Welcome to the Beehive…Get Yourself a Bike

One of my first observations about life in China is the sheer amount of people that crowd the streets, shops, restaurants, sidewalks and basically everywhere you look.  After living and working in Manhattan (approximately 1.6 million people living squashed into a total land area of about 22 square miles)  I assumed I’d be somewhat prepared for the mass volume and chaotic ambiance of downtown Shanghai. Well I wasn’t.

This is particularly apparent when walking across the Fudan Campus, which is often reminiscent of exiting a grandstand arena at the end of a sold out concert.  The total student population is over 44,000 people. Put 95% of these people on small, fast-moving bikes (the must-have accessory in Shanghai) and you can imagine the overall manic feeling of walking through (or often against) hundreds of people on a daily basis.

It also must be noted that in Shanghai, people driving cars, scooters and bikes always (and I mean always) have the right-of-way. Many times my aggressive NYC street walking mindset (which assumes, of course, that all vehicles yield to me–even if I am stepping out in front of them in a mad dash to beat the light) got me into some close situations with people on wheels. (See this article written by friends of mine for a hilarious take on NYC street walking and right-of-way rules).

At this point, let me include a valuable tip for maneuvering around Shanghai on foot. While you’re strolling on the sidewalk,  and a person riding a scooter ON said sidewalk is heading straight in your direction at 35mph, it is 100% YOUR responsibility to get the heck out of the way. If you’re a 4 year-old child or an 89 year old grandma or if you’re carrying an armload of groceries and you’re on your cell phone and not paying attention…none of this matters. It is your job to get lost, or get hit because the scooter rider will not veer. I repeat, the scooter rider will not veer. (It makes one think: what are sidewalks exactly for then in this case?)

 

With all this being said, it took me about 2 days at Fudan U to realize I wanted a bike ASAP.

The task of buying a bike is especially easy and cheap, as bikes are sold on almost every corner and you’d be absolutely crazy to buy anything else than a second-hand junker since bikes get stolen here on a daily basis. Below are photos of my “new,” but decrepit looking bike (costing only 20 USD, which also included the essential bike lock). My good friends Ariel and Edouard  are also pictured with their second-hand bikes.

 

bikes, bikes and bikes...mine is the beauty parked in the front

bikes, bikes and bikes...mine is the beauty parked in the front

Ariel (in foreground) & Edouard with the "new" rides

Ariel (in foreground) & Edouard with the "new" rides

me and my clunker

me and my clunker

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this two-wheeled saga…my purchasing of an electric scooter. Below is a sneak peek…

the next chapter

the next chapter...

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Fudan University: Fires Your Dream & Starts Your Journey to Glory

Fudan_logo

The long trek across the Pacific is over and I’ve  successfully arrived in Shanghai, China. But what exactly am I doing here, you ask?  Well if one year of studying, papers, classes and a 60 page dissertation wasn’t enough…I’ve opted for a second. For the next 10 months, I will be studying and taking classes at the Journalism School of Fudan University in pursuit of another Masters degree (this time in Journalism). Okay, so who in the world takes journalism classes in CHINA–a country that censors its own press, regulates content to maintain state control and unapologetically blocks new media sites such as Twitter, YouTube, and blogging portals  like ..ahem…the one you’re reading right now? (Click here for more information on Chinese media and Censorship).  Well, these are some solid questions, but first? Let’s start at the beginning. Here is some general information about Fudan University.

Fudan University Historic Gate

You know you're in China when the entrance to your campus looks like this...

Founded in 1905, Fudan U is the 3rd ranked University in the  mainland of China (Peking  University and Tsinghua University take the number 1 and 2 ranks). Predominantly known for its Arts and Humanities programs, the University scores 45 amongst the world’s top 50 Humanities studies.

Beginning in 1950, Fudan was one of the first Chinese institutions to enroll international students. Since then, it has accepted and trained over 10,000 foreign students from 100 different countries and regions worldwide. A good example is my Journalism program. It consists of only 11 students, but represents 9 different countries and nationalities.

Tradition, Modernity & Chairman Mao

As pictured in my last post, the Fudan campus is large and sprawling, with wide tree lined streets, gorgeous green quads and traditional Chinese streams, bridges and alcoves. Here are photos of the main campus (named the Handan Campus) which I must admit, is much more impressive than the LSE campus and loads more culturally interesting than my undergrad college.

Fudan's tree-lined streets

Fudan's tree-lined streets

Streams and bridges

Streams and bridges

Handan Campus

Handan Campus

But like the city of Shanghai itself, Fudan University is a mix of traditional Chinese architecture and design, contrasted by warp-speed modernity and technology. Check out the “Twin Towers” below. These very modern structures stand in the center of campus and soar 460 feet in the air. Reportedly, they are the tallest buildings to ever be constructed within a Chinese institution. Unfortunately, I don’t have any classes in either of these buildings, but I make a point to visit frequently as the lobby alone feels like a 4 star hotel.

The modern Guanghua Twin Towers--standing in the center of the campus, the towers are 462 feet

The modern Guanghua Twin Towers

Lastly, amongst the traditional Chinese gardens and impressive modern architecture, the campus also includes the (not so subtle) reminder that this is indeed a Communist state. A very large statue of Chairman Mao stands behind the University’s main gates.

