We understand that it can be difficult to make decisions if you find it hard to imagine the situation you’re contemplating. We cannot transport you to summer in Shanghai (only you can), but we can walk you through a day in the life of a Shanghai Summer School participant. Come with us.
On a regular weekday, you would wake up around at around 8am, wash up, and head to the campus canteen. The smell of freshly made dough sticks and sweet soybean milk will welcome you. As you follow your nose to find them, you will walk through clouds of steam wafting out from the baskets of hot steaming buns. Ordering your breakfast from the nice Chinese lady at the counter will be your first Chinese language practice of the day, but it will certainly not be your last. On the way out, you grab a cup of coffee or Chinese tea, and make your way to your Chinese language class.
At 9:00H, your Chinese teacher will walk into the classroom, armed with 3-hours of Chinese language teaching material. It sounds like a lot of time, but trust me, time will pass extra quickly because the teachers always go the extra mile in making their lessons as fun as they are efficient. Lessons will begin with a recap from the lesson before, and then transition over to a new chapter – one that is chock-full of new grammar rules and vocabulary to learn. The lesson then proceeds on to focusing on more specific language skills such as listening, understanding and oral proficiency.
At 12:00H, you’re done with classroom lessons for the day, and this is when the day really gets fun. Your first challenge is to decide what to have for lunch. With so many good options available, and with everyone having different preferences, it is difficult to decide on what to have. The final decision inevitably ends up being a foolproof old favourite – likely the same noodle place you and your friends have been going to every other day since the beginning of the summer school.
After lunch and a bubble tea drink or a snack from the convenience store, it is time to gather at the lobby of the dorms to head for the afternoon activity of the day. You’re in luck today, as the plan is to go down the mighty Huangpu River followed by a visit to the top of Shanghai Tower (a.k.a World’s Second Tallest Building), and the sky is crystal clear – the views will be spectacular.
The bus turns round the corner and you race your best buddy to the window seat. As we drive down Yan’an Road, you catch a glimpse of some now-familiar landmarks like the Jing’an Temple and Nanjing West Road. You take in the sights of the city you are slowly but surely falling in love with, and you let out a sigh of contentment. Before you know it, we’ve arrived at the cruise terminal. You follow the tour guide towards the river cruise reserved for the summer school, but along the way we lose a few people because they were distracted by some food stalls. The tour guide eventually rounds everyone up again, and we board the river cruise.
You see the cruise docked by the side of the Huangpu River overlooking the famous Lu Jia Zui skyline, and the excitement is mounting. Upon stepping onboard, the Shanghai Summer School group is directed towards a private deck reserved specially for us. From there you look left to see the old Shanghai bund in all its grandeur, and look right to see Shanghai’s biggest, newest skyscrapers. The river cruise gradually departs from the dock. At this point the skies are still blue and the sun is still up, but barely. As we cruise down the Huangpu River, daylight gradually gives way to the beautiful orange and violet hues of the sunset. You are served a cold beverage and you and your friends toast to your shared adventure, and to the good fortune that has brought you all together.
For the serious instagrammers, we are now entering the blue hour. (Check out a blog about the most instagrammable spots of Shanghai) The bright neon lights of the cityscape reflect on and colour the calm waters of the river. A warm evening breeze runs through your hair and you close your eyes, wishing this moment would last forever. But then your ears catch sound of the bustling city and you are woken from your reverie. You turn to your right to see the girl you’ve had your eye on since day one staring at you. You smile at her and she returns the smile shyly, you walk over and you begin to chat. It feels like the start of something new. The possibilities this summer can bring seem endless. Before you know it, it’s time to disembark.
Hopping off the tour bus again, you find yourself at the foot of Shanghai Tower. Your gaze follows the building up, up and up and at some point you’re craning your head so far back to take it all in that you almost stumble. You whip out your phone to try and take a photo only to realise that the building is so tall that it doesn’t fit on your screen. You’re ushered towards the entrance of the building and upon passing security checks, you are given free time to explore a small exhibition on how the building was built, how it fits into the existing cityscape, and how it compares to the other giants around the world. At the end of the exhibition you join a line to enter the elevator. The fastest elevator in the world, to be specific.
Stepping into the elevator you are greeted by dim lighting, a star-studded ceiling and a screen showing you details of your journey up. As the elevator shoots upwards, you try to yawn or swallow split to relieve the pressure build-up in your ears. It’s slightly uncomfortable but in just a few seconds, the elevator door opens and you step out to be greeted by the spectacular view and you feel like all that discomfort was worth it.
Shanghai is one of the most populated cities on the planet. Its city lights spread out into the horizon and beyond. Adjacent to the river is Yan’an Road, crowded with red and yellow colored lights, full of evening commuters. Somewhere further up Yan’an Road you spot the Donghua University campus that we call our Shanghai home. If you weren’t convinced of the vastness and immensity of the city before today, don’t worry, give yourself a minute or two to take it all in.
“C’mon man, you’re in Shanghai, let’s go out. How many times in your life will you be in Shanghai?”
Returning to the Donghua campus after the long day, some are tired and head straight for their beds, some spend time going through their Chinese lessons again. Whatever your plan was, your roommate comes up to you with a cheeky smile and says “C’mon man, you’re in Shanghai, let’s go out. How many times in your life will you be in Shanghai?”. At that moment the decision was clear, you guys are going out.
You and your friends are ushered up the stairs to a club that opens up to an outdoor patio that overlooks the Shanghai bund. The music is pounding and lights are flashing. After the first few drinks, your memory of the night gets a bit hazy. At some point you find yourself standing on the Bund with your friends. It’s 5am, and you guys thought it would be a great idea to wait for the sun to rise. One sunrise and many selfies later, this night and this experience will go down as some of the most legendary memories you will have in this lifetime. Fast forward to today, you still look at those photos with warm feelings in your heart, and that will be the case for years to come, reminiscing the days and nights of that summer you spent in Shanghai.