Daniel Saldanha | Meet our Global Family

This time we catch up with Daniel Saldanha from Porto, who joined Shanghai Summer School’s Global Family last year.

For most of our participants, their time at Shanghai Summer School was the first time they’d visited China. Daniel, however, had visited China twice before and still found much to love about the city of Shanghai. Read on to see Shanghai Summer School from a slightly different perspective. 


Shanghai Summmer School interview Daniel Saldanha


Daniel, what was your reason for joining Shanghai Summer School? Was it an ambition to get a good grasp of the Chinese language or was it a desire to experience living in a bustling metropolis as well?

It was both. Last year I found Shanghai Summer School while looking for a Mandarin course in China with the main purpose of improving my language skills. The fact that I would be able to explore such an amazing city at the same time was an added bonus.

[8 things you would never hear Shanghai Summer School participant say. ]


Many people who visit China 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 have been to China two times before attending last year’s Summer School. Once to Beijing and another time to Kunming. Both gave me different perspectives about the country. But this last trip to Shanghai showed me how quickly China is growing. People barely use physical currency anymore, the skyline is filled with modern skyscrapers and a great percentage of vehicles are electric. I already knew that China was developing fast, but it amazed me to see the scale at which it is developing.

Shanghai Summer School interview Daniel Saldanha

At the end of the course, some students who’ve never learned Chinese before were even able to make basic conversations. I know that you already had a pretty good level of Mandarin, but what was your experience with learning Mandarin at Donghua University? What is that you find most difficult or easy about the Chinese language?

It’s true, most people in our group didn’t speak much Mandarin. However, after the lessons, they were able to go into restaurants and order food or interact with shopkeepers. The most difficult part for me is to memorize characters and writing them. But it gets easier as time goes on. On the other hand, in my opinion, Chinese grammatical structure is quite easy and intuitive. Most people tend to find speaking and listening easier compared to reading and writing.


Shanghai Summer School offers two programs in partnership with Donghua University:


How do you leverage on your Chinese language skills? Do you think there is some truth in the Chinese saying, “to learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world”?

Learning Mandarin is an activity that makes you think in a different way, as its structure differs greatly from that of European languages. This new way of thinking creates a new perspective for us to see the world. If I didn’t learn Mandarin I would not have been able to experience China like I did.

We’d like to think that friendships are what connects all the activities of the Shanghai Summer School into one whole and that the opportunities to get to know your co-participants and the locals are aplenty. How did you like the social side of Shanghai Summer School? I know you’ve become very good friends with Andrej, our COO, I remember you even got him a farewell gift at the end of the summer school! 🙂

I believe so too, after morning classes most activities are done as a group. We had the Amazing Race and the Night Cycling which are two examples of activities where we were able to explore the city and get to know our fellow participants better. Shanghai is perfect for social activities, both during the day or in the evenings. After being with a group almost every day for a month, it is certain that we make strong friendships, so I and my fellow Portuguese participants signed our flag and gave it to Andrej. However, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t like the rest of the group as much. We just didn’t have 50+ flags. 🙂

Shanghai Summer School Daniel Saldangha

After being with a group almost every day for a month, it is certain that we make strong friendships, so I and my fellow Portuguese participants signed our flag and gave it to Andrej.


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?

Completely. We feel like Shanghai never stops, and exploring this amazing city with new people was very exciting. The little activities such as having lunch in small corner shops, speaking with locals and roaming the city totally changed the way we saw and experienced our surroundings.


I’m not gonna ask if you would recommend Shanghai Summer School to your peers because I know you already did. There are a few of your friends joining us this year. However, what would you say to convince those who are still hesitant about taking the leap?

If you don’t know how to speak Mandarin, that is ok. You will have lessons where you will learn the language and start to be able to interact with the locals. If you already have a decent mandarin level, this is an opportunity to further develop your proficiency with the language course provided by Donghua University. In both scenarios, you will be able to participate in numerous activities, meet new people and experience Shanghai to its fullest.


4 final quick questions:


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