USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences > Blog

July 1, 2014

The Last Few Days in Shanghai

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — Tags: , , — geachina @ 5:08 pm

By Jeff Levine and Ethan Levin

Wednesday was the second-to-last class, and after the presentations of the Shanghai margins project, we realized we only have one more day of lecture upon us. The end was coming up fast. Along with this end was our final project – it was a marathon of a week! The freedom afforded to us in the prompt of this last project was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because we could talk about anything within the realm of globalization; a curse, because the vague parameters caused some soul searching among the GEA participants: What was the most relevant of topics that we should discuss for this last thesis? We spent much of the rest of the day attempting to figure out what it is that we should be talking about.

On Friday morning, we had our final class. It was a bittersweet moment. On one hand, we were excited to be done with the marathon week of presentations and be finished with work; while on the other hand, it would be the last time we would be meeting to watch and root each other on. We’ve come a long way from where we started. We have a clearer understanding now of just how unclear the word “globalization” can be, and can better examine the complexities that revolve around it – especially when it comes to China.

Chip and Amanda giving their last presentation

Chip and Amanda giving their last presentation

After class, we had some afternoon free time to explore, nap, or do whatever before the banquet. We decided to take the opportunity to go visit the Shanghai Science and Tech Museum – conveniently a stop along the subway lines (a subject on which, by now, we’ve become experts). We’ve already explored the incredible shopping center underneath; however, we (embarrassingly) had yet to check out the actual museum. We were glad we did. The museum was incredible. Each floor housed a few different exhibits, each one emphasizing intimate interaction and participation. The first floor, my favorite, featured a recreation of the Yunan Rainforest. It was an elaborate array of (fake) animals and plants, complete with bamboo bridges, waterfalls, and caves – plus even more exhibits within the exhibit, devoted to insects, birds, molecular studies, and more. This was only the beginning, though it had the greatest impact. The other floors featured body and health, the universe, information technology, and robotics.

A rainy day at the Shanghai Science & Tech Museum

A rainy day at the Shanghai Science & Tech Museum

The entrance to the rainforest exhibit

The entrance to the rainforest exhibit

After the museum, we got back with just enough time to prepare for the banquet. After a 40-minute taxi ride, as well as some sleuthing for the right building, we arrived at the restaurant. The banquet was course after course of delish food, such as fish, egg rolls, cabbage, duck, tofu, and more. Our stomachs were long satiated before the waiters (or fúwùyuán) stopped coming. Just writing about it now makes me hungry again! While the food was superb, there was, yet again, a bittersweet mood to the dinner. We were all so happy to be feasting on this deliciousness together, but we all knew that this would most likely be the last time we were all together (already one of our comrades had left us, shout out to you Steven!). We concluded the night with one final tour around the neighborhood.

Everyone together at the banquet

Everyone together at the banquet

A group of us with the Professor walking around the banquet neighborhood

A group of us with the Professor walking around the banquet neighborhood

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June 30, 2014

Studying in Shanghai

Filed under: Shanghai,Suzhou — Tags: — geachina @ 11:42 pm

By Coleman Monroe and Christmas Myers

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June 11. Building and pond in the Yu Garden in Shanghai

The day after we returned from Dunhuang was a free day, and many of us used it to explore the city of Shanghai. This photograph was taken at Yu Garden, in the City God Temple area. The Yu Garden is a breathtaking oasis within the city that is filled with koi ponds, jade rock formations, and pagodas. The garden was constructed in the Ming Dynasty by a wealthy minister and had an important role in the history of Shanghai. The garden played many roles throughout its history: merchant guild, British headquarters during the Opium War, and a meeting place for the leaders of the Taiping rebellion. However, we could never truly forget about the big city around us, as the tallest building in Asia protrudes into the skyline.

