Although I expected to start my first semester of college in New York City, I took a detour and ended up in Shanghai. I (and most of the Class of 2024) can attest that I didn’t know what my digital college experience would be like because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, during this unprecedented time, NYU took proactive measures to make our college experience as “normal” as possible. For example, international students could study at one of NYU’s global locations if we happened to live in one of the countries. Growing up in Taiwan, I could easily study in Shanghai with no immigration issues, and it was only a short flight away. Even though our circumstances were every first year’s nightmare, thanks to NYU’s global network, it was a cool opportunity. If I can be “thankful” for anything during the pandemic, it is the opportunity to experience an unexpected study away term.
I fell in love with the tight-knit community at NYU Shanghai. I’m glad I got to experience a smaller campus feel during my first semester. The strong sense of community definitely extends to the professors (I really mean this). Here’s my cute little story to back this up: I bumped into my Parenting and Culture professor in New York City (two years later!) and he remembered me. We had a great time catching up, and he even recalled the paper I wrote for his class!
Tradition Meets Innovation
Shanghai is such a beautiful city with two contrasting sides separated by the Huangpu River. One moment you can be among the historical buildings heading down the Bund in Puxi. And in the next, just after a short ferry ride, you can be near the Oriental Pearl Tower in modern Pudong. Additionally, if you’re interested in learning more about Shanghai’s rich culture and history, you can take Shanghai Stories. This class, which conveniently counts as credit for the core requirement, utilizes short stories and field trips to teach students more about Shanghainese history.
Out and About
With so many places to explore, you’re bound to use public transportation. NYU Shanghai has its own shuttle buses that take students to and from the residence halls and academic building.
Other than that, Shanghai has a ton of convenient and affordable public transportation options. For example, you can take the subway to any part of the city. And it costs around ¥3 to ¥5 RMB (roughly less than $1 USD). The Disney adult in me was excited to find out that Disneyland is a subway ride away.
If you’re craving some cardio, there are community bikes on every sidewalk. Just scan the QR code through apps like WeChat and you’re good to go. The monthly subscription is a great deal if you cycle often! Fancy a scenic route? Try the ferry if you’re traveling across the Huangpu River. Want an insider tip? Take the ferry at sunset to get amazing views for an affordable price!
Food in Shanghai
I know this is a hot take (and will forever be a part of my digital footprint), but I mean it…whether you like Chinese, Thai, Italian, or Brazilian food, there’s bound to be a restaurant in Shanghai for you.
The prices can range from college-student budget to celebratory night out. For all those nights cramming for final exams, Shanghai’s take-out culture can’t be topped. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I ordered mango pomelo sago just to motivate myself to keep studying.
From scallion oil noodles to the famous xiaolongbao (steamed bun), definitely try Shanghai street food when you have time on the weekend. Chenghuangmiao Old Street is a great place to start!
What Are You Waiting For?
This study away experience was completely unexpected, but it’s my best college experience thus far. Whether you’re reading this as a prospective or current student, I hope you’ll consider studying away (even if it isn’t in Shanghai).
As an international student, I know how daunting it is to be so far away from home. But, I promise, only good things can come from this experience. There will be nights of homesickness. But for every moment you miss home, there are going to be 100 new happy memories you’ve made in a new country.