“But wait, what are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be abroad?”
If I got a dime for every time someone has asked or texted me a variation of this phrase in the past two months, I’d have collected some solid pocket money.
A year ago, I decided to study abroad in Shanghai for my junior spring semester. I remember checking the tentative program dates and wondering what on earth I was going to do from January through March when my program began. Primarily, it turns out, honing my explanation of why my semester starts after Georgetown students have already taken their first round of midterms. Most people seemed appeased once I explained that the program began only after the Chinese New Year, which took place this year on February 16.
Not being at Georgetown but not being abroad yet either is a weird feeling. I’ve become so used to having every second of my life filled with classes, clubs and meetings. Even in the summer these days, internships take up most of the free time we get, so it was weird to have several months, unscheduled.
Without the pre-determined structure of college to occupy my time, I’ve had the opportunity to do several of the things I always say I’ll do but never get around to. I read books for fun and actually followed through on my New Year’s Resolutions (so far, so good). I even visited a friend in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
These few months in limbo also had the unintended benefit of making me cherish college more. In an age where many college students suffer from depression or experience burnout, this extended break allowed me to clarify my priorities, recover from one of my hardest semesters yet and remember why I chose Georgetown in the first place.
While I’ll admit I’m a bit nervous about finally starting classes in Shanghai and being constantly surrounded by Mandarin, part of me is excited to be back around students my own age and to settle into the comforting groove of college busyness. And I know that when I return to Georgetown in the fall, it will be with a renewed appreciation for all it has to offer.
For now, 再见America and 你好Shanghai!