- What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB? I took 4 classes in total: one for major credit, two for GE credit, and Chinese language. All of the classes I took were taught in English, and there were many options for courses to choose from for international students. We had the option to take business and finance courses, which aren’t offered at UCSB. The courses at Fudan University only met once a week for 3 hours. This left a lot of time throughout the week to do readings and do fun things like explore the city. Another difference between the courses at UCSB and Fudan was the class sizes. Lectures were held with 50 people max. This permitted a lot of direct interaction between students and professors. Overall, the classes were by no means easy. I had to put a lot of time in studying, but because many UCEAP students were in my classes, I always had a study buddy.
- What was your favorite class abroad? The class I enjoyed the most was our required “Debating Globalization” course. It was taught by a visiting professor from UCI. The readings were varied and all very interesting. Also, we got the opportunity to go around Shanghai and interview locals for a paper assignment. I also very much enjoyed my “Religion in Chinese Society” course, which surprised me since it is outside of my major. Between those two courses, I felt that my understanding of China had developed greatly- both in terms of gaining an understanding of China’s economic development and its rich cultural history.
- Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience. I participated in an unpaid internship for academic credit to qualify for the Freeman Internship Scholarship program. I was a finance intern for a small private wealth firm for 2.5 out of the 4 months I spent in Shanghai. It was tough to find the position and very tough to acquire the correct visa to be able to work as an intern. Also, after changing my visa status, I could not travel outside of China (until returning home of course). The company I interned with, Austin Morris Associates was mixed with westerners and native Chinese, but the company is a western company. Because my position was unpaid, nobody took the time to teach me the ins and outs of financial analysis. I didn’t know much about finance to begin with and thus had to spend a lot of time learning on my own. My tasks mostly centered around managing excel files of potential clients. Although it was an overwhelmingly stressful experience, I’m glad I took the risk and pursued the position because it looks great on my resume.
- How would you describe your host institution? Fudan University is a very prestigious institution in China. The campus was amazing to explore and hang out around. It’s situated in the “suburbs” of Shanghai, surrounded by older residential buildings and shopping centers. Just like at UCSB, everyone bikes through campus to get to class. I bought a bike for my time there with was well worth the 350 RMB I paid for it. They were planning a new metro station to be built on campus while I was there. Even still, the nearest metro stop was a 10 minute walk from campus. From the metro you can reach anywhere in the city in under 2 hours.
- Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join? Absolutely, I had friends who joined the dance team, the skateboarding club, and the scuba diving club. I personally focused most of my time on travel, studying, and my internship so I didn’t have time for club activities. It is easy to make friends with other international students in the program who come from all over the world, and if you make the effort, you can make friends with the native Chinese students; they are very welcoming.
- Describe your housing situation. I stayed in one of the apartments that was recommended by UCEAP during my time in China. The building I was in was full of students and my neighbors were other UCEAP students. Being surrounded by my friends made my experience more comfortable, however my language skills did not benefit from living with native English speakers. The rent was very affordable, especially considering I had a single apartment right next to campus.
- Where did you eat most of your meals? The cafeterias on campus had delicious food. Surrounding campus, there were tons of cheap, delicious restaurants as well, and in the shopping center WuJiaoChang there were many higher end restaurants. Every day on my way to my internship I would stop by this street vendor selling JianBing for breakfast. It was 4.5 RMB for a delicious meal that could be made in under 30 seconds.
- How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students? The food was extremely cheap because of the exchange rate. An average meal cost between 15-30 RMB, or 2-5 USD. The expensive restaurants were the American fast food brands! But after long stretches of eating Chinese food, I found myself craving McDonalds! I also found a Habit burger right in the heart of Shanghai, that was a memorable day. I would suggest having WeChat pay to be able to quickly pay for all your meals (and everything else). To get WeChat pay you must set up a temporary Chinese bank account which is a hassle, but well worth the effort.
- Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals? Short answer, yes. Restaurants aren’t as used to people having dietary restrictions as they are in the States. One of the girls on our program was vegan, but decided to put a pause on that while in China to make things easier and to be able to experience the authentic cuisine.
- Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad. My friends and I went to a high-end hot pot restaurant for Thanksgiving. Hot pot is amazing in Shanghai. There are so many delicious dishes to try!
- What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back? Roujiamo was my absolute favorite meal. It is like a pork hamburger with a delicious fried bun. (I’m sure that description makes Chinese people cringe).
- Describe your host city. Shanghai is absolutely massive, but by the middle of the program it felt like home and I could easily find my way around anywhere using the buses or metro. Everywhere is so busy, always full of people shopping, working, or riding around on motor bikes. It is also the most western influenced city in China (so I’ve heard), so the people there are used to seeing westerners and are extremely friendly.
- Was it easy to get around? Transportation was probably my favorite part of China. It was incredibly cheap and easy to use the buses and metro. All major cities had amazing infrastructure. You don’t even have to be able to read Chinese to get around because the Shanghai metro has signs in English! Though it might be tougher to get around in other cities only speaking English, if you try, you can always find someone who speaks English to help you.
- Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students? While Shanghai is definitely safer than any city in the US (because no guns), you still need to be alert and mindful. The biggest safety hazard is reckless motorists. Always check twice before crossing, cars don’t slow down for pedestrians. In the beginning, I was more cautious and didn’t trust that the natives had my best interest in mind. But I grew to realize that as with all places, some people can be rude, and some can be friendly. I met many kind native Chinese folks who were happy to help if I was struggling to get around. Many of the government employees that I had to deal with were harsh however.
- What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city? Every once in a while, I would go by myself to the bund, which is the area across from all the huge buildings. I enjoyed taking these little trips by myself. It was a neat reminder that I was in the largest city in the world. We took a tour around Shanghai with the students in the UCEAP program. That was one of the most fun experiences during my stay. Also, I went to Shanghai Disney 3 times in my 4 months there.
- Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad. The language barrier was tough to deal with in the beginning, but it just took time for my Chinese to reach a functional level to where I could comfortably get around.
- How did you handle culture shock? I had an awful second week in the program. I couldn’t get money to transfer from my US bank, I got sick and had to visit the hospital, and was stressed out from dealing with visa stuff. To overcome this low point, I had to rely on my friends for comfort. It was scary, but just took time to get acclimated.
- What is your favorite aspect of your host culture? Chinese people were very respectful. That helped me start to feel like it was my home.
- Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad. In the 2nd month of my abroad experience, I took a trip by myself to a nearby city called HangZhou. One of the girls in my program recommended that I try traveling alone. Before coming to China, I didn’t even imagine that I would be able to do that. It was a serious test of my Chinese language skills, but I was able to navigate the public transportation with ease and everything in that trip went without a problem. From HangZhou I took a bus to this smaller city called QianDaoHu, or “Thousand Islands Lake”. That was the most amazing part of the trip. The lake was beautiful and the hotel I stayed in had an incredible view. I took a boat tour around the lake and befriended some native Chinese folks on vacation. They took me under their wing and took a few pictures with me! I was so glad I took the risk to travel alone because I had the most spiritually and emotionally fulfilling experience.
- What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal? Using the bullet trains was surprisingly easy. I ended up taking the train by myself on many occasions to travel. I was bummed when I learned that my visa status wouldn’t allow me to leave the country to travel, however there were so many places to visit within China that I never found myself itching to leave.
- What was your biggest challenge abroad? Dealing with the government to change my visa status so that I could intern and trying to set up a bank account and get money into the account. In both cases, I felt incredible time pressure and had to visit many different offices. This was very stressful, but once it was over everything was smooth sailing.
- How have you changed as a result of your time abroad? It’s hard to think of all the ways that I’ve changed because I went through so much in such a short period of time. In short, I now see the world totally different. I love my major and the subjects that I study more because I have been able to see the concepts from the classroom come to life before my eyes. Finally, I have more confidence in myself than ever before. I have so many vivid and incredible memories from the whole experience.
- What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students? Studying abroad is not always as glamorous as they make it look in the brochures. It is hard to live in another country. There will be high highs and low lows throughout your time. The important thing to remember is that you are there to learn- about your host country, about the subjects taught in class, and about who you are as a person. If you open yourself up to learning as much as you can, you will take away so much from the experience.