What seemed so far off at the beginning of summer is almost here. Next weekend, we’re driving our youngest daughter Jennifer Lynn back down to school in Southern California. On the following Wednesday, she’ll fly out of LAX to begin her year studying abroad in Shanghai.

Why China? Steve and I joke that one of Jennifer Lynn’s life goals is to be as far away as possible from her AARP parents and the possibility of having to live out her life in a 1600 square foot condo in Cotati. Since Pepperdine doesn’t offer a study abroad program on the moon, China had to suffice as a destination.

From Jennifer’s perspective, the reason she chose the Shanghai program is because she likes a challenge.  She is sure that assimilating to the Chinese culture and tackling the language will test her mettle much more than studying abroad in Heidelberg or Buenos Aires.  Her “bring it on” attitude is how she shows her competitive streak. When her classmates lament the difficulty of speaking German or Spanish, I know she is thinking, “Not only do I have to learn how to speak a new language, I have to learn how to write a new language. Top that!!”

While we were running errands yesterday to gather the remaining items on her list that she’ll need for living in Asia, she was describing the reactions that she gets from people when she tells them that she’s going to be studying abroad in China. She said that if she told someone she was spending her sophomore year in Italy, they would nod and smile and tell her how much she’ll enjoy the architecture, art, and history, and what a great experience it will be.

But when she tells them she’s going to be in Shanghai for a year, their face becomes very serious and they ominously respond, “You’ll never be the same.” What does that mean? She’s going to come back as a zombie? I think people have that reaction just because it’s hard for most of us to picture what life in China is like.

We noticed a BBC TV series on Netflix called “Wild China,” so as a little bit of immersion into the vastness of China, we watched it. One of the scenes showed a Chinese “pharmacy” where the patient received a remedy that consisted of a dried lizard head and bags of scary looking stuff – were those beetle exoskeletons that the doctor just scooped out of that bin? Yes, life in China – and especially Chinese medicine – is very different than we are used to. No wonder the info packet from the school advises bringing your own year-long supply of Tums and Imodium.

While it’s sad for us to think about not seeing her for eight months, we know that this is going to be an amazing experience for her. Not only is she going to learn about the art and history of China – something largely ignored in our European-centric curriculums – but she is also going where the action is in terms of today’s world economy which I think will have lots more potential for her influencing her future than learning about Renaissance artists.

Yes, she will come back changed. But I believe it will be in the best possible ways.
As a coda to my post and as a way to procrastinate packing, Jennifer Lynn created this Instagram post:

It’s 10 days now until I leave for China and I figure I need all the luck I can get #packingprocrastination #speedpaint

A video posted by Jenny Rustad (@jennylynnrust) on Aug 29, 2015 at 2:47pm PDT