Feb. 25th 2015
The IES Shanghai Print Me page I frantically stuffed in my briefcase before rushing to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Intl. Airport states that if you are to arrive in Shanghai on an alternate date to the specified program start date you can take public transport to your place of residence. As you may have already guessed, I did indeed arrive on a day alternate to the program start date. In an attempt to save $400 U.S.D (which was successful) I arrived a day before I was officially scheduled to. After an over 14 hour flight from the great city of Toronto, Canada I finally arrived in Shanghai at roughly 6:00PM faced with a tough choice; should I stay at the airport for roughly 16 hours or should I attempt to take public transport to my dorm?
During a meal of delicious hot pot (which I was surprisingly able to order completely in Chinese) I mulled over my options. In the end I decided to check the price of tickets and decided that if the trip would cost less than $20 U.S.D I would venture farther out of my comfort zone as I ever had and take the Shanghai subway to the area of my apartment complex. At the ticket counter the self-serve machine stated that a ticket from Pudong Intl. Airport to People’s Square was 7 RMB; a quick check on my phone to look at exchange rates determined this was roughly equivalent to $1 U.S.D so I quickly purchased the ticket and headed (two suitcases et all) in an elevator down to the bowels of the Shanghai metro subway system.
At this point I should probably mention a couple of things to ya’ll so as to clarify the magnitude of my journey. First off, until yesterday I had never travelled outside of the United States, furthermore I am only the second member of my family to ever go abroad (my brother went to spring break in Mexico last year). Secondly, I have never lived in a city of larger than 30,000 people and due to this fact, the only subway which I have ever been in is the one which they ask what kind of cheese you want on your sandwich and if you want the sandwich bread toasted… Needless to say the prospect of travelling alone on the Shanghai metro subway system absolutely scared the living daylight out of me.
Meanwhile down in the Pudong subway station, the train came screeching to a halt before me; I entered and sat next to a young couple from Italy who could neither speak nor understand a lick of Chinese. As the train sped on and approached downtown Shanghai the inside of the car became increasingly crowded and hectic. Eventually the young Italian couple left and was replaced by a lone Chinese man seemingly in his early 40s who reeked of liquor. For the next three stops the man sat quietly next to me and gave me a near-continuous soul penetrating stare; which if it wasn’t already painfully obvious, reminded me I was proverbially not in Kansas (or more accurately Iowa) anymore (but to be fair it probably isn’t too often you see a young American guy with spiky blonde hair, multiple suitcases, and a leather jacket in the Shanghai subway at night). Finally, after roughly an hour on the train I reached my stop at People’s Square and proceeded to exit the subway.
Walking into the bright lights and hustle and bustle of People’s Square at night was an absolutely surreal experience (especially after being in the subway for so long…). The city smelled of food, exhaust, and a bunch of other scents which I could not discern as hordes of people moved this way and that, heading to various locations which I could only imagine. After consulting my phone I found that my apartment complex was a mere 6 blocks away and promptly followed the wide walkways to the complex. When I arrived the receptionist was confused (rightly so) because I wasn’t supposed to arrive until the next day. After a quick call to the IES office she informed me that I was in luck, the center director had arrived the previous day, happened to be in the hotel, and could let me into my suite.
When the director met me in the lobby he was both shocked and amazed that I was able to successfully take public transit to the hotel; he stated that no student in the 8 year history of the program had ever done so and I may likely remain the only one for quite some time. He also noted that I saved roughly 160 RMB (roughly $25 U.S.D) by taking public transport as opposed to the standard taxi. So, after only a few hours in Shanghai I have had an intensely memorable, fiscally frugal, and unique experience and am looking forward to all of the adventures which the following months will most certainly bring. If today is any indication, there should be no shortage of amazing experiences which I will have.
Until next time,
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<div>My Name is Adam Dalton and I am currently a junior at Grinnell College majoring in Economics and Chinese Studies. I am originally from Mason City, IA and will be studying abroad in Shanghai with IES Shanghai next semester. Aside from academics, my interests including playing guitar, enjoying the great outdoors and running (I am a member of Grinnell's T&F and XC teams). </div>