Watch Your Step

In Shanghai, The Art of Travel Fall 2014, Tips by Rachel Levine-Ramirez

I’m going to start out this post by telling a story about my morning.

I woke up and called my mom. She seemed happy to hear from me, so I decided to take this opportunity to tell her about the tailor-made suits my friends were all buying, and she asked if I wanted her to send me money for some. I immediately said yes when she realized that I was a Thursday morning for me and I should have been getting ready to go to class.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on the bus right now? Don’t you have to go to class?”

“Debatable.”

When she asked, I reread the email we had just gotten alerting the student community that the water pumps, which control the heat at our campus, had malfunctioned this morning and they would hopefully be fixed before class started. The sky outside looked foggy, but my China Air Quality app informed me that it was actually a pollution of 177 (measured by the US Consulate as “unhealthy”).

I relayed this information to my mom, and she said that if I didn’t go to school, she wouldn’t pay for my suit that I wanted. So I rolled out of bed, seriously considered wearing pajamas to class, then got dressed, brushed my teeth, and walked out the door to catch the daily shuttle bus.

When my friends and family back home ask me how I’m liking China, I say I like Shanghai but not NYU Shanghai. The workload is too heavy, the bureaucracy is frustrating, and the patronization is infuriating. The cafeteria downstairs has not only “Cafeteria Entrance” and “Cafeteria Exit” signs (trust me, the entrance and exit are apparent), but this morning welcomed a new addition of feet stickers indicating which way you should walk into the cafeteria. FEET STICKERS.

As I’ve described in previous posts, the shuttle bus is an independence crusher. The dorm is just out of walking distance from campus, and even if you do decide to walk, the journey is not pedestrian-friendly (this isn’t NYU Shanghai’s fault – Shanghai in general is not pedestrian-friendly).

NYU Shanghai is a brand new campus and the administration is still trying to figure everything out, so I understand that my classmates and me are essentially guinea pigs. I don’t want to influence anyone to come here, but I also don’t want to influence anyone to stay away. For all I know, this could be an amazing campus in a few semesters once the area around is built up a little bit more and the administration does a lot of fine-tuning.

A major reason why Shanghai is giving me a rough time is because of the language barrier. Since I didn’t know any Chinese before coming here, NYU enrolled me in a mandatory Practical Chinese class for the semester. Learning Chinese has made getting around a lot easier, but learning itself takes so much time. 90% of the work that I’ve done this semester has been for Zhongwen ke (Chinese class). If I were to give one tip that will give you a drastically better experience in Shanghai, it would be to know Chinese before getting here. For places to check out, I definitely recommend the quaint areas of Tianzifang and Xintiandi.

Image source

  • Untitled: Rachel Levine-Ramirez