Study Abroad: 10 Ways to Spend a Sunny Day in Beijing

The sun is shining. You’re studying abroad in Beijing. How do you make the most of the day ahead? Our local staff have a few suggestions: 

1. TAKE A BOAT RIDE. What better way to feel refreshed on a hot Summer’s day while you’re studying abroad in China than by heading out in a boat on one of Beijing’s lakes? There are popular boating facilities at Houhai, Beihai Park as well as on the lake at the Summer Palace. A group of three or four friends sharing a small peddle or rowing boat is the best option. Book yourself an hour or two and relax on the water.

Photo: Boating on lake at the Summer Palace by Colin Speakman

2. GET CLOSE TO NATURE. Not far from campus where CAPA Beijing students study, there are a few lovely parks where you can enjoy the great outdoors. Go for a relaxing stroll where much appreciated shade is provided by the trees. Listen to the sound of lapping water and admire some of the beautiful flowers in bloom. You can also hear the birds singing and feel close to nature despite being in the middle of a global city. The two near CAPA are Yuyuantan Park or Zizhuyuan Park (Purple Bamboo Park), but there are many others around the city as well.

Photo: Yuyuantan Park opposite old CCTV Tower by Colin Speakman

3. EAT DINNER OUTDOORS. One of the great joys of Summer is dining outdoors. Around Beijing, you’ll find some restaurant patios perfect for this and some have roof top dining options as well. From there, you’ll have some nice views over the city and perhaps catch a few rays of sun at the same time (don’t forget the sunscreen!) Check out one of the cafe bars at Houhai and in the 798 Art District among other venues.

Photo: At an outdoor patio in Houhai in Summer by Colin Speakman

4. SPLASH IN THE POOL. If nothing will cool you down like a dip in the pool, head to Liulang Swimming Pool near the Summer Palace or Baolian Sports Park, Haidian District, also not far from the campus where CAPA Beijing classes take place. Swim some laps for a bit of exercise and then slather on that sunscreen and reward yourself by relaxing poolside with a refreshing drink and a good book.

Photo: Swimming pool in Beijing by Lara Warman

5. JOIN THE LOCALS. When locals are looking for a way to relax on a sunny day, many of them make their way to the grounds of the Temple of Heaven where there’s plenty to do: listen to free music played by Chinese musicians, bring a pack of cards or Chinese Chess and settle in for a bit of friendly competition or join in various dance groups. If getting so involved doesn’t appeal, it’s also a great place just to chill on a bench in the shelter of the Long Corridor and indulge in some people watching!

Photo: Dancing in the Temple of heaven grounds in Summer by Colin Speakman

6. EXPLORE THE OUTSKITRS OF THE CITY. If being in the hectic city is a bit overwhelming in the heat, then take advantage of a sunny day to leave the center of Beijing and get to know the Mentougou rural area. Take a 929 bus from the Western end of the line 1 subway. It’s an hour journey, but once you’re there you can stroll off of the beaten path, past farms, streams, little used single track railway lines and countryside, take in some fresh air and leave the city sounds and smells behind.

Photo: Mentougou rural area by Colin Speakman

7. GO FOR A HIKE. No need to exert yourself for a full on grueling hike on such a hot day, but when the sun comes out, it’s a great time for a gentle walk to take in a nice view and spend some time in the great outdoors. Consider heading out to Fenghuangling (Phoenix Mountain) Nature Park in the Haidian District. This scenic area is nicknamed “the lung of Beijing City” and it is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a place to take in a breath of fresh air.

Photo: Fenghuangling Nature Park by IRIS Liu

8. ESCAPE THE CROWDS. Everyone who travels to Beijing wants to see the Great Wall. Don’t spoil a perfectly sunny day by getting stuck in crowds at the usual sections of the Wall if you’re setting out to do the same. Instead, make your way to a more remote section in Jinshanling. From there, you’ll enjoy some peace and quite plus great views from a fairly flat part of Hebei Provence just outside Beijing.

Photo: The Great Wall at Jinshanling by Colin Speakman

9. VISIT THE FORBIDDEN CITY. There is never a bad time to visit (or perhaps revisit) the Forbidden City. Since so much of it is located outdoors, a nice sunny day always helps. Refresh with a coffee part way through at the cafe that used to be a Starbucks. Then, on your way out, relax in the tree-lined Imperial Garden at the back of the Palace. This area used to be used by the Imperial family to sip tea, play chess, meditate and generally relax. Feel free to do the same.

