I have a little less than 2 weeks until I'm back in China- that means 2 weeks until I get to eat my favorite street food, 2 weeks until I am the "lao wai" (old outsider) again, 2 weeks until hot water is the norm to drink and I am surrounded by way too many people in a crowded bus.
However, as excited as I am for all of those things, I anticipate that it will be strange to go back in this way. Last semester I traveled with a small group of students and instructors around China for 3 months, getting to see a bunch of crazy cities across the country, riding trains and overnight buses, and generally moving around every 4-5 days during the first half of the trip. Now, for the first time I'll be stationary, living in one gigantic Chinese city for a long stretch of time, having the time to dig into the nooks and crannies of a place. This program will be a step up in terms of Chinese language intensity too, and a test to my independence and ability to manage on my own. It'll be a challenge to have to carve out my own community. This feels very much like a natural next step for me, but as with every big change, I'm a little nervous!
I anticipate that Shanghai will feel both very familiar and exceptionally foreign, which, in some ways is exactly as it should be. I would never want to step out of a Chinese train station or airport and feel like I know exactly what to expect. In any case, whether I'm immediately ecstatically happy or take a while to adjust or feel lonely or discouraged or whatever, I know that I'm going to learn a TON from whatever goes on, and that in itself makes the risk worth it. Can't wait to give my first update in-country!