Even though I’ve hit my one month mark, I still struggle to believe I’m living in what has got to be one of the world’s most incredible cities. I feel as though my life has been flipped upside down a little, and in the midst of the excitement I’m sadly realizing my time here is going to absolutely fly by. In saying that, my settling-in experience hasn’t been totally flawless, so for those considering jetting-off to Shanghai Jiao Tong, I hope the information contained in this blog update ensures your transition is a little smoother than mine.
First point I want to make, all those stories you hear of pollution being terrible here? They’re not exaggerating. Initially, it will almost feel like you’re walking through a physical substance, and participating in any sort of sporting activity will leave you out of breath way faster than normal. The ever-present cigarette smoke doesn’t help much either. Secondly, before arriving I was always told how Shanghai is the Chinese city where East meets West. Traditional Chinese-style houses neighbor with those of a more classical French-style, and it’s just as easy to find a crepe as it is a dumpling. Whilst there is definitely some truth in this, the largest misconception I gained from these tales was that English was pretty commonly spoken across the city. This is definitely NOT the case, so if you’re arriving with little-to-no Mandarin skills, download Duolingo and brush up on those key phrases. You’ll need them. If nothing else, my pro-tip would to be print out your arrival address in Chinese to give to your driver. They will really appreciate it, and it’ll make your life just that bit easier.
On the topic of transport, taxi’s here are SUPER cheap, as is the metro. You’ll definitely benefit from a metro card so make that a number one priority when you arrive. The metro system here is also really easy to navigate, so don’t worry about getting lost. However, be warned that trains here, like Brisbane, don’t run all night. So, on those nights when you’re exploring the cities unbelievably amazing nightlife (make Bar Rouge your first stop!), and want to head home before 6am, take a MARKED taxi. Unmarked taxis are a massive scam here so be vigilant. Also, never catch a taxi from directly outside a club or bar. They’re generally about 4 times the price, so it’s worth your while to walk five minutes down the road. Another important note for when you’re out and about, always always always have a copy of your passport/visa on you. Whether it be a photo on your phone, a print out of a scan or the real thing (which I don’t recommend as pickpocketing is an issue here). Police officers here have the right to ask to see a copy at any time and any place. Refusal or inability to give them anything they ask may land you in hot water. To quote our security officer, ‘don’t use things like human rights as an excuse!’. You also need it to do things like travelling domestically, booking a hostel room in addition to orientation or registration at your university.
When you do begin university life, there will be an absolute stack of admin to do. My advice would be to write a list, and get it done as soon as possible. First things first, set up a WeChat account – you honestly can’t live here without it. You use it to pay vendors, shop online, contact tutors, be informed about class info etc. For that last one, WeChat basically takes the place of Blackboard, so it is really important. When you set up your banking, get to the bank early unless you want to spend 3 hours sitting in their lobby (you don’t). Don’t forget your TFN either! When you get a sim card, I recommend China Unicom. You get unlimited data for a very reasonable price, and it’s a reliable network country-wide. If you’re studying/living in the Xuhui campus, there’s a Unicom and BOC branch right outside one the main gates, so it’s pretty convenient. Speaking of, if you’re torn between living on Minhang or Xuhui, I would highly recommend Xuhui. Not only is Minhang really far away from downtown Shanghai, but because it’s so big it has become its own little city. What I’ve heard from people who live there, is that this means you become rather reluctant to leave and explore because everything you want is around you, and you end up missing out on all Shanghai has to offer. There is a shuttle bus that runs between the two, but it’s still a hassle. So, unless the majority of your classes are taught there, I would say book in Xuhui. Side note, if you do book in Xuhui, your options are; Lianxing building and Tao Li Yuan. The former is an older building, and only the rooms on the top level have been renovated. The latter is new, and all the rooms are much more modern. I’m stuck on Lianxing level one which isn’t that nice, but I’m only here for one semester so I’m willing to put up with it. It was also, like everything in this country, so incredibly cheap that it’s not really worth complaining about.
Last but not least, if you are here on an X2 visa (one semester), you cannot obtain a Residence Permit visa. This is contrary to what I had been told, so it was a bit of a disappointment. You can add one more entry to your visa if you want, but that’s it. Just a word of warning!
Well that wraps up my post for month one! If you have any specific dorm orientated questions don’t hesitate to ask because I found very little information myself when I was looking. Until next time!