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Summer 2013, Volume I


Greetings from Shanghai!

I cannot believe that our summer semester has come to an end! Students finished their final exams, papers, and presentations today and will depart Shanghai on Sunday. We hosted a Farewell & Certificate Ceremony in honor of all our students’ accomplishments throughout the term. Entire Chinese language classes and individual students performed songs, skits, and even Chinese classical drama as a culmination and celebration of what they have learned. The farewell dinner, which will take place during a cruise along the Huangpu River, will be a way for staff, students, teachers, host families, and Chinese roommates to say '再见'.

Weekend Excursions

During the short and intensive eight weeks, students not only became accustomed to daily life through language and culture but also were able to experience different parts of China via our program excursions.  This term, our study center staff led trips to  Xi'an, Beijing, and Guilin, and students were able to learn more about each city's unique qualities and history.  During the weekends, each CIEE student also explored different cities and regions on their own, integrating classroom learning with outside-of-class experience.


rocking out in front of the Bird's Nest, Beijing
你好 from Temple of Heaven, Beijing
experiencing Guilin rice noodles, a local specialty!

water fight on the Li River, Guilin
climbing Mount Hua
life of a terracotta warrior


Cultural Activities

When students are not in class, they are navigating different aspects of daily life, from learning the ways of Shanghai public transportation to ordering from a Chinese-only menu.  In addition to langauge class activities, the CIEE Shanghai Study Center hosted a few events and activities to help students integrate with the local community.

CIEE vs. ECNU basketball match

day trip to Zhujiajiao Water Town
Accelerated Beginning I & II Class experiencing a tea market
Accelerated Superior I & II class visiting the Shanghai Film Museum

We have seen record high heat this summer, and I congratulate our 81 students from 37 universities for 'sticking' to their academic, and cultural and linguistic goals!


day trip to zhujiajiao old town

13 July 2012: students take an afternoon exploring the old water town of Zhujiajiao (朱家角). Founded more than 1,700 years ago, the old town features 36 delicate bridges of different shapes, styles, and materials—from wood to stone to marble–which were built nearly 500 years ago. The most unique, Fangsheng Bridge, is the largest stone five-arched bridge in east China. Students perused local handicrafts, picked up souvenirs, and tasted traditional food, all the while enjoying the historic buildings and getting to know the local people.


chinese cooking class: dumplings!

6 July 2012: students learned to make and cook dumplings, one of China's staple dishes on a Friday after class. Yummy!


educationUSA panel

9 July 2012: four ACL students were invited to serve as panelists for the US Consulate General's EducationUSA series in conjuction with the Public Affairs Section.  The students spoke to prospective Chinese students interested in studying in the States or who have already been accepted to undergraduate or graduate programs in the US about campus life, time management, academic culture, student organizations and clubs and other aspects of campus life.  The panel was extremely informative for attendees and panelists.

Patrick Colligan of Georgetown University

Pictured starting second from left: Alex Levine (Fordham University); Patrick Colligan (Georgetown University); Maria Chappell (Arizona State University); and John Tackebary (UNC-Chapel Hill)

orientation week

Greetings from the CIEE Study Center in Shanghai! I am Tian Song, Manager of Student Services.

On June 24th, the Summer 2012 students arrived at Shanghai Pudong airport, and CIEE staff and Chinese roommates awaited excitedly outside the secured area to welcome them and escort them to the East China Normal University campus. From there, students checked in to their residence hall or settled in with their host families. The three-day orientation began on Monday, June 25th, and CIEE students had the opportunity to become familiarized with the CIEE Study Center, the ECNU campus, academic programs, Chinese language program and the city of Shanghai. During orientation week, students also had ample time to engage in cultural and social events such as welcome dinners with Chinese roommates, host families, and CIEE staff and an amazing acrobatic performance at the Shanghai Circus World. The week’s activities culminated in the CIEE students’ own version of the Amazing Race in order to become acquainted with some of the city’s most well-known and important landmarks and sites.

