By: Vincent Lawson, Foster Undergraduate who participated in the Shanghai Core Abroad Program
Taking part in a University of Washington faculty-led program in China, I stepped off the half-day plane ride anticipating becoming very close with my fellow students, but not with local Chinese. That is why my quick-forming but long-lasting friendship with a Chinese Fudan University student was an unexpected highlight of my trip. We met Shu (Tree) on day two of our program at a local Pizza Hut. As a part-time waiter, he was shocked when I ordered in Chinese and soon abandoned his post to converse with us in a Chinese-English hybrid language. We left with smiles and a new WeChat contact, but did not expect to hear from him again. Little did I know that he took our new friendship very seriously and had already messaged us to set up a visit to a local restaurant. One of the best meals of the trip was at Waipo Jia (Grandma’s Kitchen), a Chinese family-style restaurant he took us to, where he practically ordered the menu. Specialty dishes from all around China were brought out, plate after plate. When we were Chi Bu Xia (could not eat another bite), he demanded to pay the bill. This generosity towards new friends is a lovely Chinese custom that I was exposed to time and time again. I and several other students maintained our friendship with Shu throughout the rest of our time in Shanghai. Towards the end of our program, he even delayed his travel plans to the northeast of China – Hefei is his Laojia (place of origin) – in order to spend more time with us. The inevitable goodbye was met with heavy hearts and many gifts. I especially treasure the Fudan University pin he gave to me; a reminder of the generosity and friendship extended to me in the expansive yet welcoming city of Shanghai.