“To think that I’ve just entered my ninth month living in China is a bit surreal, to say the least. It still feels strange to call this place home and wake up to an environment that shares no similarities to what I’ve grown accustomed to. Despite traveling to many countries over the past several years, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as China is a beast within itself. As anxious as I was, I took that leap of faith, gathered my belongings, and boarded a one-way flight to Shanghai.
“I was born and raised in Queens, New York, where I left my advertising career to pursue my dreams of living and working abroad. I currently reside in Shanghai, China, where I’m pursuing my master’s degree at Hult International Business School, while working as a marketing associate for a Japanese interior design firm. Not having a foundation established in China and unfamiliar with the local culture, some say it’s a crazy move. However, I call it a path to curiosity. I was quickly becoming bored with the daily routine in New York. I was in need of a change—something big, something drastic.
“I chose Shanghai because I think it’s the hub of the future, the birthplace of new ideas and cutting-edge thinking. This was my chance to be a part of the global scene, to immerse myself in the fastest growing economy. How can my acquired skill set and the emergence of China as a global powerhouse put me at the top of international companies’ wish list, I wondered. Better yet, how can I run my own business on a global scale? This was my thought process. I eagerly craved more international exposure on both personal and professional levels. Business school and Shanghai were my answers.
“One of the greatest joys of living in Shanghai is seeing the stark contrast between Puxi (the city’s cultural and entertainment center) and Pudong (the skyscraper-filled district on the east side of the Huangpu River), a great juxtaposition of old and new. With an emerging cosmopolitan scene immersed into the historical landmarks, Shanghai offers not only a great blend of traditional and modern, but also an oriental and western crossover. The boastful fashion scene, the artsy French Concession area, and diverse nightlife can easily make Shanghai a home away from home.
“Gravitating away from a touristic perspective, not everything in Shanghai is glamorous. With consecutive days of thick smog, the hazard levels of pollution can become unbearable. Many establishments can be compared to a smoker’s paradise, where having a cup of coffee without inhaling excessive cigarette fumes seems impossible.
“Depending on your location, some districts are easy to fall in love with, such as the French Concession or Jing’an, where I spend most of my days. Other areas, such as my neighborhood of Hongkou, sometimes appear detached from civilization.
“I knew moving to China would be challenging, but I underestimated how long it would take to adjust. No matter how much you think you’ve thought of everything, you haven’t. After my giddy honeymoon phase, where everything seemed so perfect and flawless, came the real adjustment period. Ordering quality food in Hongkou was a task. Finding the right toiletries, an urban barber, and stable wifi seemed like brain surgery during my first two months.
“Being a man of color also poses several challenges in China. The constant staring, pointing and laughing by locals has proven to be very… thought provoking. Some days, I easily brush these situations off as mere trifles; on others, it drives me to an extreme level of frustration.
“Living in China isn’t the perfect situation. Some days are amazing, while others not so much. No matter how the next few months play out, I’ll continue to enjoy and embrace this experience. The good times, bad times, roadblocks and streams of emotions are all worth it. I’m growing fond of this roller-coaster lifestyle, as things will never get old. There should never be any regrets in taking on new challenges and chasing your dreams.”—Nate Chambers