Winners of the Summer 2012 CIEE Amazing Race (pictured from left to right): Victor Huynh, BLC (Penn State); Alex Birch, ACL (University of Washington); Renee Harrison, ACL (Brigam Young University); and Danielle Siemer, BLC (Ohio Wesleyan University)

The winners won a 100 RMB massage voucher to a popular Shanghai spa located in the Former French Concession.


Lessons Learned

There's so much to learn here in Shanghai besides what I'm getting from the textbooks.

1) Everywhere is BYOTP, Bring Your Own Toilet Paper. Everywhere.

2) I hate rice porridge more than anything in the world. Imagine the blandest oatmeal you've ever eaten, times 10 grosser.

 3) Don't be afraid to try the frog legs.

4) Sometimes its okay not to know what you're eating. You're better off that way and you'll enjoy more food.

Yup. Important life lessons!


First week done!

Well, one week is completed in the Accelerated Chinese Shanghai program! Its been a fast-paced week so far and I can only imagine that the rest of the 7 weeks will go by just as fast!

Arriving here in Shanghai was super exciting. This trip is my first time out of the country and, of all the places to go, I ended up in the largest city in the world!

 The first night that every one was here, we all went to this awesome Sichuan restaurant and tried all the food and watched a short "face changer" show. From what another student told me, its a type of opera from that area. There was loud, fast music and the performer was dancing and every few moments, they somehow managed to change the mask they were wearing in the blink of an eye! I don't know how they did it, but it was amazing! One of the great things about the program is how personable the staff are. The program director, Dr. Chao, sat at my table and introduced all the dishes to us.

Wednesday was the first day of classes! Four hours of classtime a day plus the one hour with a tutor and one hour with a one-on-one teacher each day will be intense, but I'm sure my Chinese is going to get better faster than I could ever imagine!  I think to give our minds a break from the first day of class, all of us went to an acrobatic performance called Era. The acts were really fun and varied from guys doing flips and dives through hoops more than 6' off the ground to 8 people on motorcycles in the same metal orb!

On Friday, the staff had a activity prepared for us to get us used to Shanghai's public transportation, our own little Amazing Race. My team wasn't the fastest(we took one of the longest legs of the  journey by bus instead of train and that set us back a whole hour), but we had fun at all of the stops and talked to a lot of people on the way. We saw a Buddhist temple, The Bund, the Shanghai Museum, and the place of the first national communist party meeting.

Saturday wasn't fun. Often times, when a person travels, their bodies need to adjust to the food. Well, the food, while all of it has been great, finally caught up to me. My host mother was nice enough to give me some fish oil pills...a whole handful...  What made things better is that I didn't have a bottle of water on me, so my choices to chase the pills down were warm rice porridge water, which my stomach refused to eat, or almost boiling water. Yeah, neither of those options ended well... A really long nap later that day after foolishly trying to go out sightseeing at the Bund and I was all better though! All better in time for dinner and then Karaoke with my classmates!

Well, for now, zai jian!


Classes, Extra Actvities, Weekend Fieldtrip, etc....

I apologize for the late update, I lost track of time from having Chinese classes start, extra activities beginning, and the many field trips we had so far.  Also before I go into detail, I just want to let everyone know that I stupidly left my usb cord for my camera in America, so I won't be able to update photos until I can possibly find a similar usb cord to buy around here (thank you for the idea Prashanth!).

Basically I only have one main Mandarin class since I am in the Accelerated Chinese Program.  This class is fours hours long, from 8am to 12pm, with only short breaks in between (Mon-Fri).  We were placed accordingly based on our placement test, so I was rather surprised that I was placed much higher than I expected.  I was placed in the Intermediate Level II and Advanced Level I Mandarin Chinese class, which required 3 semesters of Mandarin.  I have only taken two semesters at Chapman University, and I was extremely worried about being below par as well since we were only able to complete half of the Chinese 102 textbook.  I do not mind this placement, I actually see it as a great opportunity to improve my Mandarin even me since it would be more challenging and would allow me to reach fluency quicker, for I would hopefully be able to take Advanced Level II for my Fall semester in Beijing at Peking University.  Along with staying with a Chinese family, I am expecting to improve my Mandarin greatly after these two months.

