A New Perspective in Shanghai Past Review

By (Accounting, University of Massachusetts Amherst / UMass) - abroad from 02/27/2014 to 12/20/2014 with

IFSA/Alliance: Shanghai - International Business in China

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Everything about traveling abroad is useful, even the negative parts. I learned so much about other Americans, Chinese people, and myself. Alliance was an excellent program and facilitated my personal growth in so many ways.

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.

The Mandarin Classes were excellent for a beginner like myself. The small class sizes meant a lot of one-on-one time with the professors and a great learning environment. My other 3 classes were all Econ and ranged in difficulty. Remember, these professors speak English as a second language; it will certainly be a new learning environment for most and one needs to adapt and understand they have chosen to study abroad. Overall, excellent classes.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

My program had an admin named Felix, she was amazing! If you have any problems, concerns, or just want to talk she was available and eager. She also did an amazing job taking us 20+ students around China for our group trip.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The living arrangements were very good. It was one other American student, a Shanghai native, and myself in a newly built dorm room. We did have to take a bus or walk to class but this only allowed for new experiences and seeing a different side of Shanghai. The beds were in private rooms and we shared a small "living room". Compared with Umass dorm living, it was luxury!

* Food:

The food was one of the best aspects of being in China in my opinion, but not everyone would agree with that statement. I loved exploring exotic foods and the freshness of everything was amazing. I crave real Chinese food every day!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This is difficult since I was a beginner Mandarin speaker, but I managed to integrate myself in a few different ways. For instance, I became a "buddy" with a Chinese student who would be coming to Umass. This allowed me to meet his family and friends and spend some time at his home. I think you can become integrated if you are willing to put in the effort, but it is extremely easy to spend the entire time in your comfort zone with American students and speak minimal Mandarin. Hopefully you choose not to.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I fortunately didn't have any real health issues. Pollution is an issue for everyone and everything in China, but this is avoided with a simple mask when necessary and exercising indoors. We did have many health issues though and they seemed to be addressed and taken care of with no real problems.

* Safety:

I never felt unsafe even in peculiar situations. Just be smart and travel in groups if possible. China is very safe in the physical harm realm, but pick pocketing and thieving is common. Again though, I never felt unsafe.

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)

So the reality here is that China is very cheap. Use the locals to learn how to travel for the least amount and where to shop/eat. The issue is that the Americans you travel with will have a large range of disposable incomes. It's difficult to not go on all the adventures and traveling that the more well off students want to do, but be smart and budget.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 2,000
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Use the trains and use Chinese specific apps to buy airplane tickets. Most places and venues have student discounts as well. Don't buy or eat anything imported from America.


* 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

The program tries very hard to get you to use Mandarin, again though, it really comes down to personal desire and drive.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? none
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? Go out and try to use it with locals. Don't feel stupid or silly, but use it!

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
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
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?
  • Group travel
  • Program Admin
* What could be improved?
  • More Integration
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew that China gets cold and you should bring a jacket!

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 Networker
An active student leader, it was important for you to network abroad as well. Once overseas, you sought out student clubs, volunteered with local organizations, or attended community events. You encouraged your friends join you, and often considered how you could reflect your international experiences in a resume.