Name: Kevin Salat
Attractions: There are a myriad of places to just check out and walk around, like the Bund, Nanjing Road, People’s Square, Jing’An Temple, The French Concession, Tianzifang, Xintiandi, Fuxing Park, the Yu Gardens and plenty others. Both the Shanghai Museum and the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall are definitely worth seeing as well. Don’t forget to head across the river to Pudong and walk along Riverside Promenade and go to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center for the best view of the city.
For other fun things to do, check out the Global Harbor Mall’s movie theater, the M50 art district on Moganshan Lu, the Mr. X Puzzle House, or Yuyintang, one of the best venues for great live music in the city. SmartShanghai.com is your new Bible for learning about any cool events or deals that are going around at little pockets of the city.
In terms of shopping, the closest place for all your big necessities would be at Tesco, on the first floor of Global Harbor, or Carrefour. The Western grocery stores like City Shop are pretty expensive so I’d try out the local markets first. For your “imitation” goods, check out the one by the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum or the South Bund Fabric Market to get a suit or a peacoat tailored. For anything tea-related, Tianshan Tea City is a fantastic place to try and talk tea, it’s really close to campus by bus.
Food: You’ll find that a lot of options in the cafeteria across from the CIEE dorm are really cheap and delicious. My personal favorites on the second floor are the guotie (fried dumplings), the yansuji (popcorn chicken) and the jiaoyan paitiao (chicken with peppers and onions). There’s some great jiaozi and baozi right outside the side gate as well. Go to Dintaifung for the best xiaolongbao in the city.
If you’re tired of Chinese food, however, check out Laowaijie for a whole street of Western restaurants that are all terrific. They’re not cheap so look for the dinner deals on SmartShanghai (Fat Cow as BOGO burgers on Mondays, for example). Outside of that, Mr. Pancake House is great for an American-style breakfast, and Global Harbor has tons of restaurants like Pizza Hut (way better than America’s) or Outback Steakhouse. For your Chipotle fix, check out Dos Locos in Jing’an Temple.
You can also get virtually anything delivered through Sherpa’s as well, or Sandwich Express has their own phone number to call and get delivered, but you need a Chinese phone (which I would recommend getting, they’re really cheap and makes life easier).
Housing: The dorms allow everyone from different programs to be close together, making it easy to socialize. Some of the students that stayed in homestays enjoyed their experience but wish it weren’t far from campus. It might be worth picking the Chinese roommate option over the homestay so you can stay close to friends.
Accommodations: Laundry in the dorms is fairly easy, but I would recommend bringing dryer sheets as its one of those things that’s impossible to find in China. For your nicer clothes, EasyLife laundry has a fairly inexpensive and convenient delivery option (Again, SmartShanghai is incredible for finding this sort of stuff).
The Wi-fi could be better, but the ECNU campus Wi-fi is a lot faster and ideal when downloading stuff or Skyping with friends and family. Make sure to get a good VPN before you leave (Astrill is generally the best, but the government may have recently cracked down on that service, so do your research).
Transportation & Travel: The subway in Shanghai is the easiest way to get around, although it only runs until about 11pm, so cabs from the side gate are your best option if you’re going out for the night. I’d consider investing in a cheap bike to use for quickly getting around campus or close by
In terms of travel, check your visa to see if you have a single-, double-, or multi-entry visa and make the necessary adjustments if you plan to travel outside of China. Though it may not be worth the trouble, as there are plenty of amazing places for you to travel to within China. The famous sights of Beijing, The karst hills of Guilin, the Avatar mountains of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, the pandas of Chengdu, the beaches of Hainan, the lakes of Jiuzhaigou, the deserts of Gansu, and so much more.
The best and most memorable trip I took, however, was hiking in Yunnan Province, in a place called Tiger Leaping Gorge. It’s a raging river cutting through the massive Himalayan mountain cliff sides and it’s one of the coolest places in the world. There is a 2-day trek from the beginning to the end of the Gorge that’s doable for anyone that’s relatively in shape and worth every second for the amazing views. You can stay in Tibetan guesthouses along the trail so you don’t really have to worry about food or housing, as it’s all fairly cheap. It’s kind of difficult to get there unless you fly (ctrip.com and Spring Airlines being the best/cheapest resources) directly to Lijiang, the closest major city. But if those airfares are beyond your budget, look into flights to Kunming (Yunnan’s capital) and overnight trains and buses that go to Lijiang. However you get there may be difficult to plan but it’ll all be worth it, as it’s one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen.
Name: Tony Auerbach
Attractions: There is so much to do in Shanghai. From JingAn Temple to the Bund and more, there is always something new to do. You have to walk on the Bund. While Xintiandi is one of the biggest expat spots, I loved Tianzifang and its tiny alleys and little shops. One of the best things to do is to look at smartshanghai.com for the latest things and daily promotions.
Faith: To be honest, I just googled with my VPN “Catholic Churches” in Shanghai for different services and found one that was very nice for Easter Mass.
Food: Whatever your heart desires you can find in Shanghai. Be that western cuisine at Hengshan Lu or different regions of China cuisine.
Near campus, there are a bunch of small Chinese restaurants by the side gate. If you take a left, going south, at the south gate, you will find a Coco’s for bubble tea in about 3 blocks. If you see the KFC, it is kitty corner and if you see the McDonalds, you have gone too far. At the main gate, there are more small restaurants like a good small Korean place and a decent pizza place that delivers. Inside campus, there are multiple cafeterias that work for small dishes. The cafeteria closest to the international dorm has a gourmet section on the second floor that is pretty good.
Housing: You will either select to live in the international dorm with other CIEE students or have a Chinese roommate or live with a homestay. Pick according to what you want to get out of your study abroad experience.
Transportation & Travel: In Shanghai, you can use mass transit without difficulty. While cabs are inexpensive, getting used to the subway is a cheaper option.
Traveling throughout China, you can either fly or go by train. I highly recommend doing an overnight train once because of the experience, but go first class, so you can get a cabin for just 4 people. It is difficult to plan trips while in the States, but using ctrip in China is easy. Going to Beijing is a must and seeing more rural China is extremely rewarding. I went up to Dunhuang and the Gobi Desert and had a blast. Traveling throughout Asia is also not too difficult. I enjoyed my time in Hong Kong and Macau and friends had a blast in Thailand. I would advise to not leave Shanghai every weekend because you do not want to blow your budget, but also because Shanghai is such a cool city.
Food: There is a bunch of great food options within blocks of East China Normal University. For example, one block to the left of the side gate are several authentic Sichuan cuisine restaurants for cheap prices. Also, the Global Harbor mall opened in 2013 and has an Outback Steakhouse as well as other Western cafes. In addition, directly in front of the main gate across the street is a woman who makes the best fried rice and noodle stir fry for about 1 US dollar.
Transportation & Travel: The subway is the best form of transportation, especially when going to the Bund or to Pudong district. The subway stop is directly underneath the Global Harbor Mall. Additionally, taxis can be hailed outside the gates (Note: they are not allowed to go onto campus so it would be best to get dropped off at the side gate which is closer to the dorms).
Attractions: Otherwise, the city is great and there are so many awesome attractions. Make sure to check out the Bund as well as the antique markets located closest to Nanjing Road.