Continuing our series of interviews with Shanghai Summer School Global Family members, we took a two-hour ride to Hangzhou, where Andrea from Italy is now doing his semester abroad.
So Andrea, how do you like Hangzhou so far? Marco Polo called it “The finest and most splendid city in the world”!
I like it, though not as much as I like Shanghai. Hangzhou is also a big city, with about 10 million people I think. It is a very green city with a lot of nature, but it is slightly less exciting compared to Shanghai. I guess it all boils down to personal preference, but Hangzhou is definitely the calmer alternative.
Let’s rewind time. What made you apply for Shanghai Summer School?
My decision to apply for the Summer School was actually made in a few minutes. I’ve heard of some friends attending Summer Schools previously but I honestly wasn’t very interested, as to me at that point in time, summers were meant to be spent at the seaside, not in school.
Then a good friend called me to tell me that he had applied for the Shanghai Summer School and insisted that I should too. Right after the call, I checked out the Shanghai Summer School web page, and five minutes later I had submitted my application as well.
Till today I’m not entirely sure what the turning point was. Perhaps I thought that I should try something different that summer. But in any case, I am incredibly glad I took that first step.
So was attending Shanghai Summer School the first time you’d been in China?
I visited China in 2008 with my family. We are a huge sports fans so we went there to watch the Beijing Olympic games. And to be honest… I didn’t like it one bit. That time I thought to myself that I’d never return to China again. I was so wrong, haha.
Being the global city that it is, you meet people from all corners of the world in Shanghai. Where did some of the people you met come from?
I think that meeting people from all over the world is actually the best part of the experience. Of course you apply because of what the program offers, but the people you meet are the ones who make your time in Shanghai so special. I literally met people from all over the world, people from Europe, North and South America, Africa and of course Asia. We hung out a lot with a bunch of Dutch friends we met randomly in one of Shanghai’s clubs. We still keep in touch and visit each other now and then.
The Shanghai Summer School programme is packed full of afternoon activities after the daily Chinese lessons in the mornings. Which was/were your favourite afternoon activity(ies)?
The Summer School programme makes sure you’re kept busy. I liked that a lot because our time in Shanghai is limited and I felt that I really wanted to make use of the time we had there.
I am an active person so sitting in the classroom isn’t exactly my kinda thing. I loved it when we went around the city on the cycling tour! But my absolute favourite was the cooking class! If my mother heard me saying this she wouldn’t believe it. I didn’t really expect to be spending time in the kitchen during a summer school but I really enjoyed it. I never tried jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) until that time when we made them, but I can easily say now that they are my favourite Chinese food!
Four weeks passed so quickly and at the end I remember we were trying to fit as many things as we could into the limited time we had. It was so difficult to leave
In what ways do you think the Shanghai Summer School experience made you more of an interesting candidate in the eyes of your future employers?
Well, I am still a student, but I think that having attended Shanghai Summer School adds value to your CV. I haven’t started on my job search yet, but I soon will, and I believe some skills and experiences I’ve acquired during the Summer School will definitely make me a more interesting candidate. For example, after summer school, I was able to hold a basic conversation in Mandarin. I can see that the Chinese really appreciate it when they see that you’re trying to communicate in Mandarin. All in all, being in Shanghai has given me a wider world view that can only serve me well in the years to come!
A past participant mentioned that that the only thing he didn’t like was the length of the program. He said that the time passed too quickly. 🙂 Do you think four weeks is enough to experience the city to its fullest?
Was it me? Haha. I think I said something similar. One month might seem like a long period of time at the beginning, but once you arrive in Shanghai time passes incredibly fast. I remember when I checked in at the dorm. I was taking things slow, thinking that we had all the time in the world. But after a few days I got to make friends with most of the students and time started flying by. Four weeks passed so quickly and at the end, I remember we were trying to fit as many things as we could into the limited time we had. It was so difficult to leave. On the last day, we were hugging each other, crying, promising to meet up again back in Europe very soon. (Here you can find a blog post summarizing 8 things you would never hear Shanghai Summer School participant say.)
And did you guys meet up eventually?
We did! Some of us later met in Amsterdam and recently in Vienna. It’s just awesome. We are already planning a gathering in Barcelona in September. You should join us too!
Shanghai might be a school, but the first-hand experience you will acquire there is so much more than you’d ever learn in a classroom.
“If New York is the city that never sleeps, then Shanghai is the city that doesn’t even sit down.” Did you experience those sleepless vibes?
Haha Shanghai is the perfect definition of a sleepless city. I think I couldn’t have experienced it better. I was slightly younger at that time and I think I barely slept during my stay at Shanghai Summer School. There were so many things to see, to do, to try.
I remember one evening I decided that I was going to bed early to get some much-needed rest. But then a bunch of the others decided to go to the French concession for some drinks. How could I not join them?! As I said before, four weeks might seem like a long time, but it’s way too short to waste time sleeping!!
What do you think about our slogan: “An experience that will change the way you see the world”. Do you think that the way you saw the world changed after your Shanghai Summer School experience?
It might sound like a cliché but it did indeed change me. I told you, in 2008 I thought I would never come back to China. Look at me now, I am studying in Hangzhou and planning to find a job in Shanghai. I see the world totally differently now.
Before Summer School I didn’t really like travelling. I was happy at home. Now, I can’t imagine staying at home all the time. Shanghai Summer School was by far the most eye-opening experience of my life. And I’m pretty sure the rest of the past-participants would say the same. Also, I have friends from all over the world now!
Would you recommend Shanghai Summer School to your peers? What would you say to convince those who are still hesitant about taking the leap?
Oh, absolutely. I don’t know who was it, but someone once said: “There are two types of school, one where you go and open a book, and then there’s the school of life.” Shanghai might be a school, but the first-hand experience you will acquire there is so much more than you’d ever learn in a classroom.
I’ve said it before but I am incredibly grateful that I attended the Shanghai Summer School, I would even go further to say that it was the best decision I made in my life. Life somehow seems much more interesting now, maybe because I see things differently these days.
Don’t think too much. If there’s at least a little bit of an adventurer in you, you should apply. You’re gonna love it!
5 final and quick questions:
Describe SSS with one word? Living!
Favourite Chinese phrase? 朋友 (friends)
Favourite food? Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) of course!!
Favourite place in Shanghai? The Bund at 5am. No better place in the world to watch the sunrise from.
Shanghai Summer School provides you with an experience that 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.