Since February, I have been studying abroad at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. China is such a different world compared to the US, but I have honestly really enjoyed my time here! As my semester is fast coming to an end, I thought I would let you guys in on what my day-to-day life has been like as a student here. Here’s what it’s like to be an exchange student in China!
First of all, I am staying in Tonghe International Students’ Apartments, which is right across the street from the on-campus international students’ dorms. The location is convenient and although it is slightly more expensive than living in the dorms, I get my own spacious room, and I share a kitchen, bathroom, and living room with my 2 apartmentmates. I am really happy with my housing – the only downside is that most exchange students live in the on-campus dorms, so it can be hard to meet people. But if you like your privacy, and like to cook, I really recommend staying here!
Here is what my room looked liked when I first moved in, just so you can get an idea of my living conditions:
I will note, however, that I think I got pretty lucky with my room assignment. My apartmentmates are two quiet and nice Korean girls, and I live on the 10th floor and face south, so I get a sweet view of Pudong, as seen in the picture above (it looks even better all lit up at night!). However others i know have not been so lucky in their roommate assignments or had other issues such in their apartment, such as noise or plumbing issues, which I haven’t had. I did break the toilet seat once, but that’s another story 🙂
I was also lucky because my dad, who works in China, took the train with me to Shanghai and helped me move in. I didn’t have to go through the ordeal of having to catch a taxi and go to an unfamiliar location straight after a 14-something hour plane ride, and my dad helped me carry luggage too! Tbh it was a little embarrassing having my dad help me move in because nobody else had their dads with them, but I am grateful.
10:00am Ahhh, it feels nice to sleep in! I only have one class each on Monday and Tuesday, so I can ease into the week.
11:00am Eat brunch at home. Today I’ve prepared my usual: corn tortillas (bought in the French Concession), avocados (bought using my fruit app), salsa (from the imported section at Carrefour), some cheddar cheese, and an egg. Yum!
2:00pm Usually I spend Monday running errands. I’m going to Wujiaochang （五角场）, the nearby shopping center, to do some grocery shopping at Wal-Mart. Here I can stock up on anything from cereal to toiletries. If the weather’s nice, I’ll walk the 20 minutes there; if I’m feeling lazy, I’ll take a bus.
5:30pm Eating dinner at the school canteen. Not gonna lie, school canteen food is not that great. But, it’s cheap, and I’d rather use the money for traveling or to save up to eat expensive Western foods.
6:30pm My first and only class of the day is International Market Study, taught by a Mexican teacher, and held in the Guanghua Towers in the middle of north campus, where I have most of my classes. The class ends at 9pm, making it the latest class I have all week.
9:00pm I try to fit in exercise when 1. the weather is good 2. the air isn’t too polluted. As you can imagine this severely cuts down on the number of days I can actually go jog, but today looks like a decent day, so I spend an hour jogging down to the track in South Campus, doing a few laps, and jogging (okay…. sometimes walking) back.
9:00am Waking up and starting the day right with cereal! I don’t eat cereal at all in America, but here in China, I eat it almost every morning because I miss the taste of Western food so much!
10:00am Heading to the Fudan North district gym. Not gonna lie, the facilities suck, because I guess Chinese people don’t really go to the gym (but at least it’s free). However, the room next door is the ping-pong room, and it is always PACKED.
Way to fulfill Chinese stereotypes! But I do enjoy watching Chinese students duke it out across the ping-pong table while I do my bent-over rows.
11:00am Go home, shower, and eat lunch. Maybe pasta with store-bought pasta sauce if I’m feeling lazy. Or I will go to a nearby restaurant and order to-go.
3:00pm Meeting a friend for afternoon tea and cake!
6:30pm Again, my first and only class of the day is Intermediate Chinese. To be honest the class is slightly too easy for me, but the Advanced Chinese class was WAY too hard so I stuck to this one.
8:30pm Class is over. My friends and I walk back to the dorms. By this time, the street food have biked their carts to the street right outside the entrance gate, so I pick up a late-night snack. My favorite is the Chinese barbecue, or 烧烤! My friends and I eat dinner and hang out in the dorm lobby (since I live off-campus, they have to sign me in, which is an annoyance).
