Easily one of the most amazing parts of studying abroad in China was to live in Shanghai. At first I was a bit sceptic how I would like living in such a mega metropolis as Shanghai. I grew up in a small town in Germany and study in a college town in the Midwest, so this was my first big city. But I absolutely loved it. Shanghai is one of the most amazing cities I have visited and it is just awesome to live in. To me, it is the perfect combination of Old and New, Western and Asian. There are three general ways through which you can experience the global parts of Shanghai right next to the local Chinese ones.
There is no better place than to grab a bowl of xiao long bao (pork filled soup dumplings) than Shanghai. But you can also pick food from any other region of China like spicy Sichuan food or oilier vegetables from the northeast of China. Especially amazing to us is hotpot, a simmering bowl of broth or general liquid in which numerous ingredients are placed to cook. Our favored ingredients we’re thin sliced beef, Chinese kale and quail eggs. However if you don’t feel like eating Chinese food, you can also find some of the most authentic Korean, Japanese and Indian food in Shanghai. And if that still isn’t what you feel like then how about some German Schnitzel or French crepes. There is nothing you can’t find in Shanghai.
Shanghai is like ten cities in one. Walking through a side street you feel like you are truly in China with all the street vendors and bicycles carrying absurd amounts of packages. But turning the next corner, it’s like you are in France if you are in the remains of the French concession or in Great Britain, if you are near the Bund. The high skyscrapers of Pudong can make you feel like you are in New York and if you happen to be in Shanghai during Christmas time the Christmas market will catapult you right into Germany. My personal favorite spot where you can especially see the combination of modernity and antiquity is Jing’an temple. This buddhist temple is situated right on one of Shanghai’s most exquisite roads, West Nanjing Road. High end stores surround the 400 year old temple. Jing’an’s exquisite woodwork, marble railings and golden roofs are such an amazing contrast to the skyscrapers around it. Within such a rushing world, the temple is still calm and peaceful and amazingly beautiful. In my opinion a definite must see.
In Shanghai you will people from all walks of life, from all parts of Shanghai. The stories they can tell you are endless and it is so neat to meet Chinese people. You learn so much about the country that way. A Chinese friend even invited me to spent some time at her house. And Local people also always know the best places to eat! But it is not just Chinese people that you will meet. You will encounter people from a range of nationalities. Shanghai is an expat city and I have made friends from all over the world, like India, Mexico, Great Britain, United States, Australia, Malaysia and even my own home country Germany.
I am so glad I got to spend a whole semester in Shanghai and I can’t wait to get back and explore even more of it, since it is a place that ever changes and in which you can always do something new. Believe me you’ll love it.
Katharina Gruenewald is a TEAN Alum and Global Ambassador at Iowa State University. She was a TEAN Featured Blogger this past semester while studying abroad with TEAN in Shanghai, China.