Shanghai Program: Going outside your comfort zone

Guest post by Chandler Sipes, student participant in the Foster School: Shanghai Program 2016

Shanghai Chandler Sipes

“Life happens at the end of your comfort zone.” –Neale Donald Walsh

Growing up, I always played it safe in life. I consistently took on the role as “mom”; I cleaned up after everyone, followed the rules down to the periods and commas, and lacked any adventurous qualities. After starting my education at the University of Washington, I was suddenly surrounded by individuals that were not afraid to take risks. Every one of them seemed to frequently share elaborate stories about their escapades; there was such elegance in their speech—something I became very envious of.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I took a class entitled AP European History. The content of the course was fascinating to me—I knew I needed to explore the world in order to advance my intellectual creativity and cultural knowledge. Since starting at the University of Washington, I vigorously researched study abroad programs, originally planning on studying somewhere in Western Europe. Never did I expect myself to venture off to Asia, but I am so thankful for the experience thus far. The idea first came to me when the global business center director visited my Accounting class, introducing us to the Foster School: Shanghai Program. I decided to apply and once accepted, the decision of whether or not to take on this adventure seemed obvious—so, by March, I had a one-way plane ticket booked to Shanghai, China.

After an eleven hour flight and a brief panic attack, I found myself suffocated by the humidity, foreign tongues, and lack of personal space. I felt incredibly out of place, my excitement quickly turned into anxiety. Once I arrived to my dorm room, I realized that I beat my roommate. Although it gave me a moment to get situated on my own, it also allowed for the apprehension to set in. I was in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unknown faces, and I quickly questioned if I had made the right decision to take part in this venture.

Although I have only been in the incredible city of Shanghai for a little over a week, I feel much more comfortable. I have yet to pick up the Chinese characters on street signs and I still rely on others to order food for me, but I truly feel as if I am making every effort I can to immerse myself into the Asian culture. From company visits with both local start-ups and big name businesses, to getting purposely disoriented in the biggest city in China, I have gained knowledge and friendships that I feel will last a lifetime. I thought my adjustment so far from my comfort zone would take much longer, but if I have learned anything, it’s that I was ready to leave my nest far before I imaged. I have become so fascinated by the culture here that I am almost afraid for the program to end—I fear I may feel lost amongst my previous securities. After voicing this fear to my fellow classmate, she smiled and told me, “That’s because Seattle is no longer your home; you belong to the world now!”

Here’s to two more weeks in Shanghai—more details and life insight to come.