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June 12. The group in front of the Pearl Tower in Pudong, Shanghai

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June 12. View from the top observation deck in the Pearl Tower in Pudong, Shanghai

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June 12. Chip and Coleman posing on the glass floor of the Pearl Tower in Pudong, Shanghai

Today we took our final group field trip to the world famous Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower. Standing at 1,535 feet, gazing at the tower from below is astounding. It is no wonder the tower has become the landmark symbol of Shanghai. Our tour guide took us to two observation decks. The first one was an enclosed orbital viewing deck that provided 360 degrees of breathtaking views of Shanghai. It was shocking to see the sea of buildings that seemed to stretch as far as an ocean’s horizon, which poignantly depicted Shanghai’s rapid urban development. The second observation deck consisted of a glass floor, which gave the impression of walking on air. For those of us who are afraid of heights it was a chilling reminder of just how high up we really were. Since we had a considerable amount of time on each observation deck, some of us indulged in snacks while absorbing the glorious views surrounding us.

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June 24, 2014

Back From Our First Expedition

Filed under: Class,Hangzhou,Shanghai,Travel — Tags: , — geachina @ 4:35 pm

By Steven Luong and Olivia Chui

A few hours were spent in Hangzhou, a city a few hours west of Shanghai. The group took a boat ride around West Lake and strolled around the picturesque lake. The place was bustling with tourists and locals alike and the group witnessed many people enjoying their weekend afternoon. Afterwards, the group bused back to Shanghai.

Taken: Hangzhou, Saturday May 31, 2014 at 14:40

Some of the group before a boat tour of West Lake in Hangzhou (Taken: Hangzhou, Saturday May 31, 2014 at 14:40)

Taken: Westlake, Hangzhou. Saturday May 31 at 14:35

A picture of the boat after the tour (Taken: West Lake, Hangzhou. Saturday May 31 at 14:35)

On a rain-filled Sunday, a day of rest and fun was in order. Many students stayed around the Fudan University area, taking time to recoup from the exhausting travels of the previous few days. Others decided to brave the wet weather and venture to other parts of the city like the popular City God Temple Area, a vestigial landmark of old Shanghai.

Taken: Pudong, Sunday June 1, 2014 at 17:40

Road signs at a popular Shanghai intersection (Taken: Shanghai, Sunday June 1, 2014 at 17:40)

Taken: City God Temple, Sunday June 1, 2014 at 18:00

A view of the City God Temple area from a restaurant (Taken: City God Temple, Sunday June 1, 2014 at 18:00)

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June 5, 2014

First Days in Shanghai

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 8:22 pm

By Diane Um and Scott Hung

On Thursday night, most of our group met at LAX to board a plane to Taipei, Taiwan. Our excitement only made the 13-hour flight feel longer, but we busied ourselves with napping, watching movies, and enjoying our two provided meals. Upon arriving in Taipei, it felt surreal to be surrounded by Chinese characters and food. A few of us indulged in Taiwanese drinks and learned about currency exchange. Finally, we endured the short flight to Shanghai, where we happily met our TA Carlos.

On the way to Shanghai

On the way to Shanghai

The second that we stepped out of the airport, we experienced our first taste of Chinese humidity. Carlos and Professor Sheehan promptly assured us that it would only increase as the summer went on. Nonetheless, we eagerly drank in every sight of China as our tour bus traveled towards Shanghai. On the way, we stopped at a restaurant to share our first meal, where Professor Sheehan explained some dining etiquette, including how to use the lazy Susan. Even though we had just met, it felt like a real family meal as we sampled the same dishes and poured each other tea. We were really surprised at the hospitable servers, or “fu wu yuan,” especially after realizing that tipping is not a custom in China. They seemed to genuinely care about providing the best experience for their guests. Full and content, we ended our bus ride at our dorm in Fudan University.

Buying cell phones at a local shop

Buying cell phones at a local shop

Afterwards, we left the hotel and we encountered perhaps our greatest intercultural hurdle we have faced in China yet: buying cell phones. The army of cell phones lining the display cases and walls of the tiny store, combined with the bustling action on the streets behind us, had many of us at a loss of words. Thankfully, having skillful interpreters like Professor Sheehan and Carlos saved us from relying on body gesticulations that tend to dominate such cross-cultural exchanges. We were ultimately able to successfully purchase and activate cell phones without too much running around. It was reassuring to know that despite being in a foreign country, we will be able to stay connected to each other thanks to technology.

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June 27, 2013

Dragon Boat Festival, Pudong and More!