Notice how small the person in the photo is comparatively

Notice how small the person in the photo is comparatively

The below banner was hung in front of the statue during the University’s orientation week.

The banner reads: Fudan University Fires your Dream & Starts Your Journey to Glory!

Welcome Banner

My very own journey to Glory? Sign me up!

With a slogan like that, what could ever go wrong?

Click here for more photos of life at Fudan U.

From Bodega Bay, CA to Shanghai, China: The Long Journey

A mere 10 days after submitting my FINAL  Masters dissertation for a MSc in Global Media & Communications at the London School of Economics (i.e.: blood, sweat, tears, and 72 hours of no sleep), I boarded a plane bound for Shanghai, China to begin another journey of  academic exploration, language learning and the jumping of cultural hurdles. But before the venture into East Asia began, I was lucky enough to spend some fast and furious days visiting with family and friends in various parts of the U.S. My boyfriend Ray and I (a fellow LSE cohort who’s crazy enough to move to Shanghai with me)  city-hopped from Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Nazareth, PA; and, finally, Bodega Bay, CA in what was to be a whirlwind of  good food, long talks and some great laughs with the people we love most.

The below pictures are taken with some members of the Lewis family from the deck of our rented beach house close to Bodega Bay, CA.  These photos are taken a few minutes before our departure to the airport to catch our flight to Shanghai:

(From L to R) Mom, Ben, Me and Dad

(From L to R) Mom, Ben, Me and Dad

Me and Ray a few moments before beginning our trek to China

Me and Ray a few moments before beginning our trek to China

The time spent at home visiting family and friends was amazing, but incredibly TOO short. After the previous year spent studying in a new city (London), with new people/food/culture and life adjustments, I was ready to unpack my bags, raid the fridge and snuggle up with my parents for a few hours of TiVo on the couch. But alas, 10 days of “home-sweet-home” later and I was suddenly on a 12 ½ hour flight headed to Taipei. Ironically, no one bats an eye at this in the Lewis family anymore 🙂 Here is the complete digital album of my trip home and visit to Bodega Bay.

Brushing up on my Shanghai knowledge

Brushing up on my Shanghai knowledge on the plane

Almost 13 hours of flying in a (very) crowded and older model airbus, we  landed in Taipei, Taiwan for a 3 hour layover before the final leg to our Shanghai destination (SIDE NOTE: by “older model airbus” I mean NO personal entertainment consul,  a movie shown 15 feet away with no English sub-titles and 2 lousy meals. I’m not a high-maintenance traveler, but 13 hours on a plane makes one take notice of such things…or lack thereof).

Below are photos from the very modern Taipei airport in Taiwan.

Very exhausted, but EXCITED travelers

Very exhausted, but EXCITED travelers

6:00am Taipei Airport

6:00am Taipei Airport

After a grand total of 21 hours in travel time, we finally arrived in Shanghai, China mid-morning on Sunday, September 6th. Having no permanent place to live at this time, we had pre-arranged temporary residence at a hotel located on the campus of the Fudan School of Journalism–AKA: my new University (or “J” School, as it’s commonly known).  The large, rather luxurious Fuxuan Hotel sits prominently on the eastern section of the J-School campus and is home to formal J-School assemblies, meetings and training sessions. Arriving via cab with 9 large, very heavy pieces of luggage, in 95 degree weather, after 21 hours of traveling,  the Fuxuan Hotel looked like THE oasis of legend. We scrambled up the steps and into the marble, low-lit, plushy lobby with the AC humming and finally sighed: ” We are here!”

Fuxuan Hotel, J-School Campus

Fuxuan Hotel, J-School Campus

After some lost in translation moments with the concierge at check-in (something tells me I need to VASTLY improve my Mandarin skills), we were able to settle into our very comfortable room with fantastic views of the Fudan University campus and surrounding areas. Hunger overrode fatigue at this point, and we decided to “splurge” on room service–a meal that cost us the equivalent of 10 US dollars (USD) for two large portions. Our official first meal in China was delicious and spicy Shanghai fried noodles and dumpling soup.

The meal was delicious...the price? Even better.

The meal was delicious...the price? Even better.

As indicated by the sheer look of exhaustion in above photo, we crashed shortly after the yummy Shanghai-nese meal without much attempt to beat the jet-lag. At this point, there was nothing else to do but sleep and re-charge for all the adventures that settling into a new country entails. Stay tuned for details regarding life at Fudan University, as well as the immersion into traditional Chinese tourism…megaphones, flags, tour boats and more…

I leave you with a photo taken from our hotel room. The view is of Fudan University. Notice the  HUGE twin teaching towers, the lovely rows of trees and squat student housing buildings. Downtown Shanghai can be seen in the distance.

View of Fudan U from Fuxuan Hotel

View of Fudan U from Fuxuan Hotel

 

UPDATE: After 3 days in the Fuxuan Hotel, Ray and I decided on an apartment in the lovely and posh Luwan District of Shanghai. Click here for photos of our new diggs.