I think we can probably agree that choosing to study in China, be it for a summer school or a semester abroad, is quite a gutsy choice to make. Hardly comparable with other more mainstream study abroad options.
I remember when I first went to Shanghai to study years ago. When I told a friend that I was going for a study exchange in Shanghai, he laughed and said, “Couldn’t you find somewhere more obscure?” Well, his reaction is unfortunately a common one, because most people know so little about China due to how distant it is in terms of kilometers and culture.
But for those who have been there, I’m sure many of them will relate with the points in the article below.
Realising you cannot live without Google, Instagram and Facebook
You were probably warned before coming to China that Western social media platforms are blocked by the Great Firewall of China, but you also probably did not fully understand the impact that it would have on your life. Until you land at the Shanghai Pudong Airport, connect to public WiFi and instinctively open the Instagram application to catch up with what your friends have been up to while you were up in the air… only to realise that Instagram just wouldn’t load…
Having a VPN is a life saver
Which brings us to our second point. Because of the aforementioned Great Firewall of China, a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a must-have if you’re visiting the country and want to keep sane. Run your chosen VPN application and the world is suddenly brighter again – ahh… the feeling of sweet relief when you are able to Google for information like you’re used to.
(Trying to) eat with chopsticks
Apart from the few times you’ve visited your local Chinese restaurant in your home country, where you were given the option of eating with chopsticks (which you probably switched for a knife and fork after a grand total of 1 minute), you’ve probably never really understood how anyone could manage to eat anything with these two thin sticks.
While some places have forks and knives, most eateries in China only offer chopsticks. In those cases, you either starve, or you pick up a pair of chopsticks and bravely attempt to feed yourself with them.
At the beginning you will resort to The Stabbing Method, where you impale large pieces of food on your chopsticks. But then you realise you cannot do the same for small pieces of food like rice, for example.
So you try, and you try, and there will be frustration and a lot of dropped food, but over time you will finally get the hang of eating with chopsticks (somewhat), and you will attain bragging rights for your newfound ability to deftly maneuver your chopsticks to pick up the tiniest, most slippery morsels of food.
Communicating in Chinese and being understood!
Whether you’re a complete beginner to the Chinese language, or you have already taken classes for a while, landing in China for the first time and seeing and hearing Chinese characters everywhere can be incredibly overwhelming.
However after a couple of days in the country your senses gradually get used to it. You learn new and useful Chinese words in Chinese class, you try and use them while out and about exploring the city, people actually understand you, and you find yourself having little conversations with the locals! That feeling of satisfaction is incredible.
Wechat is everything
You probably will not understand the magnitude of the statement “WeChat is everything” until you are in China for an extended period of time. Some people refer to WeChat as China’s answer to Facebook, but in reality, WeChat is way more than just a social networking application. It is social networking, digital living, and interpersonal communication combined in one compact application.
You can order food, groceries, transfer money, buy a plane ticket, look for reviews, pay for anything, post micro-blogs and share them with your friends and more! Phone numbers or emails? They hardly exist in China anymore. With a simple scan of your personal QR code on WeChat, you can connect with anyone (from friends to business partners) on a personal and professional level.
If you’re in Shanghai in the summer, especially, you will definitely chance across and be tempted by bubble tea!
Bubble tea is a tea-based drink invented in Taiwan in the 1980s, and is often drunk cold. It comes in a myriad of flavors and toppings you can choose from. You could try one drink a day from the menu and you still wouldn’t have tried everything by the end of summer (speaking from experience)! Affordable, light and refreshing, it’s the perfect companion on a hot summer’s day.
In co-operation with Donghua University Shanghai Summer School offer 3 different programmes
McDonalds delivery 24/7 – a lifesaver
Yes we know, when in Rome do as the Romans do, and when in China, eat as the Chinese eat. While we encourage everyone to explore Chinese cuisine and flavours, and we have our favourite places to go to for great dumplings or fried noodles, we admit that we miss the occasional burger. We are sometimes creatures of comfort.
And what better place to get some comfort food than at good ol’ McDonald’s. You know what’s even better? They deliver. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Right to the doorsteps of your dormitory.
“Work hard, party harder” is kinda the unofficial tagline of the summer school experience in Shanghai. Nightlife in Shanghai is nothing like you’ve imagined. Think mega clubs, cavernous dance halls, international guest DJs, stunning views, and get this – shark tanks. Not into mainstream partying? There’s also karaoke.
They say that while New York is the city that never sleeps, Shanghai is the city that doesn’t even sit down. This Shanghai energy is mirrored in its parties. Monday to Sunday, all year round, you will always find somewhere in Shanghai to let loose and dance (or sing) the night away.
International friendships are everything
While studying abroad in a programme such as Shanghai Summer School, and in an international city like Shanghai, you will inevitably meet people from all corners of the world. They could be your dorm roommate, your classmate in Chinese class, or the Chinese dude who works at the convenience store you frequent.
At some point during your time abroad, you begin to realise that the people you hang out with the most were strangers a few weeks back, and you will begin to dread the day you guys will have to part ways. The unusual and exciting experiences China has to offer, in combination with the knowledge that you are only there with these people for a limited time, makes a great breeding ground for lifetime friendships.
While it is sad to say goodbye, at the end of it, you know that you will have many second homes all around the world.
Eating at the Chinese restaurants back home will never be the same again
Coming back home after some time in China, you will go through a phase of not wanting to even smell Chinese food for a bit. But after awhile you will start to miss it. And where do you head? To your local Chinese restaurant of course.
The waiter asks to take your order and you feel the urge to order in Chinese, and if you try and manage to, you feel super badass. The food served will be less greasy, probably less pungent-smelling and less spicy, but still reminiscent of the food you’ve eaten in China. It takes you right back to your days in China and you wish you could do summer all over again.