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 6:53 pm

By Erica Christianson and Joshua Neill

June 12-
Happy Dragon Boat Festival Day! Today is a national holiday in China, so everyone gets the day off to go eat zongzi (sticky rice inside of a leaf often with a taro or red bean filling) Why, you ask? Well, we had the same question, and after Professor Sheehan, Carlito, Michelle Lau and Lao Mao (our tour guide) put their heads together, they came up with this history (or this is as much as we can remember):

Back in the Warring States period there was a high official who can loosely be described as the first poet of China. He was part of the educated elite and liked literature. He got in a disagreement with the Chinese government and drowned himself in the river. The people really respected him, and they didn’t want the fish to eat his body, so they threw rice in the water for the fish to eat instead. Only you can’t just scatter rice, so they squished it up and wrapped it in a leaf, and thus the zongzi was born! Some stories continue with the people rowing a dragon boat out to rescue the body, which inspired the dragon boat festival.

After staying the night in probably the best hotel of this entire trip, we unfortunately had to leave, but not without saying goodbye to a large crystal Buddha worth 300 Million RMB (roughly 50 Million USD), which was quite a sight to see.

Crystal Buddha in the lobby of the hotel in Henan Province

Crystal Buddha in the lobby of the hotel in Henan Province

Then it was off to the airport, and we had to say goodbye to our local guide Joe. Zhengzhou was a city none of us had thought about before our trip, and it was enlightening to see that the Zhengzhou airport rivaled the largest and most modern airports in the USA, such as Denver International Airport. Once we got back, a group of us and Professor went around the corner for dinner, eating dumplings at a restaurant called Dong Bei Restaurant which means northeastern restaurant. Dumplings are traditional to northeast China and although we did not visit northeast China, our professor helped us find some of their authentic cuisine in Shanghai. The restaurant is by the university, and this week is finals week for the Fudan students. How do we know this? Because the first thing Professor Sheehan did was find a table full of baby freshman and introduce himself – just like a true academic.

June 13-
In class today we all picked partners for the assignment linked with our afternoon excursion.

Students mulling around during a break in lecture on Thursday afternoon

Students mulling around during a break in lecture on Thursday afternoon

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June 25, 2013

First Return to Shanghai: June 1-6, 2013

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 9:35 pm

By Cliff Liu and JJ Bassette

This week was mostly spent on our EASC 360: “Global China 1800 to the Present” course at our classroom in Fudan University, where we also live. The course’s content has covered a wide variety of subjects, including a general introduction to Chinese geography, history, and philosophy, not to mention more global aspects of China’s recent modernization. The bulk of the material is delivered in a series of 3-hour morning lectures by Professor Sheehan. Here Professor Sheehan is delving into the basic differences between political ideologies that have shaped China’s history.

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During 3 hour classes, breaks were necessary in order to promote an optimal learning environment. Some of the students used these breaks as time to mingle with the Fudan University students.

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After each lecture, we’re given an hour for lunch, where students disperse into the surrounding city to find street food, local restaurants, and markets to grab grub. Some of the students had a special treat when one of the Fudan University students auditing the course took them nearby Fudan for a meal at one of her favorite restaurants.

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After lunch, all the students return to the classroom for a Chinese language lesson taught by our T.A. Carlos Lin. Due to the wide variety of previous Chinese experience among the students, the more experienced students helped coach some of the less experienced students. Here’s native speaker Elisa Ting helping Joshua Neill work on his calligraphy.

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June 24, 2013

Arrival in Shanghai

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 9:02 pm

By Danielle Then and Grace Mi

The first day of our trip was very hectic but our TA, Carlos, came to the rescue, earning the nickname “Mama Bear.” 

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From that point, everything was smooth sailing (or flying, rather) as most of the students napped or watched the free films Asiana Air provided on the way to Incheon. Landing at the airport was akin to landing in a cloud, and the view was spectacular. After enjoying Korean barbecue in Korea, some students preferred the back of their own eyelids, however.

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Upon our arrival in Shanghai, we had our first Chinese family-style meal, served up on a lazy susan. Professor Sheehan taught the class the first thing about banquet etiquette by giving a toast. We were then shown our home-base for the next month, and  everyone went out with Professor Sheehan and bought cellphones. We returned to Fudan, at which point most students went to sleep. Some of the more adventurous students went out to see the city, some even venturing as far as the Bund.