9:00am Wakey wakey! I start the day, as usual, with cereal. I proceed to do nothing and waste time for the next few hours.
1:30pm Hey, my first non-evening class of the week! The class is Marketing Management, which takes place not in the Guanghua towers, but in Teaching Building 6 in the south part of campus. Even though it looks pretty far on a map, I can walk there in 20 minutes.
4:30pm The class is nearly 3 hours long, and really tuckers me out. I head home for meal and quick nap before my evening class.
6:30pm I head to Guanghua towers for Managerial Communication. This is probably the most “chill” class I have all week. Everything we learn is common sense. For example: “When listening to someone speaking, you should pay attention to what they are saying and not be distracted by other things!” OH REALLY NOW?? Literally everything we learn in the class is super obvious. However, I do like the teacher, and I think that maybe some aspects of this class could be useful to non-native English speakers.
8:00pm STREET FOOD! Except, sometimes when we get to the gate, the street food people aren’t there. This is because they run away when the police drives by (I know…. super sketch). It looks like they aren’t there today, so I sadly go home.
10:00pm I end the night relaxing and watching TV. I am obsessed with Game of Thrones, which I started watching in China on a Chinese website called Youku. Unlike when I try to go on American websites like Youtube, Chinese websites load really fast here, so I don’t have any problems with streaming. And, it’s legal! The only downside is that the Chinese government does censor some nude or extremely violent scenes, and if you know Game of Thrones, that’s a lot of the scenes.
9:30am My only morning class of the week is on Thursday, and it’s Political Economy of China. I am proud to say that I have never been late to nor have I ever skipped this class. Since it’s my only morning class I make an effort to go early and show up on time!
11:00am Lunch in the school canteen. By the way, this meal costs around 12 yuan (less than $2 USD. SO CHEAP)
1:30pm Heading to my next class, Modernist Literature of the UK and USA. That’s right, I’m taking an English literature class in China. Why? Why not! I finished all my major requirements last semester, so I can take whatever classes I want this semester, which is exactly what I’m doing. Ironically this is the only class in which I am the only foreign student, and the teacher talks in Chinese 60% of the time. So even though it’s an English literature class, I find it to be a great way to experience an actual Chinese classroom experience.
4:00pm Picking up my fruit from the book store next to my apartment (did that sentence make no sense? Stay tuned for another post about surviving life in China and I’ll explain!)
6:30pm Chinese class. Yes, this class meets twice a week!
10:00pm THE (school) WEEK IS OVER! TIME TO CELEBRATE! Yup, I have no class on Friday, so my friends and I usually go clubbing on Thursday nights. Clubbing is mostly a Western concept – Chinese students don’t typically go clubbing. It’s not in their culture. But clubs want white people to come to their venues, which in turn attracts the wealthy Chinese businessowners and other people that actually buy tables there. As a result, it is pretty easy for international students in Shanghai to be able to go enter clubs for free.
At the clubs, we get free alcohol and sometimes food too! There are events going on almost every day of the week, and all we have to do is contact a promotor to get ourselves on the list. It is a little messed up though, because I heard that promotors get paid by the number of white people that they recruit, which means I don’t earn them any money at all. 😦 What can I say, even in China, it’s better to be white.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Since I have no class on Fridays, I have a 3 day weekend every week! Aw yeah!
There’s no “typical” way to spend a day where I have no solid plans. I might spend a day shopping…
… or observing the locals at a park…
…or exploring a new part of Shanghai…
… or getting some exercise in…
…or trying new restaurants…
…or trying a new activity with friends!
Of course it’s not all fun and games. I have to study too!
So there you have it! A week in the life of an exchange student in China. Overall, the course load is much lighter compared to my courseload back home, which gives me more time to relax, take care of myself, and enjoy living in a different country. Being surrounded by international students is a thrilling experience and I have had the great pleasure of making friends from all corners of the world! Since we are all going through the experience of living in China together, never did I feel like this country was too much for me. I will truly miss China when I leave!