Attending a business course at Shanghai University right after a stressful exam period was not how I envisioned spending the beginning of my summer holiday. There was a moment of sheer panic when I realised that I had just over two weeks to organise my flights, apply for a visa, and prepare for the cold, damp weather. Before I knew it, I hopped off the plane in Shanghai with a gut feeling that the experience of a lifetime was about to take place.
Shanghai, you did not prove me wrong. Known as the most prosperous city in China where East meets West, how could you not fall in love with its blended culture, high-rise buildings and ever-expanding skyline? I constantly found myself in awe of the views that the dynamic metropolis had to offer and was mesmerised by its intricate twist on tradition and hybridised pop culture.
The program I attended (Chinese Language and Doing Business in China) at Shanghai University- SILC Business School consisted of a combination of Chinese classes, business lectures, industry field trips and cultural activities. Aside from weekends, the day would begin with a 4-hour block in the classroom, followed by an excursion or activity and free time for the remainder. Waking up for an 8.30AM class every morning was probably the most challenging part of the trip, however knowing what lied ahead of us for the day made it all worth it. Some of my favourite activities included learning calligraphy, Chinese water painting and archery. As you can tell, painting was definitely not my forte.
If by now you haven’t changed tabs and still happen to be reading this, then let me share with you a few of the favourite touristy locations that my friends and I visited!
As you’re probably already aware, The Bund is a famous waterfront located on the bank of Huangpu River. It is a popular tourist spot across from four of Shanghai’s highest skyscrapers and offers a dazzling view of Pudong’s futuristic skyline. I would recommend going at sunset as you’ll be able to witness the bustling esplanade transform into a magical neon-lit light show. Shanghai’s nightlife definitely does not disappoint!
This attraction was no doubt the most memorable for me. Not only because of its beautifully picturesque scenery, but because it snowed. Apparently, it was the first time in a decade since Shanghai had experienced a snowfall. With that, and on top of the fact that I had never seen snow before in my life, you can only imagine the excitement and happiness I tried to contain. Oh Shanghai, you picked the most perfect day to snow. It felt surreal being surrounded by the bamboo trees and ancient wooden buildings whilst watching the snow fall gently down.
I wish I could say the same about my visit to Shanghai Tower. This attraction was unfortunately a disappointment due to the cloudy weather conditions on the day. As I got off the elevator on the 128th floor, all I could see through every window was white smog. I have to admit, it was quite impressive that I couldn’t even make out a single building or road no matter how hard I looked. I did also manage to take a cool photo of the tower disappearing up into the clouds, so I guess it wasn’t all that bad. If you’re planning to visit the Shanghai Tower, make sure you check the weather first!
This is the best place to shop for souvenirs and explore street food. Situated within the French Concession, it is home to many boutique shops, bars and restaurants with an international flavour. I spent hours here exploring the little labyrinth of narrow alleyways to discover coffee shops, small craft stores and trendy art studios.
By now you’ve probably heard of Shanghai being referred to as “a shopper’s paradise”. Nanjing Road is no doubt where you want to max out your credit card if you’re a shopaholic like me. Along the bustling street filled with shops of every brand and size and the plethora of luxury designer goods for sale, Nanjing Road will keep you preoccupied for hours!
Last but not least, my journey in Shanghai would not have been complete without the friendships and connections I’ve made. I am thankful for everyone who has made this opportunity possible and helped me achieve my dream of studying abroad. By putting myself outside of my comfort zone, not only has it taught me to be patient and resilient, it has also changed my view on the world. I can’t wait to see where my next adventure will take me!
P.S. If I had to give one piece of advice, pack stretchy comfortable clothes because the food in Shanghai is insanely cheap and too delicious to resist. Needless to say, I have eaten my weight in dumplings and really pushed my lactose intolerance beyond limits with the amount of bubble tea I’ve consumed.