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June 18, 2012

The final week…

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 4:23 pm

By Logan Heley and Hilary Albright

Sunday, June 10:
Today we had free time to work on our fourth assignment. My (Logan’s) group consisting of Thomas, Nate and myself proudly finished in the middle of the evening, allowing us to spend the night on the town.

Monday, June 11:
Another studious day for the EASC crew. We presented our another round of assignments dealing with our trip to the Shanghai History Museum beneath the Oriental Pearl Tower. Following presentations we discussed the day’s readings about elite and worker consumer culture in China. Our evening was calm as we prepared for a fun-filled rest of the week.

Brian (right) discusses the day’s reading assignment as Nate ponders.

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June 12, 2012

Studying in Shanghai June 6-9

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 4:29 pm

By Karen Pham

June 6 - Back in Shanghai
After our exciting trips to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beijing, it was time to go back to our home in Shanghai. I started off the day with a morning jog and then met up with my respective partner, Thomas, to work on our assignment 3 together. After a successful hour and a half of thesis production, we met up with Jim to grab a quick lunch. I decided to try out one of the yummy streets snacks on the Pedestrian Street near our classroom. I settled on a Shou Zhua Bing (手抓), or a “Hand-grabbed Pancake,” a famous street snack known to have originated in Taiwan.

Shou Zhua Bing

The snack itself reminded me of a breakfast burrito. I watched as the lady fried the onion pancake to a crispy golden brown and then slit and twisted the pancake only to fry it a little more for a crispier crunch. She laid on a combination of bacon, fried egg, pork sung, cheese, and delicious sauces, and then wrapped it up in a burrito format for easy-eating. It was delicious, and I soon became a fan. After satisfying my meal with a drink from Coco, our group headed back to finish up our assignments. We later met up with the rest of the class for our crazy adventure to the Super Brand Mall to eat a hearty dinner at a famous restaurant chain known for its voluptuous women and hot wings. To our delight, the Professor joined the group after a cordial invitation from our fellow classmate, Logan. We walked into the restaurant greeted by some lovely waitresses and Britney Spears songs blasting in the background. It was a great meal, filled with lots of laughter and fun moments. The wings were not the best, kind of bland, but the memories of the night were sweet, as it became apparent that our group had grown close enough to talk about having a reunion in Macon, Georgia, 10 years from now.

Super Brand Mall

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June 4, 2012

Studying in Shanghai (05/27 – 05/30)

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — Tags: — geachina @ 5:20 pm

By Janet Lee (李洁) and Alan Wong (黄飞仁)

Returning from Hangzhou and Suzhou, we were given the weekend to recuperate, study, and explore on our own. Many students made extensive use of Shanghai’s well-designed public transit system, taking the subway to bypass Shanghai’s street-level traffic. Growing more accustomed with our surroundings, we have thus far managed to take care of laundry, food, and drink, among other logistical issues, and have been fortunate enough to have pleasant weather thus far (for the most part, some rain!).

Dismantling Our False Historical AssumptionsDismantling Our False Historical Assumptions

In the Classroom (上海上课)
Studying abroad in Shanghai certainly entails studying – while given ample opportunity to explore Shanghai and have out-of-the-classroom experiences, EASC 360 is an intense course that is not to be taken lightly! In order to contextualize our experiences, we were given ‘Quick and Dirty’ guides to a number of topics – globalization, historical inquiry, and communism, among others.

The historical context given by class lectures has enriched our day-to-day activities in Shanghai, while also providing us with a foundation to build our papers and other assignments upon. For example, we could compare our experience in 21st century Shanghai to the advertising campaigns of the British American Tobacco company during the 19th century. Visiting various commercial centers, we see are able to more critically analyze the way familiar products to many Americans are being marketed to the Shanghai public.

One important topic in our class is the classification of “food drugs.” Why is caffeine (a stimulant), in the form of coffee, tea, or energy drinks, a socially accepted food drug while many other potent substances are not? Walking through the streets of Shanghai, we were able to see firsthand the prominence of many items, once regarded as commodities, that are now used daily by many people.

