it a little. Over time I stopped thinking about how bad or how hard something will be and just started doing it. Stop thinking, just do it. One of the other CAPA students helped me realize that this would work when we were climbing the Great Wall in Beijing.

I thought that it would be easy to find great friends. I didn’t take into account the fact that I don’t speak the same language as them. Even trying to be friends with the other CAPA students was hard for me even though we spoke the same language. The reason being is that I’m an ambivert (introverted but can be an extrovert) and wouldn’t usually go up to someone and talk to them. After a week or two in China, I felt more as if I could talk to anyone, assuming I can speak their language. I eventually found some friends with similar hobbies and mannerisms as me.

Playing BaseballPlaying baseball really helped me adapt to another culture. Even in a different culture, the rules of baseball are the same.

Thankfully, I found a baseball/softball team to practice with. The team was international so there were a few people that knew English which was relieving. Although, because my friends in China are from different countries and backgrounds, it's hard to understand one another’s actions because of our different cultures. I became more understanding and open to other people’s ways of life and pronouncing words. In the end, I got some great like-minded friends and was able to bring out my childlike creativity by going to jump 360 (a trampoline park) and painting classes on weekends. And, as I found other things to do on weekends, it became a lot easier to stick with my decision to not drink after I turned 21.

Disney Cap friendI enjoyed becoming more extroverted. Although it was tough, I got to meet some great people.

Thanks, Imani!

Imani Wilson


Imani Wilson is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Mathematics major at Hood College, she is studying abroad in Shanghai this semester.

Imani's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA Shanghai Program

Topics: Shanghai, China, Local Culture