Week 3: On Solid Ground

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” – Anthony Bourdain

I have to say, I’m really grateful to be young and healthy. Another week has passed and only one remains until the October 1st week-long holiday! Hope you enjoy my reflections on this week.

Chronicles from class…

There’s about ten students in my Chinese class, which is the second of two levels. In our lesson this week, we learned about ordering food at a restaurant. Our teacher wrote each vocabulary phrase on the blackboard, and after reviewing as a class, she began calling on us individually. She would point to a word and ask us to repeat it back to her. During one of my classmates Benjamin’s turn, she pointed to the word for hungry, or 饿 (è). He looked for a minute at his book and said “uh…”; immediately the teacher said “很好 (Great!)” We ALL burst out laughing. I laughed so hard I almost cried, and the teacher never even figured out why. You had to be there to witness it. A coincidence that will most definitely never happen again! Benjamin is a funny guy from Germany; I’m impressed with his Chinese and willingness to learn!

In my Professional Engineering Ethics class, I had to turn in the first assignment at the beginning of class, ahead of the others, because I planned to leave early for a UC event in downtown Shanghai. I printed the two pages and realizing that I forgot to staple them together, folded the corners and wrote my name on the second page. The professor proceeded to not say anything when I turned it in, but to make an announcement at the beginning of class and personally call out my paper. He did not find my “folded corners” acceptable. I said, “I put my name of the second page.” He responded by calling that a second best and then dropped my paper, along with one of his own stapled packets, onto the floor to illustrate his point. It turns out that about half the class didn’t even complete the homework because the different mediums for instructions were pretty confusing. So, I really should have been the least of his worries, given that some students said they did the homework but “didn’t write anything down.” Invisible homework eh? -_- Nevertheless, I will never turn in a non-stapled paper again…

Chronicles from off-campus shenanigans…

After that Ethics class, the two other UC students along with myself and some others from the JI had the opportunity to attend a University of California Education Abroad “Evening in Shanghai” with UC Alumni, Professors, and friends. The venue was a nice hotel in the Huangpu district. On the taxi there, one of my classmates Samir was telling us about how he has a side haircutting business back in Michigan (he also does eyebrow threading)! Going into college he was tired of how he had to pay so much for a simple haircut. Therefore, he decided to learn himself, and soon friends were telling friends, and he was making enough money to treat himself to drinks, or whatever else, in a given week. We were all pretty impressed, and he even told us “I have a chair.” I replied, “Wow! You have a chair!” He thought I was being completely sarcastic, which I wasn’t, but it would have been hilarious if I was. He responded “I’m never telling you guys anything cool again.” Hahaha.

By the time we got to the dinner, most of us were famished, so after greeting the important UC people, we found a table and started eating before anyone else. What else would you expect of starving college students? 🙂 During the dinner, we met two other JI students. One of the students mentioned that she just finished an exchange program at Berkeley last semester and her major happened to be mechanical engineering! I perked up and asked her what classes she took since she didn’t look very familiar. Turns out, we were both in the same senior design class, but neither of us remember each other’s projects, even though we presented in the same expo on the same day. This just tells me 1) how big Berkeley is, and 2) how much that class is focused only on the team you are assigned to. Nevertheless, it was cool that we had that in common. She hopes to go back to Berkeley for grad school; she mentioned this when she won a raffle from a business card drop. Very impressive that she already has her own business card! The rest of the dinner was filled with various speeches and some friendly conversation. We also had the chance to meet the 20 something students who are studying abroad at Fudan University, the more common destination in Shanghai. We enjoyed about 15 different dishes and drank beer out of wine glasses – I know, classy right?


We represent UCSD, UCB, and UCLA 🙂

After the dinner, we took advantage of already being in the city and gathered a big group to go clubbing. When you know “promoters”, you can get in for free and also don’t have to pay for anything inside the club. At this point, I’ve seen the scene in the U.S., Mexico, Taiwan, and China. Although the people and the culture are different, the places I’ve visited cater very much to foreigners and expats, so overall the vibes are similar. The dance floor was compact, and thus prone to lots of pushing and shoving. Despite that, though, it was still a good amount of fun. There were performances at the top of every hour, and everyone got to show off their dance moves. Drinks were watered down but refilled with no limir. It’s interesting to see how those who are clearly non-locals (those from Europe, etc.) interact with the locals. Long story short, they’re very popular! We ended the night at 3am at the second of two clubs. My sleep schedule definitely took a hit, but it’s ok for a change every once in a while… #supersenior.

