910: Culture Shock
Often times I hear people talking about culture shocks. But what is a culture shock? Is it visiting a poorer side of town, traveling to Europe, having a bizarre Ukrainian family move in next door? When I was 9 years old, I experienced a major culture shock. I moved to Shenzhen, China. At the time, Shenzhen wasn’t as much of a big, bustling city that it is today. Even in these past 5 years that I have lived here, this center of business, economy and life has grown so much, and so have I.
I remember stumbling off of the ferry the first day I arrived here, dragging my big, purple suitcase behind me. I remember my mother and I marveling at our new home; tall buildings, yellow cranes, different people. Coming from suburban America, you can imagine the shock as we stared out of our windows in the red taxi cab, on our way to start our new life. We moved into a small apartment in Shekou, China and it took us a while to really settle in.
For the first 2 years I lived here, I always wanted to go back to my home in Maryland. I was a little bit different than all of the people here. They were all so eccentric, outgoing, different and diverse and I was just boring, old me. I didn’t have the same open-minds that all of the people I was surrounded by did. Most of them saw life as this big adventure full of traveling when before moving here, the farthest I had gone was to Colorado. I wanted to be like these people. I admired them.
After living here for so long and going back to America, I realize that I am just like those crazy, open-minded people that I used to admire. I go back and see how I used to be; only seeing what is right in front of you, never seeing the bigger picture. Let me get one thing straight: in no way do I think that I am better than the people I am describing. I just realize I am so different now that I have lived abroad. I now find myself always looking for adventure or to try something new. I am no longer that girl who used to stay inside reading about all the possible adventures, when I could be living my own.
My school, QSI has provided so many opportunities for me. I have traveled to the amazing island of Hainan, the wilderness of Thailand and the beaches of the Philippines, all on school trips. My classmates and I, each trip, have participated in community service projects such as se turtle rescues and building schools. My favorite though, was this year. In April, while on a trip to the Philippines, my teachers, classmates and I got to visit a very poor island where we were able to experience what it was like to have little to nothing. We met adorable children, and the kindest people I have ever been around. We picked up trash and played with the children all day long. Even though these people together made only around 200 RMB in one year, they were the happiest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. This eye-opening experience has taught me so much about what really matters in life. The once cheesy sounding phrase; “Money can’t buy happiness” means so much to me now. You can be the richest man in the world and not be satisfied, or you could be the poorest man alive and at the same time be the happiest.
Living in Shenzhen, China has transformed me into such a different person than I once was. I now know so much more about the world and I always want to find out even more. I set higher goals for myself and I feel like I’m more open to new opportunities. I am sad that after 5 wonderful years here, I have to say goodbye to this place that I now call home. I have made amazing friends and have had such wonderful adventures and I am glad that I will be able to carry all of the amazing memories with me through my life journey.