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.

1. 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.

Daniel at the Bund hold Portuguese flag

2.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.

3. 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.

Trip to Suzhou

4. 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. 

5. 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 me 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 ☹

Daniel and Mariana giving Andrej Portuguese flag

4 final quick questions:

  • Favourite Chinese character?  梦 mèng (dream)
  • Favourite part of the program? The Amazing Race
  • Favourite food? Beijing Kao Ya (Peking Duck)
  • Favourite place in Shanghai? The Bund
Find out more about Shanghai Summer School’s summer programs.

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.

Click here to find out more about our programs.