Oumaima was a girl in search of a travel adventure, and she found it last summer at Shanghai Summer School.
On top of being able to travel to and experience a completely different country, she learned to converse in basic Mandarin Chinese, and found herself in a traditional Chinese garden in Suzhou, strumming on her ukelele and singing along to Jessie J with her newfound friends from all over the world. This autumn, Oumaima will return to China, this time as an exchange student in Suzhou, and she couldn’t be more excited about it.
Oumaima, how did you come across Shanghai Summer School?
I was planning to travel somewhere but did not have a place in mind. I only knew that I’ve always wanted to have an adventurous experience and that I needed to escape from my comfortable environment to discover what the world is like on the other side. So I thought, why not go to China? It’s one of the most fascinating countries in the world – a completely different culture, different people and different language.
Shanghai Summer School was the first thing I came across in my search for a good travel plan in China. I thought that it was such a smart way to travel because I get to learn at the same time! After the experience, I can say that it was one of the best experiences I ever had.
Some apply with an ambition to get a good grasp of the Chinese language and some to experience living in a bustling metropolis. Shanghai Summer School offers both. What was your reason for applying?
I applied for Shanghai Summer School primarily because of what it stands for. No doubt, the school offers good Chinese courses and is also an incredible traveling experience. But as far as I’m concerned, I think that Summer School for me was more than that. It was an opportunity to meet people from all around the world, and to form beautiful friendships. We basically became a family by the end of it!
At the end of the course, some students who’ve never learned Chinese before were even able to make basic conversations. What was your experience with learning Chinese like? What did you find most difficult/easy?
Haha! I was one of those people! I didn’t have any experience with the Chinese language, and never thought that I would be able to have a basic conversation with the locals in China, but I did!
I felt that it was not difficult to learn new basic words because the teaching methods were really clever; classes were creative and fun at the same time. I found that learning the language was made easier because classes were enjoyable.
You surprised me when you told me you decided to go back to China in September this year for an exchange in Suzhou, a city located right on the outskirts of Shanghai. In fact, it is one of the day trips we go on every year at Summer School. What was the reason you decided to go back?
Well, I was interested in going on an exchange program but didn’t know where. I was looking through programs and was surprised to see that there was an exchange opportunity at a campus in Suzhou. I didn’t hesitate to choose it, because I remember it being such a pretty city and it’s so near to Shanghai! Plus, I felt an attachment to the city after our trip to Suzhou during Shanghai Summer School last year. Good memories with my fellow participants were made there.
I’m so excited about my next exchange in Suzhou! I never thought I would be able to go back to China!
The Shanghai Summer School program is packed full of afternoon activities after the daily Chinese lessons in the mornings. Which was/were your favourite afternoon activity(ies)?
My favourite afternoon activity was the Amazing Race organized on the first day of the program. What I really liked about this activity was the fact that we had to complete missions all around the city in randomly assigned teams. This allowed us to get to know fellow participants as well as the city at the same time, and in a fun way!
We like to think that friendships are what connects all the activities during Shanghai Summer School into one whole, and the opportunities to get to know your co-participants and people from the city are aplenty. How did you like the social side of Shanghai Summer School and do you keep in touch with the people you’ve met?
This is actually what i like the most about Shanghai Summer School – how the school brings together different people from all over the world for same goal.
I made a lot of friends from Shanghai Summer School and yes, we are still in contact and we are actually planning to meet again.
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?
Absolutely! It was an amazing experience indeed. And i think the best word to describe it is wanderlust– a strong desire to travel.
After my experience at Shanghai Summer School, I felt more open to people and i felt like i wanted to travel more and more, and discover new things because there is a lot to see in this world and life is too short to spend it in the same place.
Shanghai summer school showed me how it is in life to travel. It improves our health. From cutting down on stress, to improving our communication skills and social skills.
If you had to choose just one, which was your most memorable Shanghai Summer School moment?
One of the best memories of Shanghai Summer School was when we were on a day trip to the city of Suzhou. We were all sitting in a traditional Chinese garden, I was playing the ukelele and we were all singing together. It was magical, and everybody looked so happy!
I still remember the song we were singing, and the lyrics are still stuck in my mind till today.
It’s not about the money money money,
We don’t need your money money money,
We just wanna make the world dance,
Forget about the price tag…
Would you recommend Shanghai Summer School to your peers?
Absolutely! I don’t think anyone would regret applying for Shanghai Summer School (8 things you will never hear Shanghai Summer School participant say).
It was such a great experience full of surprises. You can travel and learn at the same time, and you get to meet incredible people.
It would be a smart choice to apply, because not only you will meet native people from Shanghai and China, but also other people from different corners of the world who applied at the same time; you get to learn a lot about cultures and make lot of friends!
4 final and quick questions:
- Favourite Chinese character? My favorite chinese character is 日 (rì) which means “day” or “the sun”.
- Favourite part of the program? The Amazing Race!
- Favorite food? Rice sandwiches.
- Favorite place? The Shanghai Bund.