Photo: Imperial Garden of Forbidden City in summer by Colin Speakman

10. HEAD TO AN AMUSEMENT PARK. If it’s fun and excitement you’re after on a sunny Summer’s day in this CAPA global city, then the Beijing amusement park is sure to encourage plenty of laughter and a rush of adrenaline. Happy Valley in Chaoyang District is considered the best and the capital’s answer to Disneyland with distinctive landscapes and themes plus over 40 rides.

Photo: Happy Valley in Beijing by Jinjian Liang

Share your favorite sunny day activities with us in a comment!

Social Share Toolbar

Reflections on a Summer Studying Abroad in Sydney

Jada Green has been CAPA’s Official Blogger for Summer 2014. A Lehigh University student, she studied abroad in Sydney over the Summer. 

Below, Jada reflects on her experience abroad and shares her thoughts on returning home, including the reactions of her friends and family.  

With this last post, we say goodbye to you, Jada, with a huge thank you for letting us share in your story over the last few months. We wish you the all the best!

- – - 

It’s strange to think that after a week of being home, my time in Oz is nothing but a fond memory to look back on. Just like before I left, there has been a pattern in the questions I’m being asked by my family and friends who want to know everything about my trip. So far, I’ve heard a lot of:

  1. So do you have an Aussie accent now?—Sadly, this one’s a no. I still sound ridiculous saying “mate.”
  2. Did the toilets really flush the opposite direction?—To be honest, I had to look this one up on Snopes when I got home. It’s not as easy to tell as you might think! (Turns out they don’t.)
  3. Did you see a kangaroo/shark/deadly spider?—Yes to all three. Come on, I was in Australia!
  4. What time does your body think it is now?—Pretty much whatever time it is here, my body just wants to sleep. Traveling really takes it out of you.
  5. What was your favorite thing you’ve done there?—This question took a little more thought. Out of all the things I did, it’s so hard to go back and pinpoint just one thing that stood out among the others. My answer is usually snorkeling, but that’s subject to change.
  6. Are you gonna want to drive on the wrong side of the road now?—I must confess, when we landed in LAX we were walking to the left instead of the right. But it’s pretty easy to adjust when you realize you’re in everyone’s way!

My reverse culture shock has been minimal, since the differences between Australia and the U.S. are pretty minimal. I must say, it was surprising and refreshing to hear people speaking at a normal volume in public places! And not to keep fixating on toilets, but I keep forgetting that the flusher is on the side of the tank here, rather than the top. Other than that, the adjustment process has gone pretty smoothly.

There are some things that are only revealed in hindsight, and this experience was no exception. You rarely realize that something is making you a better person as it’s happening, but reflecting on my time abroad has helped me grow in ways I didn’t know it could. The biggest thing I’ve learned? It’s okay to ask “stupid” questions. It could be asking the waiter for their recommendation when trying cuisine you’re unfamiliar with, or even asking a bus driver where to get off. Whatever it was, I learned to speak up and not let my awkwardness get the better of me, pretty much because I had no other choice.

To anyone considering studying abroad, I have just one piece of advice: push yourself out of your comfort zone. If the thought of going abroad makes you nervous, that’s a sign that you should definitely do it. Trust me, you will be amazed at how easily you can adapt. I’m so thankful that I didn’t let my pre-departure jitters get the best of me, because otherwise I would’ve missed out on the best experience of my life.

Thanks Jada!

The application deadline for Fall 2014 bloggers has been extended until July 25. Apply now for your chance to win a $600 grant and $300 explorer fund.  

Social Share Toolbar

10 Ways to Use Pinterest For Study Abroad

Pinterest is one of our favorite places to find and organize inspiration. It’s not all fluffy kittens and wedding decorations either. In fact, it’s an excellent tool for study abroad, from the time the initial idea enters your mind to the days after your return to the States. Think of Pinterest as a collection of ongoing research.

