When I decided to study abroad at NYU Shanghai, I had a set of expectations. Some things met my expectations, some things exceeded them, while others fell short. The most significant piece of advice that I would give to another student planning to study away at Shanghai is to keep an open mind and take everything step by step. Expectations are great to have, but try not to let your expectations shape and limit your experience.
Shanghai is a city that has exceeded my original expectations. Although I had previously visited Shanghai, I initially expected myself to be homesick because I was so close to my home in Tokyo compared to going to school in New York City, yet I was still somewhere culturally similar yet incredibly different. However, living in Pudong, especially the Biyun/Jinqiao area has been surprising since there are a lot of foreigners and expats who live in the area. Therefore, there are tons of foreign grocery stores that sell supplies to make your favorite comfort foods for when you’re feeling homesick. The Biyun area has a grocery store known as ‘Times Grocery’ which I have gone multiple times to buy Kraft Mac & Cheese and marshmallows to make s’mores over the stove. Around the same area is a tree-lined street called Biyun road which has many foreign restaurants and if you keep walking down it, leads to ‘Carrefour’ which is a large grocery, household goods store all-in-one. Carrefour has been a lifesaver in regards to the variety of food and household goods it has since everything is reasonably priced. The pricing is similar to Costco and is cheaper because everything comes in bigger packaging, and there are always excellent buy one get one free deals. They also have an imported goods section that is slightly cheaper than the options at Times. Biyun Road is also great for biking, jogging, or walking as the sidewalks are relatively wide and there is a separate path for bikes.
On another note, make sure that you download and setup the VPN on your phones and computer before you get to China. Having the VPN installed on both is incredibly important especially if you check your Gmail or want to watch youtube videos on it. If you forget to install everything before coming, or accidentally delete it as I did, you can just download it at school, since the school wifi is not restricted. However, you definitely want to have it done before you get here. Also, make sure to download a food delivery app and set up we-chat pay or Alipay as it is essential to living in China. I cannot even count the number of times I have used both to pay or order food. Additionally ‘taobao.com’ is an excellent resource for online shopping. There are a lot of different products that can be found at discounts, everything can be paid using Alipay, and delivery is relatively fast!
My last piece of advice is not to try and explore the world outside of your ‘bubble.’ It is important to feel comfortable and establish a ‘bubble’ however, studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to push your limits and explore. Spend time talking to locals, getting to know the Chinese students at NYU Shanghai, and to experience different parts of China during breaks! It may be nerve-wracking at first getting used to all the new sights and sounds but in the end, it will be worth it, and you will feel like you have accomplished so much because you will have!