学习时间Sweat, Water, and Historical Inquiry

Our Chinese language instruction sessions have also added flavor to our time here, literally giving us new access to many otherwise inaccessible foods, drinks, and places. But more importantly, it has reminded us of our position as ambassadors of USC (and the United States).

It has been both challenging and rewarding to switch the role of “native” and “foreigner” we are accustomed to adopt at times in the United States. EASC 360 students arrived in Shanghai with a range of abilities in Mandarin Chinese, and likewise have been met with various expectations from the people here. While it is usually not difficult for people here to tell that we are not Shanghai residents, many people are not used to the concept of “American Born Chinese.” Likewise, since many Westerners make no effort to learn to speak any Mandarin Chinese, some people here have expressed surprise at the competency of our definitely-not-Chinese-looking-students’ initiative to use and practice a new language. Many residents here have been very kind and patient sorting through our linguistic and cultural differences in making both purchases and conversation.

练习中文Setting the Tone for Mandarin Practice

Shanghai Zoo (上海动物园)
A number of students visited the Shanghai Zoo to see the world-famous Chinese pandas, among other animals. We were surprised to find the well-publicized Giant Panda (大猫熊) as one of the less exciting exhibits of the zoo’s many attractions. One of my personal favorites, for example, was the “Lesser Panda” (小猫熊), or “Red Panda,” our more familiar panda’s less-known cousin.

As with many other spaces in China, the Shanghai Zoo was designed as a place for families to enjoy together. Zoo visitors were a diverse lot. There were, of course, many children, but also young couples, older people, groups of friends, photography enthusiasts, foreign students, etc.

While there were a number of signs prohibiting guests from feeding the animals, we were astonished to find a large amount of unauthorized interaction between guests and zoo animals. Guests would hand feed monkeys, toss fruit into the mouth of bears, and attempt to aggravate animals to get their attention. Information was posted about why such practices are harmful, but these did not deter many guests from breaking these relatively unenforced rules.

All in all, the Shanghai zoo had a far more “public” feel than American zoos. While efforts were made to emphasize education, conservation, and proper interaction between guests and zoo animals, these, like traffic lights here, served more as “suggestions” than as strict guidelines. Nevertheless, the zoo was an interesting, affordable, and exciting experience.

All the Single Ladies!
After a mini shopping expedition around People’s Square (人民广场), a couple of us explored our way into the People’s Park (人民公园) expecting to have a quiet stroll in the middle of the bustling city. However, to our surprise, the park was filled with people with signs and posters, all written in Chinese. Some posters even had pictures clipped on them. Because of our limited Chinese reading ability, we could only make out that there were people’s birthdates and basic information written on these signs. Initially, we thought it was some sort of somber occasion; maybe they were mourning the death of lost love ones. However, upon closer inspection, we noticed everyone, other than ourselves, was laughing and chatting jovially. After asking some middle age ladies what was going on, we discovered that it was, in fact, a Matchmaking Market! Every weekend, parents and grandparents of bachelors and bachelorettes set up their own postings in the public park as a way to find potential spouses for their children. Coming from a world of OkCupid and Match.com, we were both shocked and amused by this approach to courtship, one so heavily influenced by family, which is deeply entrenched in Chinese culture.

Dining in China
Family style is one of the best ways to dine in China. It eliminates that twinge of jealousy that we often get when our friend’s entrée is noticeably tastier looking than our own. With family style, no one feels left out because every dish is fair game. To make things even better, at the end of the meal, the bill is easy to split because there are no taxes or tips to take into account.

The prices for food at typical street-side pedestrian mall restaurants are more than reasonable. 10 yuan (~ $1.60) could buy a nice bowl of beef noodle soup, 20 yuan (~$3.20) for a Korean Kimchi Fried Rice, and a Tapioca Milk Tea might set you back 10 yuan (~$1.60). Although dining with friends around a round table in a restaurant is lots of fun, we can’t forget the deliciousness that is late night street carts. You can have anything from spicy pork skewers to fried rice. Although the policy is to eat at your own risk, sometimes food seems to taste better when it’s made on a cart. From the lack of tipping to the late night street food, our experience with Chinese eating culture has been an overwhelmingly positive one.

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