Whilst undertaking an LLB/BA degree with a concurrent diploma in Chinese at UQ, I decided to spend a semester in Fudan to get away from it all and further my language abilities. It has been an unforgettable experience, to say the least.

Life is lived a little differently in Shanghai, for instance I’ve learnt that bus drivers want as many people on the bus as possible, so swipe your card and enter through the backdoor, navigate to any spare space and push or yell to make sure you get off at your stop. Although it is extremely important to take care of yourself and avoid getting sick don’t let that limit your experience. I find that you just have to bite the bullet, once your body acclimatises then the worst is over and the eating can begin!

Living in the dorms created a great environment to sustain friendships without really infringing on one’s freedom since the transportation system is cheap and convenient (though buses are difficult to understand, use google maps and the bus website it links to, really worth it) with a wide scope. Even though it might take an hour or more to get somewhere, the transportation system makes it so easy. The 5 day classes schedule allows you to create close bonds with classmates, including a free class dinner (!) and teachers tend to be more candid about a student’s language abilities, but don’t like that embarrass you. Criticism is so much more helpful than praise.

In so many ways, Shanghai is incomparable to Brisbane, both good and bad. But don’t let any of that stop you from experiencing Shanghai as it’s suppose to be experienced! Bravely. Move out of your comfort zone and you’ll find yourself somewhere infinitely more worthwhile.

Most of all, I urge all future and prospective students to not be afraid to do or say anything. If you think that jacket isn’t worth 460 RMB at qipulu (七蒲路) then ask for however much you think it’s worth. If you want to go to that restaurant and don’t know what to order, point like crazy. If you want to say something but don’t know how, persist until the meaning come across. There is nothing to loose. Don’t stick to the comfortable Western delights Shanghai provides and miss the unique experiences China has to offer.

Suggestions

  • Say whatever you can in Chinese, whenever you can to practice. Shanghai at times really caters to Westerners, and many people will strive to speak English with you, especially to make a sale
  • Be wary of being cheated. Haggling is an art form, don’t be afraid to perfect it, tell taxi drivers you know how much it should cost to get to a certain place, educate yourself on scams
  • If you’re staying for a year, try to get a phone plan with China Mobile, at a legitimate store, there’s one in Wujiaochang. Bring your passport. You can save money this way and ensure your keep the same number if your phone gets lost or stolen. The plan will give you a set amount of data allowance, free texts etc
  • Things are deceptively cheap! So keep an eye out on your expenses. With 2000 RMB a month you’ll be living comfortably, but of course you can always do it for less, 1000 RMB even
  • Things can get very bureaucratic in China, prepare yourself for long lines, journeys, forms and much waiting. Think positively and utilise the experience to make friends, practice the language and learn new information


 

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