You may have heard studying abroad in Shanghai referred to as
“non-traditional,” but with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, why go
with traditional?Moving to Shanghai
One thing is consistent among students returning from study abroad in
Shanghai: it defied their expectations. Shanghai, a city with the 2nd
largest population (yes, the size of the city can handle its 24 million
people, plus tourists!) is teeming with possibilities. It’s a dynamic
metropolitan city with its own unique pulse, which makes it difficult to
define unless you experience it for yourself.
In celebration of the IES Abroad Shanghai Center’s 10th anniversary,
we’re revealing the best kept secrets—with the help of our students
who’ve been there, done that—of what it’s really like to study abroad in
Shanghai. With the help of our Ambassadors from our Shanghai Economy,
Business & Society, Engineering, and Summer Internship programs,
we’re dishing out why you should consider Shanghai as your study abroad
1. It has food from all 23 provinces in China…and the rest of the world.
Let one thing be clear: Shanghai is a foodie’s paradise. Forget what you
learned from Chinese food in the States, this city attracts a diverse
selection of the best flavors from all over the country (and world!) for
its hungry urbanites. There’s something for everyone, such as delicious
xiǎolóngbāo (soup-filled dumplings), street noodles prepared before
your eyes, or, for the more adventurous, the local’s favorite–stinky
tofu. What’s more, you can experience this wide variety of food all in
one place: the popular Yunnan Road. This street has specialty cuisine
from all 23 provinces in China –in just one place! An added bonus? Our
Center is right next door. Grabbing delicious snacks between classes has
never been so easy, and delicious.
2. It’s the second-largest city in the world (really!)
To put it into perspective, Shanghai is about eight times larger than
New York City, and has at least five million more people living within
its city limits. A city this big means more of everything: more to do,
more to see, more activities, events, and life everywhere you look. “I
knew Shanghai was big, but I didn’t grasp how big until I was there,”
says Ryan D.(IES Abroad Shanghai Engineering, Spring 2018 | University
of Tulsa). A city that big can be overwhelming, but study abroad gives
you the chance to pick up and move there knowing you’ll have a built-in
cohort of fellow U.S. students, and you won’t need to worry about
securing safe and central housing. Consider it handled!
3. It is a multicultural melting pot.
On par with New York City or London, modern Shanghai society has
different cultures woven throughout. Surprised? Shanghai has always been
a meeting point of East and West, and continues to be a confluence
point of cultures today. Throughout its history, Shanghai has been a
major port for Europe and Asia. At points, it has been occupied by
European and American concessions and also housed a community of Jewish
refugees during the war. Paired with modern industry, this unique past
set the stage for the global Shanghai you see today. Don’t let the
cultural collage intimidate you, though! “If a student is ever craving a
piece of home, there is ample opportunity to hop on the Metro and go to
a more Western area of the city or find a cool burger joint for some
American grub,” says Lexi K.
4. It’s home to two of the top universities in China, where you can take courses in English with Chinese students.
Many Chinese students start studying at a young age to get into a
university in the prestigious C9 League, also known as China’s Ivy
League. Both of our partner universities, Fudan University and Shanghai
Jiao Tong University – Joint Institute (SJTU-JI) both are in the C9
League and welcome IES Abroad students to take classes. Take the
opportunity to experience stellar academics without a language barrier,
and make local friends in the classroom while you’re at it. The Shanghai
Center plans a handful of events to help you engage with local
students, including an SJTU buddy program, basketball games, BBQ with
language partners, KTV Karaoke nights, and more!
5. It has an amazing public transit system, but it’s also one of the best places to just truly wander.
Our Ambassadors all agreed that their favorite activity was exploring
the new city that was their home. Shanghai is well connected by metro,
less than $1 USD will get you almost anywhere in the city in less than
an hour! “When I got comfortable with the subway system, I used to pick a
random stop to get off at and just check out the area,” says Kameelah
S.T. (IES Abroad Shanghai Economy, Business & Society, Fall 2017 |
Spelman College). “I found a ton of cool restaurants, shops, and parks
that way!” Bike sharing is also wildly popular in Shanghai, giving you
more ways to see new places, or change up your commute. Develop a
relationship with your new home as you stumble upon new neighborhoods,
restaurants, museums, and friendly Shanghai residents. Where are some of
the best places to roam? Our Ambassadors recommend Yu Gardens, Jing’an
Temple, and, of course, the Bund as a start. Follow Will Kyaw, our
Spring 2018 Correspondent, on his beautifully recorded journey through
the Shanghai Metro as he and his friends explore the city in
“Unexpectedly ended up in a Slaughterhouse- Shanghai VLOG.”
