Many join our summer school in Shanghai with preconceived notions about what spending summer in China could be like – boring, old-fashioned, uncomfortable, uncivilized, and the list goes on.
To dispel these assumptions, we put together a list of things you’ll never hear from Shanghai Summer School participants who have been there with us. You’ll see that China and Shanghai, especially, might not be what you expect it to be.
- “I don’t see any cultural differences between the Chinese and us!”
Quite the opposite actually. If they’ve never been to China before Summer School, participants are likely to experience a bit of a culture shock the moment they touch down in Pudong Airport in Shanghai. We assure you that it’s a positive kinda shock, but still a shock nonetheless.
Everything from the unidentifiable food, the language and its bizarre-looking characters, to the sheer number of people everywhere. And don’t get us started on the squat toilets…
But hey, if you wanted to perch comfortably on a regular toilet seat and eat bread with cheese (not necessarily at the same time), why study abroad then, right? Often, magic happens only when you step out of your comfort zone! We can’t even begin to describe the day when we strode bravely into a dingy local eatery and slurped up some delicious Xinjiang Noodles…
- “I know it’s 3 am but I wish I could sink my teeth into a burger right now.”
Well, you probably can’t back home, but our Shanghai Summer School participants will tell you that here in China, you can have your burger (and fries) at 3am and eat it too!
There is nothing quite like having affordable food delivered to you (Apps you absolutely need if you study in China), wherever you are, and whenever you want it. We share quite a few fond memories of us sitting on the steps outside the dorms together in the middle of the night, digging into some piping hot pizza. All you have to do is dial a number or order through one of many food delivery mobile applications and wait. How cool is that?
You know what’s even better? Delivery service is not just limited to meals. Missing some veggies for your salad? Hosting a pre-party and forgot the beer? Not a problem here in Shanghai!
- “Nightlife in Shanghai is a complete snoozefest…”
On the contrary, the nightlife scene in Shanghai will be quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen.. When the sun goes down, the city becomes more alive than ever. Shanghai Summer School participants are mostly seasoned travellers, but we all agree that nothing we’ve experienced so far has ever come close to a night out in Shanghai.
Dive bars, sports bars, cosmopolitan rooftop bars with a view, underground rock bars, fancy clubs with their own shark aquariums… there’s something for every night owl here!.
A typical students night out usually ends at a fast-food joint, having some hotpot, or watching the sun rise from behind the iconic Shanghai Bund. Sounds crazy? It isn’t.
- “Shanghai is so backward!”
Ever since opening its doors to the world in the 70’s, China, and in particular Shanghai, has experienced rapid growth and development. Still, when you think about technology, Silicon Valley in the U.S., or futuristic Japan with its robots come to mind, while the thought of China brings to mind imitation rather than innovation.
You’d be surprised to know, however, that it’s not the case. The western world is inching towards mobile and cashless payment these days, but the Chinese have long left their wallets at home because now all they need when they go out is their mobile phone. Even the elderly here are swiping and tapping on their touchscreen devices like it’s second nature!
You’ll also be surprised (literally!), by vehicles here that use no gas, emit no exhaust fumes, and are so quiet you often don’t realise they are right behind you. As engineers around the world scramble to create environmentally-friendly, plug-in electric cars, China has already become the world’s leading market for cheap, green vehicles.
So if you think that joining us at summer exchange in Shanghai will be like taking a step back in time, think again.
- “I have to hurry to take the last train home! Taxis are too expensive!”
We’ve all been there – having to leave an amazing party prematurely to catch the last train or bus home because taking a taxi is so expensive that it’s just out of the question. Taxis can be an expensive way to get around in other big cities but not in Shanghai.
Hail a taxi off the streets, or book one on ride-hailing application Didi Chuxing, without worrying it will cost you an arm, a leg and your right kidney. Don’t speak Chinese? Worry not – Didi Chuxing now has an English interface too! Simply select your destination, select your car type, and just wait for your taxi to roll up to wherever you are. You can even choose from a list of standard English stock messages to communicate with your driver, who will receive your messages in Chinese, and vice versa!
If you’re with friends (which will always be the case at Shanghai Summer School), even better! After splitting the bill four ways, your ride home will cost you less than a plate of dumplings. Never leave a party early again!
- “I can’t communicate because I don’t speak enough Chinese!”
Many tend to be worried about visiting China without speaking Chinese. But what if we tell you that it’s not as difficult as you might imagine?
English is taught in China from the first grade, which means that spoken English, especially in an international city like Shanghai, is often not an issue. Shanghai’s metro has signage in English as well, making travelling by public transportation a breeze. Our colleague Gigi wrote more about it in the previous blog post that you can find here.
While getting around more local neighbourhoods without knowing Chinese might be a little trickier, this is where we turn back to good ol’ body language. Most eateries have picture menus, so all you have to do is to point! If that doesn’t work either, then it’s time to play charades; the Chinese are pretty good at guessing! Besides, the locals are always eager to lend a hand. You’d be surprised at how many friendships you can strike up even without a common language!
All that said, it would, of course, be helpful and courteous to learn some basics! Armed with the Shanghai Summer School Survival Guide and the guidance of experienced Chinese teachers from Donghua University, you’ll be more than well prepared to explore the city.
- “That’s absolutely nothing to do…”
…said no Shanghai Summer School participant ever.
Mornings at Shanghai Summer School are devoted to engaging Chinese language lessons, where participants are split into different levels according to their Chinese language proficiency.
In the afternoons, an array of exciting activities are lined up so participants get to experience different facets of Chinese culture and society. Participants get to try their hand at the ancient art of Chinese calligraphy, listen to lectures from experts about doing business in China, sit together with a tea master to experience a proper Chinese tea ceremony, and even cruise along the mighty Huangpu River as the sun goes down and the spectacular Shanghai skyline lights up.
Days at Shanghai Summer School are jam-packed with activities. We assure you that you won’t have time to be bored. Shanghai is, after all, the city that doesn’t even sit down.
- “I wish Shanghai Summer School didn’t last for such a long time, I can’t wait to go home.”
With an entire month ahead of you at the beginning of Shanghai Summer School, it might seem like you will have more than enough time to explore Shanghai, make new friends, take small trips to other Chinese cities, on top of studying Chinese and taking part in the cultural and sightseeing activities planned.
But then one minute you’re settling into your dorm room, and the next thing you know, you’ll be trying to stuff twice the amount of things back into the same suitcase (let’s just say that shopping in China is good…;-)), hugging your friends goodbye and wondering “Where did all that time go?”.
They say that time flies when you’re having fun. And truer words have never been said. Especially when it applies to Shanghai Summer School.
Shanghai Summer School strives to provide you with a summer experience unlike any other. The summer school is primarily about learning the Chinese language in an immersive way, but it’s also about going out and discovering a new culture and making meaningful connections with its people. We would even go as far as to say that delving headfirst into the bustling metropolis of Shanghai will allow one to adopt a new and expanded worldview, and a deeper understanding of cultures different than our own.
The knowledge of new languages combined with heightened cultural sensitivity and awareness has become ever more important in the global world we live in today.