Eva Leitner | The best things in life often happen unplanned!
Eva from Austria is the next Global Family member to share about her experience at Shanghai Summer School.
When Eva joined Shanghai Summer School, she was only a freshman at the university. Now she’s about to graduate with a masters in tourism management. Eva plans to travel Asia for a year after she’s done and number one on her list is, of course, China. 😉 Read on to find out why she plans to return again and again!
1. So Eva, what made you apply for Shanghai Summer School?
I guess it was the opportunity to spend a productive and different summer on the other side of the world. Summer for me used to mean going to the seaside, where I’d sleep through the holidays. I was sick of that, so I told myself that I need to do something different. I came across Shanghai Summer School through Facebook and immediately knew that it was my chance. The following day I applied for the summer school, which was how my love for China began.
2. Was attending Shanghai Summer School the first time you’d been in China?
Yes, it was the first time that I travelled to China. It was the first time I had travelled outside of Europe, actually.
3. Many people who visit China properly realize that there is more to China than the place where everything you own is made. Did you feel so? Have your impressions of China changed after attending Shanghai Summer School? If yes, how so?
I knew before I went to China that the Chinese were a hardworking bunch, but I didn’t expect them to be this hardworking. Every day I passed by the food store where they made Chinese snacks. It was just a small store, but there were a couple of people in there working nonstop. They’d come early in the morning and work late into the evening just to earn a couple more yuans from hungry passers-by. You could really see the hardworking spirit there.
I believe that this is so because there are so many people in China, so you really have to work hard to survive. They don’t have social security, which makes it all the more important for them to take care of themselves. I learnt from the Chinese that no matter how hard I think I’m working, it is always possible to work harder.
4. A past participant of the summer school once said, “We all come to Shanghai as complete strangers and leave it as good friends”. Do you see yourself in this statement? Have you also made some good friends?
I applied and headed to summer school all by myself, and didn’t know anyone before getting there. But in my one month there in the student dorm, I made hundreds of new friendships from all over the world. I was able to bond with people from every continent, and they weren’t even part of the Shanghai Summer School programme. That was possible because the city is full of people from all over the world who are very friendly and always happy to meet new people. There are some bars where we hung out at a lot, and spent amazing evenings together in. Many of those friendships still last and we visit each other when we are traveling!
5. I know it wasn’t always easy to wake up for Chinese lessons every morning, but in the end, all of you managed to attend a total of 67 hours of Chinese lessons and even passed the final exam. How do you think having some knowledge of the Chinese language aids in your personal and/or career development?
I think that in the next 10 years or less, the Chinese language will become as important as English is today. More and more companies are searching for employees that know it. I have experienced myself in a few interviews, where employers were really impressed by the fact that I speak Chinese, which gave me an advantage over other applicants.
Personally, I am also very proud of the fact, as I can impress my friends when ordering food in a Chinese restaurant. 😉 Nobody really expects a European person to speak the language, so it’s nice to surprise people sometimes.
After my one month there I saw life from a totally new perspective.
6. What would you say are the biggest benefits of joining Shanghai Summer School?
I think it would be the fact that it totally changes your perspective on your life. You learn to be grateful for your life in Europe, where things feel easier. The internet is heavily censored there, so there is no Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or even Google. Everything is controlled by the government there and they have much less freedom of speech than we do – something we take for granted. Moreover, you get a taste of a completely different culture.
Nobody really believes me when I say that attending Shanghai Summer School changes your personality and views, but it truly did. After my one month there I saw life from a totally new perspective.
For sure the Shanghai Tower visit. We went up just a few days after the official opening when not many people knew that it was open because it was still during the trial opening period. The museum at the bottom was amazing and one of the best I have ever seen. It showed us the history of Shanghai and the building itself. Then we got on the fastest elevator in the world and were shooting up at 16m/s! When we got to the top we were greeted by Shanghai in all its glory.
But I haven’t gotten to the most memorable bit yet. Because of the height and pressure difference, blood started to flow from my nose and it felt like it wasn’t ever going to stop. For at least half an hour I was in the bathroom, 118 floors up, trying to stem the blood flow. The security guy happened to come into the bathroom and when he saw me, he immediately cordoned off the only bathroom up there just for me and called a translator and two cleaning ladies to assist me. We tried everything we could to stop the bleeding and finally succeeded after an hour.
By the time I had stopped being a human blood fountain the tower was already closed – but they made an exception and let us stay for a while longer so we had the entire floor all to ourselves. Hands down most memorable experience at Shanghai Summer School and maybe even my life haha.
8. When we talk about Shanghai, we cannot talk about its nightlife. What was your experience with Shanghai nightlife? What was your most memorable night out like?
Shanghai for sure has the best nightlife I have ever experienced. One of my favourite bars is Perry’s Bar. It’s international but with a touch of local. As the night progresses the party usually moves to a dance club, where the music and atmosphere is like what we’re used to backing home – but bigger and better! I remember many nights where we danced all night till closing.
My most memorable party experience was the final party of Shanghai Summer School that year. The whole group went together to M1NT, the Best Club in the World in my opinion. We were on the dance floor and just meters from us was their signature aquarium with sharks swimming inside. It was the last party where all of us were together for the last time, and it will stay in my mind for the rest of my life.
9. As one of China’s biggest cities, Shanghai is well-connected to other parts of China. Did you take any trips on weekends or before/after the summer school? Where would you recommend to visit?
Before I begin, I must say that I discovered during my China travels that China has some of the best public transportation in the world. Their high-speed trains are world class, which makes travelling to other parts of China very pleasant and fast. While we were in China for the summer school, I travelled to Beijing over the weekend. Travelling by train to Beijing from Shanghai was inexpensive and took us less time than it’d take if we had gone by plane. The entire journey took five hours, and time really flew by as we travelled 350 km/h across the country.
In just three days we were able to visit most of Beijing’s main attractions. We visited the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Olympic village and of course, the Great Wall of China. Just a couple of hours away from Shanghai and we observed that life in Beijing was completely different than in Shanghai. The capital city is much more traditional in comparison, and the air quality significantly worse haha. But regardless of air quality, Beijing is a must-visit!
10 . Would you recommend Shanghai Summer School to your peers? What would you say to convince those who are still hesitant about taking the leap?
I have already recommended Shanghai Summer School to all my friends. Some of them have applied and attended, and none of them have regretted their choice – they all said they had the time of their lives.
For those who are still hesitating, I would advise you to not be afraid of change, and just apply! The best things in life often happen unplanned! I was in the same position as you a few years ago. I didn’t know anyone who’d join me so I applied and went alone, but I came back with countless new friendships forged and an experience of a lifetime. It might sound cheesy but it changed my life and it could change yours too, so don’t hesitate any longer!
Final few quick questions:
Describe SSS in one word? Experience
Favourite Chinese character? 家 jia (home)
Favourite food? Dumplings!
Favourite place in Shanghai? Bund in the evening with my friends from Shanghai Summer School!
Shanghai Summer School provides you with an experience which you can build upon throughout life, through learning a new language, discovering a new culture and people. A stay in the exceptional Chinese metropolis allows an individual to adopt a new perspective, which says, that values are relative and that something is not necessarily right or wrong, but instead one way or the other. Acquired knowledge of Chinese language and cultural specific is a solid foundation for further studies or a broad selection of knowledge in a promising business career.