A SHORT BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO PINTEREST

If you have a Pinterest account, skip this paragraph! For anyone new to Pinterest, it’s simple to use and you’ll be adding pins (like visual bookmarks) before you know it. Here’s a brief Pinterest 101:

  1. Visit Pinterest.com and sign up with your name and email address.
  2. Choose a few interests from their list to get you started.
  3. Find pins that inspire you and click the Pin It button. You can install a Pin It button on your browser task bar so it’s easy to pin images from any website. Click on the “+” next to your name at the top right of your page for instructions.
  4. The “+” next to your name is also where you can upload a new pin from your own photos or create new boards (topics for your collections).
  5. Start pinning!
  6. Note: If you click on a pin, it will open a larger version. If you click again, it will take you through to the original source, such as an article or blog post.
3 QUICK TIPS

Before we dive in, here are 3 quick pinning tips:

  • Use hashtags (#) to make key words searchable (ie – #London or #studyabroad).
  • Use @ to mention another Pinner, to bring their attention to an image or article (ie – @CAPAStudyAbroad).
  • Long images are more likely to be shared than smaller landscape images.
10 WAYS TO USE PINTEREST FOR STUDY ABROAD

Below, we’ll share 10 ways in which Pinterest and study abroad go hand in hand. We’d love to hear how you use this very visual platform as well.

1. DESTINATION INSPIRATION. Location possibilities are endless when you initially decide to study abroad. If you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of destinations, set up a Pinterest board for each of them and start collecting articles and images that will keep you excited during the pre-departure stage and help you make your final choice. Otherwise, a more general “Possible Study Abroad Destinations” board will suffice while you gather inspiration from around the world to help you decide where to go. Use the comments under each image to scribble pros and cons for each. We’ve set up boards for each CAPA global city destination to help get you started: Beijing, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Florence, Istanbul, London, Shanghai and Sydney!

[Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

2. PRE-DEPARTURE PLANNING. Building a Pinterest board around the pre-departure process can help you stay organized. Keep track of what you’d like to bring along by pinning articles with packing lists, carry-on suggestions and  packing tricks. You can pin infographics that show the best times to book airline tickets, a list of books you’d like to read or movies you’d like to watch about your destination before you go and perhaps some local style inspiration for the fashion conscious among you. Check out the CAPA “Travel Tips” board for starters. Have a look at the “Travel Safety“ board as well for a few things to keep in mind before you go and while you’re abroad.

[Image sources: 12345, 6]

3. ABROAD BUCKET LIST. Once you choose your study abroad destination, you’ll likely be doing plenty of research on what you’d love to do while you’re there, creating a study abroad wish list. Dig through travel articles and blogs and gather advice from friends or family who may have already been to your host city. An “Abroad Bucket List” board on Pinterest is a great way to keep track of your personal study abroad goals. Use the comments that come below the images to remind yourself what it is that has drawn you to a particular place or activity. It’s also fun to go back and edit the descriptions once you’re abroad with a “TICK!” so you can see how much you’ve accomplished. Check out our destination boards for some ideas: BeijingBuenos AiresDublinFlorenceIstanbulLondonShanghai and Sydney.

[Image sources: 123456]

4. LEARN A LANGUAGE. If you’re heading to one of CAPA’s global city destinations like Beijing, Buenos Aires, Florence, Istanbul or Shaghai where English is not the first language, you’ll have a deeper , more meaningful experience if you learn a bit before you go. Pinterest can be useful here. You can pin articles you’d like to return to with language learning tips or with suggestions for the best language learning apps. You can also pin images from everyday life and use the comments to write out the vocabulary and a sentence about the image in your new language. The images will work as a visual trigger that will help you remember what you are learning. Start with our “Leaning Languages” board and personalize your own from there.

[Image sources: 123456]

5. WEEKEND TRIP WISH LIST. Some study abroad students prefer to stay put and explore their local area, which is a wonderful way to get to know the culture in greater depth (you chose your destination for a reason, right?). Many, however, enjoy a weekend trip (or a few) to a nearby part of the world (or within the same country) that is now much closer than it would be if they were traveling all the way from the States. If that’s something you plan to do, set up a Pinterest board with some of your favorite options, using the comments section for notes such as why you’d like to travel there, how much a flight would be, best restaurants to try while you’re there, etc. You can share your board with friends you might wish to travel with so they can pin to the same place. We have a “Weekend Travel” board to strike up some inspiration.

[Image sources: 12345]

6. MAKE LOCAL CONNECTIONS. Whether it’s actually meeting locals from your host city before you leave home or simply reading their advice through interviews, blogs and articles, Pinterest can help form connections. You can search for pinners from your host city and pin images from their boards, commenting to engage with them. Pin from articles you’ve read about local hidden gems or off the beaten cafes, using the comments as notes. You might find that many of the bloggers who write about your host city also use Pinterest. Check for their social media icons and connect with them there.

