Thinking back to the first week of classes, something that comforted me after arrival was creating a schedule for myself. Not only was it nice to figure out a daily routine, but it was also exciting to meet other international and Chinese students attending the same universities as us. Because of the small size of our program, we’re all very close, which is awesome, but it’s also really nice to be able to meet other people studying via programs from NYU, BU, and other universities.
As one of around 2,600 total Lafayette students back home, my campus is relatively small and easy to navigate so my first couple days of classes here in Shanghai were a bit overwhelming. Not only was there a slight language barrier, but also the campuses here are so much larger and foreign to me so it definitely took a little getting used to. Luckily, everyone is so willing to help answer questions and navigate around the area so I’m never really too lost. Usually I’m always commuting to class with another person on my program, given the nature of our small program and the limited classes we have to choose from, so we’re all generally going to the same place at the same time. We all have Chinese class at Shanghai Jiao Tong University from 8:30-11:30am Monday through Thursday and then we have three other classes throughout the week.
All of our classes are three-hours long and meet once a week except for our Chinese class, which we have Monday through Thursday for three hours a day. It’s great that our other classes only meet once a week so that we’re able to spread out our workload. It also cuts down on the time we spend commuting to class. We don’t have class on Fridays, which is wonderful because we’re able to explore during the extended weekends and really make the most of our time here.
The course material in Chinese is really neat, because a lot of our classes incorporate field trips within the curriculum to take us to the places we’re studying and give us more perspective into the cultural aspects of life here in China. I find it really interesting and informative to get out of the classroom and explore temples and cultural sites with my professors because they know a lot more than us about the area and can help explain certain statues, temples, characters, or other hidden meanings that we may not have been able to understand if we went by ourselves. I’ve also been able to go to different areas that it might not have stumbled upon by myself or even traveling with others in my abroad program because some of these places are not as well-known and tourist/traveler blogs or online sites haven’t published as much information on these locations.
In my Chinese class, we’re learning about various different cultural places around Shanghai and how the city has changed over the years. We discussed Dashijie, which is a cultural museum that we got the chance to speak about in class as well as visit on one of our field trips. The words that we’re learning in class are incredibly helpful and I actually find myself using them on a daily basis when I’m talking to others on the streets, instead of learning random words from a textbook word bank. Our professor gives us time to walk around campus and interview/talk to Chinese students who are also studying at Jiao Tong University, which has been a really interesting experience for me! We’ve also learned about traditional clothing, travel, traditional foods, festivals, and more. Although having three-hour long classes is sometimes hard to sit through, I feel like I’m learning so much more.
In my religion & philosophy class, we’re learning about Chinese philosophy and religion and the different translations of Chinese texts. It’s interesting to know that a lot of the Chinese texts have been translated with a Christian bias. For example, when we learned about the origins of characters in the Analects, we were introduced to 道 (the way). In Chinese there is no distinction between singular and plural, so this word could also be translated as “ways.” According to our professor, Americans are used to believing in a singular deity or higher power, whereas Chinese can deal with multiplicity, which proves to be difficult when translating these ancient Chinese texts.
In my marketplace class, we’re learning about migrant workers and the struggles of leaving home and coming to a “first tier” city to study or find work. The problem with leaving home is that there is a lot of pressure from the migrant’s families to send money and visit home. However, many of them don’t want to return home because their lives in Shanghai or one of the other major coastal cities they have migrated to are much better. Our professor is a cultural anthropologist so it’s interesting to learn about the market from a cultural anthropological point of view and incorporate more understanding of how we can strip away our ethnocentrism and understand the Chinese lifestyle and marketplace from the Chinese perspective.
In my history course, we’re studying historic artifacts from Troy to Zhujiajiao (an ancient water town in Shanghai). We’re looking at different relics and ruins found via archeological digs and understanding the different incentives for building statues, edifices, and other structures. By learning about these ancient areas, we’re also defining what determines a city and the key qualities that differentiate cities from villages, towns, and colonies.
Although my abroad experience is more focused on Chinese culture and language, it’s wonderful to have these classes to supplement important information about China and be able to dive into topics in the heart of where they were first written about and understood.
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<p>Ever since I was a child, my life has always been linked to helping other people. I founded Kids Helping Kids when I was in sixth grade after I was in a serious car accident. While in the hospital, I heavily relied on the support of my friends and family as I had recovered. As I reflected on my accident and the serious injuries I had suffered, I saw the incredible power that I was shown as everyone came together to help me heal. The idea to start KHK was inspired by the small acts of kindness I witnessed from so many. I was so moved by the generosity of my peers that I wanted to harness that energy and share it with others, who may not have the same access to support. Kids Helping Kids has changed the way I view the world and others around me. I love volunteering because of the experiences and lessons I gain. It has shown me the power I have to make a difference in another person's life, and the impact that the people we serve have on my life.</p>