Shanghai: Pearl of the Orient

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Shanghai: A city with a population with over 24 million people, and 24 million opportunities either professionally or causally, there is much to do here.

First off the plane ride over is very long around 18 hours, but I luckily was flying out of Los Angeles, as I spent a week there before I flew out, so it was 14 hours instead to Hong Kong, and then 2 hours to Shanghai. For economic purposes I purchased the plane ticket to arrive in Shanghai around midnight, which is not conducive to get a proper welcome from your roommate or anyone who is involved with your program. Nonetheless I arrived at my living quarters: East China Normal University at around 2:30 AM after a long taxi ride (around an hour ride). I gave my taxi driver a pre-written script to give the taxi drive to get me through the front gate, and after asking a student who surprising was walking around campus, I reached by dorm at around 3 AM. I was lead to my dorm, and met, or woke up my roommate Sam, who is a student as well, but who also has a clothing line and is in the music industry in Shanghai. The next day I met the other students who were studying and participating in an internship as well: Victor, Casey, Riley, Annalise, Sidney, and Tori, all very nice people. We were also met by Colin who is our program director who showed us around campus, which contains a magnificent statue of Mao Zedong.

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Next we visited the school cafeteria locate on the east side of the campus, which has a cool method of payment that is centralized on your student card that allows you to progressively add money onto your account. Payment is done by putting your card on a sensor that is located on a register that automatically pulls up your balance, and the clerk will enter in the amount for a dish that subtracts from your balance. The food in Shanghai is a quality that is bar none! Lots of noodles, dumplings, and rice. We visited a restaurant later that day that had seaweed in a sauce that was spectacular. The next day we visited “Global Harbor” and “The Bund” which are Shanghai’s main attractions for tourists and shopping. We also visited the Shanghai Urban Planning and Exhibition Hall – which had an in-depth historical overview of Shanghai, and a giant model of the entire city!

There are a good bit of differences here in Shanghai, most notably tap water. You cannot drink the tap water because of the lack of a strong filtration system and outdated plumbing. Purchasing drinking water is a must which can be aggravating. Although the currency exchange between China’s currency “renminbi” and the dollar is 15:1 so this makes up for the inconvenience. The internet connection at least in my dorm can be inconsistent as the connection will appear and disappear frequently. To add in order to access any website outside of China (like google) you must purchase a VPN (virtual private network) which “tunnels” your IP address to make it look like you are in another country, this is China’s way for stimulating growth in e-commerce within the country. Everyone in Shanghai for the most part is very nice, although because it is a bustling city you must be aware of your surroundings as people walk very fast, and if you are “lets say” in a line for food someone will cut you if you don’t move fast enough. A lot people in Shanghai speak English as it is required to learn in school, if going to a restaurant, or to a major mall you won’t have to pull out google translate.

Class in Shanghai is very small compared to Pitt, as there are only six people in my “Managing Global Supply Chains” class. Although the class is very interesting, my professor Brian Schwarz has us read case studies that are specific to China, and related directed to Supply Chain. It is very beneficial that I have completed all of my Supply Chain classes because I can relay that information into understanding the material for this class. As this is my last official class at Pitt it couldn’t have been better timing that I finish off taking a class dealing with global supply chains in Shanghai! Getting a good grade is very important to me as this is my last class, and because of my natural competitive nature.

The metro in Shanghai is very extensive and connects to everywhere in Shanghai, and is very economical (3 rmb, or 50 cents for a one-way trip). Because of the sheer population density (7 people per square ft.) of Shanghai during the busy hours (between 4-7 PM) the metro can get very packed, and a lot of times you have to force your way in and out of the train. During this time you will frequently have to wait for another train because the current train is at max capacity. This is main mode of transportation in Shanghai as owning a car is very expensive, also drivers here are very erratic when driving, and you must always look behind you and both ways when crossing a street. Mopeds are very common also because of their flexibility going through traffic, and tight spaces.

The metro is also my mode of transportation to get to my internship: Kaiyuan Shipping Co. There I help my supervisor translate emails from English to Chinese, I also conduct analysis on shipping methods to find more efficient ways of distribution, along with finding companies who can ship our fright for a lesser price depending on the amount of fright and location. My supervisor is very nice, and understanding that I don’t understand the language, and I do my best to be as clear with communication as possible (google translate is very necessary). I am constantly learning more about the industry and improving every time I go into work, which is very important to me. I hope to make a strong impact with the company as the semester accelerates, as this could be a future opportunity for employment, or could link me to another company in Shanghai, but at the very least grant me experience and additional skills moving forward. Overall I love my internship, my class,  and my time in Shanghai so far, I look forward to meeting new people and overcoming future challenges.

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