6. It stands out on a résumé.
In the past 20 years, China has positioned itself to be a major player
in almost every industry. This means companies from all over the globe
have some connection with China and are on the lookout for employees
with experience in this market. While abroad, practice your networking
vocabulary during a language class, visit major factories and ports in
the city as you study supply chain management, or even take on a
full-time summer internship in Shanghai. Gaining internship experience,
studying at a Chinese university, as well as practicing Mandarin in the
commercial and financial capital of China are sure to make your résumé
stand out from the rest.
7. It has everything a big city can offer, but is college-student-budget friendly.
There’s a reason Shanghai was number one on our list of Best Places to
Study Abroad for the Cost-Savvy Student. Not only are our study abroad
programs in Shanghai some of the most affordable, but the cost of living
compared to the United States always surprises students. For example, a
meal at a dining hall can cost only ~10 RMB ($1.48 USD)–compare that to
your on-campus meal plan! You’ll also learn the art of bargaining –
consider everything sold in a market or on the street open for a
discussion. It may seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang
striking a bargain in Shanghai you’ll feel like a local. What’s better
than a souvenir? A souvenir you were able to haggle for in Mandarin (or
maybe just non-verbally, which is also a skill)!
8. It’s more than just skyscrapers—be prepared for art and architecture that will blow your mind!
Shanghai’s global influences and traditional Chinese culture collide to
make this city a feast for the eyes. Eastern and Western, as well as old
and new architecture coexist side by side. The beautiful Jing’an Temple
is nestled directly amid the hustle and bustle of skyscrapers while an
instagrammable art-deco slaughterhouse-turned-shopping center (1933
Slaughterhouse) stands by the old Jewish Ghetto. Walking around the Bund
may remind you of Europe while ultra-modern skycrapers like the China
Pearl Tower sparkle from just across the river. Shanghai is also home to
a vibrant arts scene with museums big and small throughout, such as
student favorites like the Shanghai Museum, Yuzmuseum’s famous Rain
Room, and the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum. Read about Lexi stumbling
upon the latter two in one of her blogs, “Wandering in Shanghai”.
9. It allows you to use your Chinese student visa as a ticket to explore one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
China is more diverse than you think, both in ethnic groups and
biodiversity. Imagine taking in snow-capped mountains, beaches, terraced
hills, deserts, and river-valleys…without even leaving the country.
Shanghai is widely connected by trains and buses that are safe, easy,
and fun to take as you zip around the country. To match the geographical
variety, adventuring on weekend trips with your program or on your own
with friends will expose you to people from the 56 distinct ethnic
groups that make up China. With so many people and places to see in
China alone, your study abroad bucket need not involve crossing any
borders; exploring China’s wide-ranging provinces will be challenge
10. It is home to our local center staff, and they’ll be there to help you make the most of Shanghai.
If this list has you excited, or maybe just a little overwhelmed, here’s
the cherry on top: since we’ve been in Shanghai for 10 years, we know a
thing or two! You’ll get the necessary and relevant vocabulary right
from orientation, followed by in-depth language classes that will allow
you to comfortably maneuver life in your new city. “The language class
teachers are often very willing to tailor the lessons to what you want
to learn, so don’t be afraid to ask them,” Lucy S. (IES Abroad Shanghai
Engineering – Spring 2017 | Lehigh University) advises. Course
excursions and field trips will take you outside of the city’s bubble to
spots you may have never heard of, such as nearby water towns like
Hangzhou for canal rides, or on a breathtaking air rail journey in the
mountains of Huangshan. You’ll take relevant courses with local
instructors who are experts in their fields, and who don’t mind taking
time to chat after class or recommend a new restaurant. As the semester
rolls by, you’ll pass through Shanghai each day knowing more and more
about what makes this city tick, growing from your classes, and what
you’ve experienced yourself!