Rebekah Shaffer

This summer, I had the opportunity to study and intern in Shanghai, China at Donghua University. This was not my first trip to China, but I was amazed by how much I learned about myself and about China throughout my time there. I lived with a Chinese roommate, worked at an international firm’s China branch two days a week, and memorized 50 Chinese characters a night. Despite being incredibly busy, I was still able to spend time exploring Shanghai with my roommate and friends.

One of the topics I spent a lot of time researching this summer was the Chinese societal concept of “left-over women.” Ambitious, educated women face immense pressures from the general society to find a match and get married, from as young as 24 years old. I engaged in conversation with coworkers, professors, and friends about the topic, amassing a vast array of perspectives and insights; I visited the marriage market in People’s Square. Where my parents encourage me to find my individual voice, pursue my individual career, and develop my individual interests, my Chinese friends’ parents pester them to lower their standards, care more about their appearances, and find a boyfriend as soon as possible. I was amazed by the amount of pressure they were under, and my heart hurt for them.

This summer, I made a distinct effort to immerse myself in Chinese culture as fully as I possibly could, spending the majority of my time with my Chinese roommate and her Chinese friends. After returning home for the summer, I joined an exchange-student program at my school that matches exchange students with Minnesota locals. I am excited to spend the rest of my school year welcoming Chinese exchange students to Minnesota and continuing to learn more about Chinese culture and the Chinese language.