Kara’s Adventure in Shanghai!

For more than a month, Shanghai became Kara’s home. Kara Medina, currently a sophomore studying BA Psychology at the University of Philippines Diliman, interned for the Red Wings Project of AIESEC SISU (AIESEC Shanghai International Studies University). She went to different community centers and schools, practicing english with kids and retired elderly. Along with this, she also presented the Philippines to them namely about culture, history etc. Also part of her internship, she was tasked to learn about the Chinese culture, like calligraphy, Tai Chi and the like. Read on as to how Kara creates her own definition of traveling through this trip!

There’s more to these places than by just looking at them through pictures. Kara ventured Shanghai! Where do you plan yours? Travel the world! Go on exchange! Sign-up now! http://aiesecupd.org/go/whynotnow

Kara with her friend from Shanghai

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves;
and we travel, next, to find ourselves.

    Forty-two days in Shanghai allowed a considerable amount of getting lost and finding my way, only to get lost once again – and this held true for external and internal journey alike.

More than the long stretch of the resplendent Bund which my co-interns and I visited at least once a week, the traditional Buddhist temple right in the middle of the bustling metropolitan, or the occasional lovely peach blossom tree around the bend, what made Shanghai truly alluring for me was its people. The life lessons I brought home came from the offhand comments and philosophical conversations I had with those I crossed paths with.

We travel to open our hearts and eyes
and learn more about the world
than our newspapers will accommodate

I knew firsthand about hospitality of the universal kind. My AIESEC buddies, Cathy and Janey, jumped through hoops for me — picking me up at the airport with welcome banners and a stuffed panda, taking me to see Titanic 3D when I spontaneously mentioned it, bargaining with haughty vendors at the Yuyuan Tourist Bazaar, and bringing me to almost every tourist destination I showed interest in: the zoo (they knew I liked pandas), the Botanical Gardens (I was determined to attend the Peach Blossom Festival), even the old town Zhujiajiao (which was my favorite weekend trip). They bought me metro cards, phone cards, city brochures, and tickets to the Maglev Line, which I thought of only at the last minute.

Welcome for Kara

Kara’s visit to a zoo

My interaction with the Chinese spanned three generations. On Tuesdays and Fridays I played games and recited English words with my Grade 1 and Grade 5 kids — my favorite was this marshmallow-cheeked boy who looked exactly like Russell from Up. On the other weekdays, I went to the community centers to learn tai chi, calligraphy, and Chinese culture, history, and economy with/from the retired elderly. Some days, my senior-citizen friends treated me to lunch in the best noodle restaurants in town. On weekends, I explored the old city with various students from Shanghai International Studies University.

Kara with the kids

Kara learns Tai Chi

And of course, every night is an adventure with my Brazilian-German-Indian-Polish-Filipino co-interns and English-American-British-Chinese hostel friends. We liked ordering oily rice and chicken hearts from our favorite barbecue man, playing a strange version of Uno (I happened to be the most frequent champion, by the way), sweet-talking the receptionist to buy dumplings for us at ungodly hours, taking shots of an awful unnamed ‘Chinese vodka’ on the scenic rooftop, and planning weekend getaways to places like Hangzhou and Suzhou. I miss these people the most.

Kara with co-intern Elizabeth Shie

Kara with her co-interns

So travel, for many of us, is a quest
for not just the unknown, but the unknowing;

    There were a number of things I didn’t know prior to living alone for six weeks. I didn’t know how to do my own laundry and hang them out to dry. I didn’t know how to sleep on a hard mattress in a dorm with four Chinese roommates. I didn’t know how to use just gestures to buy food because I couldn’t speak the vendor’s language. I didn’t know how to run very desperately so as not to be left behind by a departing train. I didn’t know how to memorize interchanges, bus routes, or city streets out of necessity. After a while, I came to know that it was all right to not know things sometimes.

And that is why many of us travel
not in search of answers, but of better questions.

    Going on exchange taught me that the world is far smaller than we think it is. There is so much to do and be, and so many ways to do and be those things. There are so many people to meet, so many places to go to, and so many life-changing experiences to be had. There are countless opportunities to touch children’s lives, to learn from strangers, to find uncharted alleys, to taste exotic delicacies, and to study unknown tongues. I’ve found it’s fairly easy to have extraordinary adventures when one is lost.

All we have to do is want to be lost.
And even as the world seems
to grow more exhausted,
our travels do not.

**Lines from Why We Travel by Pico Iyer

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