I am getting along better with my Chinese homestay family, but to be honest I am closest to my homestay mom.  She is the one who really seems to care about me and takes the time to talk to me and help me out.  I really appreciate all she's done for me so far, and am already thinking of what to get her as a goodbye/thank you present.  I already bought her some famous green tea from Lin 'An, but I feel it is still not enough!

Besides my four hour Chinese class, I also try to participate in optional classes, like Tai Chi and Chinese Calligraphy.  In addition, I also have to meet with a Chinese college student tutor for 4 hours each week, and have a one on one session with a Chinese professor for half an hour 4 days a week.   Afterwords, at night, there is a language clinic from 7:30 to 9:00pm.  Also, being a homestay student makes getting to all these things less convenient as opposed to living in the dorms, for most if not all the events are held in the dorms.  However, I would not give up doing a homestay because I actually get to learn about the Chinese culture and speak with people in Mandarin, as opposed to other international students in the dorms.  Not saying that they aren't nice, but I came to China to learn more about the culture, people, and myself.

My days are full and busy, and if I am not attending one of these things, I am studying or doing my Chinese homework.  On top of all of this, I am trying not to stress over all the information and documents I am getting from Peking University for the Fall semester.  The LSAT also looms near, of which I have not studied for yet, and have not found time yet.

Moving on, the field trips we had so far were amazing!  We went to the SWFC Observatory, which is the tallest building in Shanghai.  Also, we went to Lin 'An, Suzhou, and Tong Li.  All the food was amazing, the scenery and nature beautiful, and the air was actually breathable when one is away from a huge crowded city in Shanghai.  At Lin 'An, we walked and climbed so many stairs, but it was worth it I guess to go down the slide they had for 10 kuai.  The water drifting ride was great fun as well.  We arrived at Suzhou at night, so we didn't really get to do much but shop, eat, and ride a motorized rickshaw, but the hotel was BEAUTIFUL.  Simply amazing garden theme.  I really liked Suzhou, and am glad we get a chance to go back this Saturday to visit a silk factory.

Tong Li was mesmerizing, even though it was raining most of the time we were there.  It was a nice quaint area with beautiful old buildings that America does not have.  I see it as history being preserved and admired by all who go there.

I want to write more about how I feel being here in Shanghai, but I think I have talked a bit too much for now, so I will wait until my next post to do that.  So until then, I hope you enjoy the weather at wherever you are at while I sweat and sweat over here.


Arrival in Shanghai and First Impressions

So apparently Typepad blogs are blocked in China.  That's okay though, with my handy dandy proxy I am able to to start blogging.

The first thing that came at me full force after my arrival in Shanghai was the weather.  As I have lived my whole life in California, I am spoiled when it comes to the weather.  The humidity and rain are two things I dislike and have rarely if never experienced in California.  Hopefully I get used to it soon.

I also met my homestay family a bit after my arrival at ENCU.  It is a three people family, which consists of parents and a daughter.  They are very kind, and although I have taken Mandarin Chinese for two semesters, I still have trouble communicating with them.  When I need to describe things in detail, I would unable too due to the lack of vocabulary.  In addition, when they speak really fast, I wouldn't be able to catch on to what they are saying, leaving me at a loss for words.  I am hoping after a few weeks of studying here I would be able to better communicate with my homestay family, and not have to play charades and such.

Today we had the first part of orientation.  It was a lot of information to absorb, but I was finally able to meet people in my study program, and they are all really smart people.  Everyone's Mandarin is great. We were given an overview of our language program, which is intimidating, but I am ready to step up to the challenge and be able to get a good firm grasp of Mandarin.

I currently have many mixed feelings being here in Shanghai, but I know that I do not regret making the choice to study abroad in China, and am very excited about what lies ahead for me.