[Image sources: 12345]

7. THE OBLIGATORY FOOD BOARD. A favorite use of Pinterest is to keep track of recipes and oogle delicious looking local meals. Whether you’re pinning images of your own afternoon tea in London, foods from abroad that you’d love to try or gathering recipe inspiration for when you’re cooking for yourself in your accommodation, it’s definitely worth having a food board on Pinterest. Check out Bon Appétit: Recipes for Study Abroad with CAPA’s Marion Aller, a new monthly column on the CAPA World blog where Marion, from the CAPA internship team, cooks some of her best cheap and easy recipes. We’ve gathered some more on our own “Recipes for Study Abroad” board on Pinterest as well.

[Image sources: 12345, 6]

8. ACADEMICS. Pinterest is even useful for academics. Researching for an essay? Use it as a bookmarking tool to pin relevant articles. Doing a group project? Set up a group board as a way to collaboratively create a useful collection of resources. Stumbled upon a book or article that might come in handy later on but no tie to read it yet? Pin it to your reading list board! If your major is very visual – graphic design, for example – you can also use Pinterest to gather real world inspiration (typography, website design, photography, interior design, etc). We’ve used our “Academics and Internships” board to highlight some students in their learning environments.

[Image sources: 123456, 7]

9. A PERSONAL SCRAPBOOK. As a visual platform, Pinterest is a fun place to share photos of your study abroad experience with friends and family back home. Mention your friends with an @ and they can re-pin your group shots to their own boards. If you’re keeping a personal blog while you’re abroad, you can pin an image from each post so you have all of your archives in a visual collection. We do this on the “CAPA World Blog” board with our own posts. CAPA ambassador and London study abroad alum Sally Isabella set up a “CAPA Study Abroad” board to share her experience. We love to re-pin, so if you have your own, feel free to share a link with us! We will follow you and share our favorite images.

[Image sources: 123456]

10. HOMECOMING AND CAREERS. Returning home can sometimes be difficult. Everyone deals with this in their own way. Pinterest can be a tool to help you gather images that remind you of your time abroad or, alternatively, inspiration to ease your wanderlust by pinning the places you would love to explore in the States. On our “Returning Home” board, we share articles relevant to re-adjusting, finding your abroad culture at home, dealing with the reverse culture shock that some students experience and videos such as a TED talk on the idea of “home”. On a separate “Careers After Study Abroad” board, we’ve pinned an infographic on marketing your study abroad experience, tips on how to have a global outlook, why study abroad can give you an advantage over your peers if you know how to talk about it and other articles related to jump starting your career after you graduate.

[Image sources: 12345]

If you’ve set up a Pinterest page, share your links in a comment and we’ll follow along. You can find us @CAPAStudyAbroad.

 

Social Share Toolbar

VIDEO: Exploring Ireland with Official CAPA Vlogger Emily Schoepflin

Emily Schoepflin is CAPA’s Official Vlogger for Summer 2014, sharing her story in weekly CAPA World videos. A D’Youville College student from Buffalo, New York, she is studying abroad in Dublin this term.

In this week’s video, Emily shares a compilation clip with some of her favorite adventures around Ireland, the times she explored the country outside of Dublin where she was based for classes. This weekend is her last in Dublin so we’ll look forward to checking in with her one last time next Friday for her reflections on her Summer abroad. 

Emily’s journey continues next week… stay tuned! 

We’ve extended the deadline for applications to become CAPA’s Official Vlogger for Fall 2014 to JULY 25. Do you have what it takes? Fill in an application

Social Share Toolbar

On British Food, Cambridge and Saying Goodbye to London by CAPA Study Abroad Alum Kenny Burr

Words by Kenny Burr, a recent Wright State University graduate who studied abroad in London during Spring semester 2014 with CAPA International Education. 

Below, Kenny talks about his experience with British food, a trip to Cambridge and saying goodbye to London after a fulfilling semester abroad. 

- – -

FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD!

I love eating, so I was really looking forward to sampling British food when I studied abroad in London this past Spring semester. British cuisine has gotten a bad rap in the past, but I found out that it has significantly improved in recently years. My favorite dishes were the meat pies (which come in many different varieties including Beef Wellington) and fish and chips. I also loved the desserts, which are mostly various kinds of pudding.

Photo: Outside a pub near Kenny’s Apartment. It’s not accessible, so he had to be bumped up the entrance in his lighter wheelchair.

