After arriving in Shanghai one week ago, I already feel like we’ve been here for months – in the best way possible. Our language partners and the staff here have been incredibly helpful in assisting us with getting our bearings and becoming acquainted with both the Shanghai Jiao Tong University campus as well as the Fudan University campus. On our first weekend, they took us to both campuses and we got to walk around and learn how to get from the 地铁 (subway) to our classrooms and back to the apartment. They also showed us the 餐厅 (canteen/cafeteria), where most of us grab food for lunch in between our morning and afternoon classes.
The public transport in Shanghai is very easy to navigate and although I haven’t been here for too long, I already know my way around most of the streets surrounding our apartment building and in the University neighborhoods. We walk everywhere in the city and take the Metro if it’s a little farther away. Since we arrived on Wednesday, February 28th we had the whole rest of the week before classes started the following Monday to explore the area, find delicious places to eat, and try new foods, and obviously go shopping.
The IES Abroad volunteers and our language partners took us to buy Chinese SIM cards. Our whole IES Abroad program also learned about culture shock and met our language partners, went to an acrobatics show, and had plenty of time to ourselves. It was great to be able to spend time with the other students on the program and get to know them over the first couple of days so that by the time Monday rolled around and classes started, we knew who to travel with to class and where to go.
Our apartments are beautiful. Everyone on the program lives in the apartments besides two guys who are staying with families in homestays. We are living in a great location, right at the center of the city in the residential districts. There are tons of restaurants, shops, parks, and streets to explore right outside our doorsteps.
When we went to the markets, I got such a rush from trying to bargain over the prices of my clothing. When 中国人 (Chinese people) see us, they immediately give us a price that is 太贵了 (very expensive). Our program director told us to start bargaining at one fourth of the price and settle for a price in between one fourth and one third of the original offering price. One of my favorite phrasing when bargaining is 可以便宜一点儿吗? (Can you make it a little cheaper?). Chinese people are surprised when a white female starts speaking Chinese to them, but usually lower the price immediately because 你说中文 (you speak Chinese). The markets are endless in Shanghai and you can quite honestly get lost in between all the aisles if you’re not careful. From electronics and chargers to clothing and bags, you name it and there is probably a stand that sells it!
After having the first weekend to explore and use my Chinese skills, I already feel so much more at home here. Although we learned about culture shock and definitely experience encounters on a daily basis that expand our views of China or make us take a step back, this place has so much to offer, and I love getting to embark on a new journey every day.
I got to discover hidden neighborhoods, an old slaughterhouse, the Bund, a fake market, and a host of other cool places that words cannot describe. It’s great that everyone on our trip is so willing to travel and use their Mandarin speaking skills to communicate with locals. Although I know that I look American, I feel like for the most part people are very receptive and willing to listen to my broken Chinese and fill in the blanks for words I don’t yet know. Even after being here for one week I feel that my listening and speaking skills have already improved tremendously. I feel like a big part of communicating in a foreign language is having the confidence and courage to give it your best shot without worrying if you’re going to say the wrong word, use the wrong tone, or be misunderstood. It’s comforting to know that everyone else is in the same boat in terms of not being as fluent as they would like, and just wanting and needing to practice in order to get better. I feel so lucky that everyone on my program is supportive and adventurous. Since we’re all already out of our comfort zones by living in another country, it’s comforting to know that we are all here for one another.
Here are some photos of the areas that we’ve gotten to explore so far!
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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>