In my 19 years of life I’ve realized that there isn’t much that’s more painful than waiting in line. I try to avoid situations involving lines as much as possible, but I somehow always end up back in bureaucratic hell. So, in honor of my unfortunate fate, I’d like to list my least favorite lines, in ascending order: waiting in line to ride on Space Mountain at Disney World, waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles and waiting in line to apply for a visa at the Chinese consulate.
There are a couple of reasons why applying for a visa was far more stressful than I could have imagined. Though I like to tell myself that I am getting pretty close to fluent in Chinese, the all-Chinese layout of the consulate left me bewildered and doubtful of my own skills. The first time I went into San Francisco to try and get my application processed, I had everything I needed except for the final date of my stay. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to complete the application without this information, so I headed home, unbelievably discouraged.
I went back the next week fully determined to get my visa. I wasn’t totally sure at any point that I was doing the right thing, but I hung around the consulate until my number was called — in Chinese. Lucky for me, the woman who handled my visa application was more than accommodating and I finally got my visa ready to go for my Feb. 8 flight to Shanghai.
Another preparation I had to make had to do with money. I tried numerous times to get my U.S. dollars converted to Chinese Yuan, but I was to no avail. I am just hoping I can figure this out at the airport. I did, however, get my debit card approved for overseas purchases so now I luckily will not be without money in a foreign country.
My most important preparation has been keeping up with studying the Chinese language. Of course, I’ve been studying Chinese for nearly six years now, but I’ve tried to reinvigorate my studies in the past few months. Since I am about to submerge myself head first into the language, I’ve tried a couple of new methods to accelerate my learning. I’ve watched a couple of Chinese-made movies, including John Woo’s war epic Chi Bi and the Donnie Yen kung-fu action film Ip Man. I’ve read over the chapters of my old Chinese textbooks and even made flashcards. Though using flashcards may seem normal to most, it’s a new experience to me and is proving very helpful in my attempts to learn more Chinese before I get to Shanghai.
With all of this preparation completed, I feel ready to go to Shanghai. In addition to what I’ve listed above, I have begun packing, reading up on life in Shanghai and saying goodbye to my friends. I honestly could fly to Shanghai tomorrow if necessary, though my flight is not until Saturday. So for now, I wait.
However, waiting for this trip has become more difficult than I would have imagined. I cannot count the nights I’ve spent in bed, unable to sleep, thinking of the possibilities of the next few weeks. Though the Boston University Study Abroad Office and the leaders of the Shanghai program have done a great job to get us all prepared for arriving in China, I still have almost no idea what my daily routine will look like or what aspects of my life will be drastically different.
One aspect that I am definitely looking forward to is the food. My roommates would argue that I’ve already adopted an Eastern style of eating and cooking, as rice and green tea have become my staples and I will often splurge on a plate from Super 88, the Asian market down the street from our apartment. However, I am very excited to try more authentic Chinese cuisine, whether it is in a restaurant or one of the many street cuisines Shanghai has to offer.
Although I am eager to practice my Chinese and get better at reading, writing and conversing, I am worried my current level of speaking may not be good enough and I’ll end up lost somewhere with no idea how to get around. Though this is a decently irrational fear, the idea lingers in my head and will probably continue to bother me until I finally have my feet on the ground in Shanghai.
No matter what is on my mind in regard to living in Shanghai, I know that I am ready to get there to experience it all. For now, the only things holding me back are the days until my flight and the flight itself.
上海，下个星期见！ Shanghai, I’ll see you next week!