Art by Peau Porotesano
When I first applied to Pepperdine, I was already thinking about where I wanted to study abroad. I knew I wanted to go somewhere that was a completely different environment than what I was accustomed to, a place where I could explore and be outside of my comfort zone. For me, that place was Shanghai, China.
Now that I’ve been here for a few months, being uncomfortable and stepping out of my so called “safe zone” has become my new comfort zone. As an only child, I’ve grown to be independent and often stayed in a personal bubble where I felt safe and secure. Yet I’ve noticed recently that being in situations that would normally cause me stress aren’t so bad after all.
It took me a while to familiarize myself with traveling in China after a few domestic and international trips. Airport security is eerily a lot easier and simpler and checking prices on flights and booking hotels and Airbnb rooms have become a norm for me for the past few months. However, I’ve made many traveling mistakes, such as entering the wrong information when booking a flight and even leaving luggage at the security gate.
In one instance in particular, a couple of my friends and I woke up early one Saturday morning to catch a train from Shanghai to Nanjing, the former capital of the Republic of China. We arrived at Nanjing at the Nanjing Railroad Station and spent the day touring the Presidential Palace, Nanjing Massacre museum and Confucius Temple. Our train home would leave Nanjing at 10:25 p.m. that same day, so we tried our best to get the most out of the city before heading back to catch our train home. Unfortunately for us, we were at the wrong train station.
My group had failed to double check our tickets, and should’ve noticed that our train would be departing from Nanjing South Railroad Station, not the train station we arrived in that morning. After frantically running around the train station looking for the ticket office and using the few vocabulary words about transportation to tell the worker that we need a new ticket back to Shanghai, we got tickets that would leave Nanjing at 5:54 a.m. the following morning.
Stressed about the fact that we had nowhere to spend the night and annoyed that our trip went off without a hitch until then, we spent the whole night in the Nanjing train station. The stone walls and hard floor provided no insulation as we bundled under our jackets, taking turns sleeping and keeping watch.
Throughout that night I had plenty of time to reflect on where I was and how all of my hard work has gotten me to where I am now. I thought about how I was living in China and how all of my past decisions and efforts have brought me to this exact moment. Everything I’ve put into schoolwork, extracurricular activities and faith all came with obstacles and stress, but I realized that without all that stress and discomfort, the journey to where I am now would have been too easy. I wouldn’t have learned anything, and wouldn’t have become the person I am today.
Looking back at the experience I had in Nanjing, I can’t help but laugh. Every so often I stress over the small things, but I remind myself that if everything was simple and easy then we wouldn’t learn anything from our experiences. I’ve realized now that stressing and worrying about something I can’t change won’t help me grow.
Accepting my circumstances, seeing what I can do to make the situation better and learning what I can are things I’ve come to be conscious of. Every time I step out onto the busy, crowded streets of Shanghai, I’m now filled with the excitement and awe of the unknown and unpredictable. Bring it on, China.
Follow Chad Jimenez on Twitter: @chad_jimenez95