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I’ve been Shanghai-ed

March 29th, 2013 arreta14

I’m in Shanghai! New Campus, new dorm, new roommate… Oh yeah my new roommate’s name is Yang Xin

My new roommate, Yang Xin

. I took him out to an Italian restaurant in Shanghai for dinner. Turned out it was his first experience eating Italian food and one of his first times going to a restaurant that uses forks and knives (as opposed to chopsticks). I ordered him some linguini with Bolognese sauce and had to teach him how to twirl pasta to eat it properly. (BTW for anyone going to Shanghai, the restaurant we went to, Da Marco, has great pasta).

Anyway, the new word for this post is not a word, but a custom that Yang Xin is still trying to teach me. Apparently, after you become good friends with someone in China, you should not say “I’m sorry” (对不起-dui bu qi) or “Thank you” (谢谢-xie xie) to your friends. It’s been tough getting used to this.

Well I’ve been here in Shanghai for a while now. Although I miss my friends and teachers in Beijing, I do like living in Shanghai. Shanghai’s weather is much warmer than Beijing and I don’t have to worry about the levels of air pollution in Shanghai. CET’s Shanghai program is a very small one. There are only 15 American students in the program (all from different areas of the country).

Our dorm room at Dong Hua. It's not as big as Beijing's, but it has it's own fridge, TV and Bathroom

Our Dorms at Dong Hua University

Our Classroom building at Dong Hua University

Academically speaking, Shanghai is very different from the Beijing. First off, we do not have a language pledge in Shanghai. Around our teachers, we must always speak Chinese, but outside of that we can speak English as much as we want. It sounds good but at the same time I really miss the language pledge. It really forced us to rely only on Chinese and by doing so, I feel that my Chinese progressed a lot faster in that program. I’ve been trying to keep my own language pledge as much as I can.

Secondly, our classes are very different. Every Monday morning we have a class from 8:30 am-10:15 am. In this class, we discuss our internships (I’ll get to those later), good ideas for keeping busy and being productive in the workplace. It’s also a good way of knowing what everyone is doing with his or her work. The director of the Shanghai CET program teaches it in English.

Every day of the week from 10:15-12:15 we have our language classes. I took another language placement exam and got into the 400 LEVEL!! (The highest-level available here) I am so happy that my language ability has gone up so much (thanks to CET Beijing for that), but the class itself is HARD. Every day of the week (Mon-Fri) we are responsible for learning roughly 60 new characters (not to mention phrases and grammar patterns) and knowing them well enough to have a character-writing quiz. So when we have our bi-weekly tests (every other week), we are being tested on more than 600 new characters… it’s tough.

We still have our one-on-one classes in Shanghai (one student, one professor), which helps me better understand a lot of the grammar and characters. Because in the 400 level we learn at such a fast pace, this class is really helpful for me. This class meets twice a week for 25 minutes.

Dong Hua's two cafeterias. I'll get another picture of the insides of these buildings later

After our language classes, we usually have about 1/2 an hour to grab some quick lunch at the cafeteria at Dong Hua (which is awesome). 2 cafeterias each with 4 floors of great food. It’s not free, but I can usually get a good meal of stir fry, rice and a couple of baozi’s (think of them as big dumplings) for the equivalent of about 1 US Dollar. Yeah I like that a lot!

After our lunch, my co-intern Nick and I, take the subway from the nearest subway stop to our internship site. In CET Shanghai, we are each given an internship in addition to our studies. We have to apply for them, but CET puts us in touch with various organizations. This aspect of the program is one of the reasons that I have wanted to come to China and do this program since I was applying to colleges. Getting work experience in China is something that I believe is really unique and will really help me with my career after college. I was expecting to get a simple job in a small company in Shanghai, but instead I got an internship with the US Consulate General in Shanghai!! I am beyond excited that I got this internship. I have to pinch myself every once and a while to remind me that I am actually working there. I work at my internship 4 days a week, from early afternoon to evening. It’s a lot of work too, but it’s such an amazing experience.

Finally, in this program we also have an elective course. I selected to do a class on the Economics of China. It’s a good class and I really like our teacher, Joe. It’s more like an economic history and marketing class, which is great for someone like me who really didn’t like the very technical side of economics. We have this course every Friday of every other week from 8 am- 10 am and then 2pm-6pm.

Outside of academics, Shanghai is also a very different city from Beijing. A lot of the places around Shanghai are traditional Chinese-looking areas, but so much of it is modern and definitely built to appeal to Westerners. For example:

Xin Tian Di. A fun, kinda artsy area of Shanghai with a lot of good restaurants

Picture taken from The Bund in Shanghai. The area across the river is called Pudong.

Jing An Temple. A cool Buddhist temple that I pass by almost every day.


In an area near the bund, Shanghai hosted an international literary festival with dozens of authors, journalists, specialists, etc. from around the world giving presentations. This one was given by Mathew Polly, who wrote American Shaolin and was the first American to be admitted to the Shaolin Temple in China.

Because of my internship times, by the time I get back to campus, the cafeteria has already closed, so finding dinner here has been a challenge. I’m gradually finding more places to go, but I’m disappointed that I haven’t found a great pizza place like Kro’s nest in Beijing. 🙁 … I still have hope!

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Andrew Retallick '14

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