Da jia hao! I’ve been in Shanghai for almost two weeks now and so far it’s been a mesmerizing experience. I truly love this city and can envision the rest of my life here. Since it’s been a busy two weeks, I’ll give you some of the highlights of the interesting things I’ve done. I arrived on a Friday afternoon and after a 14 hour flight my roommate and I were ready to hop off the plane and get to our campus. We took a taxi to our dorm, set down our stuff, and then immediately went exploring as we were starving and needed to buy things. There’s a huge mall called Global Harbor Mall about 5 minutes away from our dorm, and we definitely were not prepared when we walked in. The mall is overwhelmingly large, and even two weeks later is still hard to navigate. The mall has around 6 floors and truly has everything: high-end shops, a supermarket, a movie theater, and much more. Our main objective at the mall on that first day was to get the essential items we needed, but it was so large we got lost walking around!
The next day, Saturday, Feb. 24th we had our CAPA orientation and toured the campus. Our dorm is right across from one of the campus dining halls so it’s very convenient and easy to pop in and out. Not only can you get a freshly cooked Chinese meal in minutes, but they also sell fresh fruit on the downstairs level. On Sunday the 25th we had a free day, so a bunch of us decided to go to the park behind our school. The park is called Changfeng Park, and it was HUGE. We walked for around 2 hours and saw people doing Tai Chi, singing, and fishing. There was a lot of activity and tons of people were out and about, so it was a nice relaxing start to the day. Later that night we had a group dinner, and also got an introduction to the metro and using the public bus. The metro station is about 5 minutes away from our dorm, and we use it to get anywhere. If I had to compare the metro to a city in the US, I’d say it’s most like New York except much easier to navigate. It does get really busy though early in the mornings before work and when people get off work as well.
On Monday the 26th we had our official registration for school! We go to East China Normal University – also known as ECNU or more commonly known as 华师大 (hua shi da). It’s actually a university for teachers which is denoted by the “Normal” in the title. My Chinese teacher at Pitt actually graduated from ECNU, so it was cool having that connection before I came here. There were many students registering, so I’m glad we got there early and didn’t have to wait for too long. After we registered we were free for lunch and then had to meet at the metro stop for a continuation of our tour in the city. We went to the old French concession area and then also went to Xintiandi which is a more upscale eating, shopping, and entertainment district in Shanghai. Following that trip we went to The Bund also known as 外滩 (waitan), a large waterfront area. A lot of people probably recognize it from the large circular building called The Pearl Tower that lights up. We came on a good day because it wasn’t too smoggy, so we could see the tops of the buildings really well. Jolena (my roommate and fellow Pitt student) and I also went to The Bund another day in the night, but we didn’t know that the lights shut off at 10 pm, so just as we were getting ready to take our pictures it turned off. All in all it was a learning experience, and we’re excited to go back and explore another day.
Some other cool things we’ve done include going to the world’s largest Starbucks! It had two floors and various coffee bars where you could get snacks and different drinks. Everything was expensive, if not more expensive than the American Starbucks, so it was interesting to see that even though there are many cultural changes, that’s the one thing that remains the same from country to country.
So far my time in China has been amazing. Lots of good food, tons of new friends, and many new places to visit and experience. Zaijian!