Guinea pigs receive all the attention…

The day after, the UCEAP representatives made a visit to our campus. I missed the first part, as I had a meeting with the CCF class officers back home, but I heard that they took a lot of footage of us to use back at the UC study abroad fairs this fall and spring.  We met for lunch at a nice restaurant close to campus, lazy Susan style.  I rushed there on my bike and was literally sweating when I got there 15min after noon, only to find that nobody had arrived; nobody did arrive until 12:30. Chinese people are usually not on time. 😛 The directors and professors really value our feedback as the first three students from the UC system to be participating in this program. So far we’ve been unable to join the Fudan students in their activities, but I am looking forward to an overnight trip to Shaoxin and joint Thanksgiving day festivities. After the lunch, I did a makeup interview outside, and got a cool square scarf decorated with a pattern that represents the Joint Institute. I rushed back to my last class of the day, which dragged on as any Friday afternoon class would.

A weekend of standing, sitting, and shopping…

On Saturday, the school arranged a “tour of Shanghai” for the students. It was just about the most tourist-y thing possible, but good to do at least once. Side note… I still haven’t really figured out my camera. It takes good videos, but when I’m taking pictures, I have a lot of trouble with the focus. Going to mess with the settings a bit more and probably take it around campus one day. Anyways, we started the day at the China Art Museum, which is hosted in the venue of the former 2010 China World Expo Pavilion. The special exhibit featured the painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival (清明上河图). It captures the daily life of people during the Song dynasty, and the coolest part is the painting was moving! We think it was done by projectors but aren’t sure. We were dropped at Tian Zi Fang (田子坊)for lunch. Honestly, to most of us it was a tourist trap with mediocre food and overpriced souvenirs. I miss night markets in Taiwan 😦 I was waiting for some sesame noodles, and the power in the stall went out. My friend Jeremy ordered something called “road steak” which was the most disappointing thing. It took forever to make and was a tiny tray of 2 broccoli florets, 2 tomatoes, some soggy fries, and a few pieces of beef nestled in a soda cup filled with soda. Like who thought of this??  However – we caught a glimpse of Peyton Manning here, of all places/people. His body-guard was pretty mean, but another student Toby did sneak this pic. We got some milk tea from 50 Lan (50岚) before meeting back up with the group.


Peyton Manning (light blue shirt) – not many Chinese recognized him…

The afternoon was spent at the Shanghai Centre, the world’s second tallest building behind the Burj Khalifa, completed in 2015. The elevator is the world’s fastest and can reach a speed of 18m/s. Unfortunately it was super foggy and polluted at the time that we went, but it does offer a 360 degree view of Shanghai. The brochure mentions that it “epitomizes the achievement urban civilization can reach.” In the presidential debate this morning, a question came up about how we can prevent companies from leaving and growing in countries like China and Mexico. To be honest, I think we actually need to give China a lot of credit. They do know how to optimize manufacturing facilities, compete at the same spec level, and companies are growing tremendously here.


One of the few focused photos of me and  “foggy” Shanghai…

After an udon dinner at the food court of a department store, we ended the day with a boat tour along the Huangpu River, originating from the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. Tickets were oversold and we didn’t have anywhere to sit. Views were nice but no different from what we could see on land. I enjoyed the company of those who I’m becoming friends with, though, and after descending the boat, half of us took the bus back (me included – I KO’d), and half went to check out a brewery downtown.

On Sunday, my mom had the chance to visit as a sort of layover on the way to her business trip in Nanchang. We enjoyed a nice cup of hot tea on the patio of one of the cafeterias by a large lotus field, and then met up for lunch with her old coworkers. The best thing we ate there was this sticky rice with a floral honey. After lunch, my mom and I took care of some errands and then went shopping at Qi Pu Lu(七浦路), where the clothes are cheap and pretty fashionable. We also stopped for some mango shaved ice (a must) in the afternoon. I’m not sure if it was the shoes I was wearing (flats) or just the fact that it was my second full day of running around on foot and public transportation, but by the end of the day we were both pretty tired. I was really happy to see my mom though. She brought me some snacks from home which I am greatly enjoying.

Classes are really picking up now, and I’ve attempted to get back into the mode of packing up for long nights of studying in the library and study centers. Without the extracurricular commitments I had back at Berkeley, though, this is definitely manageable. I do have some video footage but I’ll probably release it later this week before we take off for our adventure to northern China. Cheers!

#sunontherun #shanghai



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