Shanghai is the best! Past Review

By (Chinese Studies International Relations, Austin College) - abroad from 02/18/2013 to 06/07/2013 with

IFSA/Alliance: Shanghai - Intensive Chinese Language

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I talk too much, so it is impossible to fit into here. It was completely worthwhile, I made friends that I am now closer to than anyone back home, experienced completely unique cultural phenomena, etc.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Overall experience was quite good, a smaller program so easy to work with the teachers to tailor your semester to your abilities. I was able to adjust the pace of study myself as my studies progressed through the semester, which I believe to be unique amongst study abroad programs.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

There were always staff, both American and Chinese, on hand to answer any questions or deal with any issues the students had.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

International housing is rarely up to the standards one expects after a few semesters at a nicer American university such as mine, but these dorms were surprising in that they were more apartment-like. I had my own room and shared a bathroom with only 1 other person. Maid service was available for cheap.

* Food:

The area surrounding Fudan and SUFE is filled with incredible little shops that all have their own specialties and cost very little. Also, it was very easy to find some more familiar foods if you are willing to travel a little further and pay a bit more.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

In addition to having a Chinese roommate, who spoke mostly Chinese with us, we were surrounded by Chinese people every time we stepped out of the gate to go to a store or restaurant. In Shanghai, it is very easy to either become completely immersed or completely isolated.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

We did have healthcare, but unfortunately the nearest hospital that has Western-standard sanitation, care, and service is a long distance away. Not easily gotten to if you are in an emergency.

* Safety:

Very safe, the rate of deadly crimes in China is almost 0. The majority of what you need to look for is pickpocketing. Whenever you are in a very touristy place or in a heavily populated part of town, the pickpockets will be everywhere. The average Chinese person will also say and do nothing if they see someone stealing your items, so you have to be personally vigilant.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Had to go halfway, because it is not overly difficult to live on a student's budget in Shanghai, but only if you do not do very many things. Like any major metropolitan city (Shanghai's population is in excess of 20mil now!), everything is more expensive than small villages in the countryside. While the prices might be outrageously low in American or most European currencies, that becomes a trap that causes people to spend more than they originally intended. So if you like to live meagerly, you should be fine. If you like living large (especially if you enjoy your nightlife, for which Shanghai is both famous and notorious), then bring extra money (i.e. credit from student loans).

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Very hard to say, some weeks I would take it easy and maybe spend only $50 for 2 meals a day (I am never awake for breakfast) for an entire week. Sometimes I would go hard and spend much more than that, in excess of $300 if lots of drinks were involved.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Eating locally is great and cost-effective, but you will rapidly tire of eating nothing but Chinese food (as incredibly delicious as it is, at first). If you do your research online, you can easily find cheaper bars to visit where drinks are ridiculously cheap, even by Chinese standards. Also, make friends with the girls in your program! There are dozens of Ladies' Nights every week where girls get endless drinks all night long, so do what I do and tag along.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Chinese 202
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Don't frustrate yourself trying to only use the language. Class settings can be quite stressful, so make best use of your Chinese roommate. They are an incredible resource that can not only help you work on your Chinese in a relaxed setting where you do not feel pressured, but they can also be best (and cheapest!) tour guides you can find. Even if they are not family with the city, since many are from the countryside, they will be completely fluent in Mandarin and can help you out immensely.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Students
  • People
  • Teachers
* What could be improved?
  • Trip destinations
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Trips were optional. You technically paid for them already, but are not forced to go on them. So if you absolutely do not want to go to wherever it is that they have planned for you to go, it is MUCH better to stay in Shanghai. I

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!