I would recommend studying abroad at NYU Shanghai to anyone who is openminded. For those that cannot divorce themselves from the small comforts and conveniences of daily American life, I do not think China is the place for you. The standards for cleanliness, politeness, and every other type of practice are different here. If you are the type of person that enjoys being in new, slightly uncomfortable situations, you will definitely enjoy the China experience. If you are already planning on studying here, get rid of any expectations and prepare to have the most unique semester of your college career.
Keep in mind that Chinese is mandatory for everyone (including teachers) at NYU Shanghai. If you have never taken any Chinese, you will have the option to enroll in a “practical Chinese” class, which is the tier below Elementary I. Despite its lowly level as a class, do not be deceived. Practical Chinese is very time consuming, and the teachers hardly show any mercy. As a junior who was abroad in Shanghai during the height of recruiting season, I can say that my GPA is definitely going to take a hit because of my Chinese class. Despite the numerous qualms I have with the class, I cannot deny that I have learned an incredible amount of the Chinese language (both vocabulary and grammar) as well as the Chinese culture (both traditions and etiquettes). I guess that NYU Shanghai has the philosophy that if you are going to study abroad somewhere, you better get to know your host country extremely well. If you struggle with learning languages (like me), I would recommend starting your Chinese studies prior to coming here. You do not have to dedicate your entire day to it, but a few minutes each day studying basic vocabulary will do wonders – you’ll thank yourself once classes start!
In the case that you are gifted when it comes to learning languages, you will have some free-time. I can only imagine what this situation is like considering I struggle with languages and consequently had zero free-time. What should you do with your free time, you ask? Well, the possibilities are endless. I will stick to things within Shanghai, although there are hundreds of places to travel outside of the city.
One place you definitely must visit is the Shanghai South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market. This three-level building houses hundreds of tailors who will literally make anything for you. I personally bought suits, shirts, jackets, and pants. If you show them a picture of any piece of clothing, they can miraculously replicate it. The best part is the price. Handmade dress shirts are less than $20. Full suits are less than $100. It is a no brainer.
If you want to go out for a cheap drink, go to Perry’s. It is China’s version of an American college bar. The place is frequented by young Chinese and expats alike and is always packed. It is kind of dirty, but that’s part of the novelty.