“British” food is really more varied than the cuisine developed in the UK.  Restaurants specialize in dishes from so many different countries. My favorite is Indian food, which I ate at least once a week. I’d often take out from Masala Zone, a chain specializing in Indian cuisine. CAPA sponsored a “curry night” at Brick Lane, a street in London’s East End known for its curries. My absolutely favorite and I think most authentic Indian meal was at Needoo Grill in the East End that I came across by chance.

One aspect of London dining that is different from restaurants in the States is that the waiters are not used to being asked for doggie bags. I usually ask to take the uneaten portion of my meal home whenever I eat out. In fact, I purposely eat only half of my food so that I can take the rest home and have it for breakfast the next day. (I am one of those people who likes eating dinner foods for breakfast.) When I asked for a “doggie bag” at my first pub, the waiter had no idea what I was talking about. After I explained to him that I wanted to take the remainder of my meal home, he did get me a box for it, which he assumed I would pack myself. At other restaurants, even when I asked to take the uneaten portion of my meal home, sometimes the waiter totally forgot to make this happen. Perhaps it’s considered bad form to ask for the extra food to go?

I have eaten at perhaps 10-15 pubs. Each one has its own personality. Most have TVs in them so that customers can watch the news or soccer games. I prefer pubs with a sense of history about them. Many pubs are not accessible because there are one or more steps. Very few have ramps. I just drive around until I find one that is accessible.

A VISIT TO CAMBRIDGE

Photo: Kenny in Cambridge with his brother and cousin

One Saturday, I took the train from Kings Cross Station to Cambridge. It’s a really pretty town, but also quite crowded.

The highlights for me were touring the various colleges (mostly accessible, but some of the ramps were quite steep) and eating at the Eagle. The Eagle is a very old pub where many famous people have eaten, including Winston Churchill, Shakespeare and Oliver Cromwell.

I also liked seeing Cambridge’s big clock, which has been running for a thousand years. Pretty cool. I would have liked to go for a ride in a punt on the River Cam—I am told there is an accessible way to do this—but there wasn’t time.

Most streets in Cambridge have curb cuts and I got around fairly easily.

SIGNING OFF

My semester is now over. I’ve finished all of my papers and finals and have returned to the States. Studying abroad in London was one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve seen so much and met so many great people.

Navigating the city in a wheelchair is definitely doable if you’re flexible and know that you won’t be able to take the Tube most places. When crossing streets, it takes a while to get used to looking in the opposite direction from where you would in the US, because the Brits drive on the left side of the road, but eventually that becomes second nature (well, almost).

I love London! I could see myself living there; it felt that comfortable. Who knows?  Maybe one day I will.

Cheers!

Thanks Kenny!

Click here to read more of Kenny’s study abroad story.

Social Share Toolbar

Thousand Word Thursdays: The Happiest Butcher in Florence

Each Thursday we will post a photo worth a thousand words from one of CAPA International Education’s global cities and let the image speak for itself.

Photo: The happiest butcher in Florence by Heather Anne Campbell

Social Share Toolbar

Interview: Sue Anne Tay from Shanghai Street Stories

Photo: Sue Anne Tay in a sidecar

On our quest to introduce some of the locals in CAPA International Education’s global city destinations, we look to Shanghai where we meet Sue Anne Tay. Originally from Singapore, Sue Anne, a serial expat, has lived in Shanghai for about six years now. Two years after she arrived, she began writing a beautiful blog called Shanghai Street Stories in which she uses photography and storytelling to document the life around her. Below she shares some of her images and talks about her blog, the rapid urban development of Shanghai and meeting “the happiest man” in the city.

Photo: Building Shanghai: The backbone of Shanghai’s frenzied construction are migrant workers from neighboring provinces.
Story: “Toiling in the heatwave: whither thy subsidy?”

CAPA WORLD: Where are you from originally, how long have you lived in Shanghai and what brought you there?
SUE ANNE TAY: I was born and raised in Singapore. I moved around for university/ graduate school and eventually work for over a decade – Los Angeles, London, Moscow, Washington DC, Hong Kong and New York. In 2008, I moved to Shanghai for work. It felt great to be back in Asia. 

Photo: Half demolished public housing in Shanghai: A neighborhood on its last leg. It was one of many shikumen neighborhoods lost in 2013.
Story: “Shanghai’s lost shikumen and villas in 2013”

CW: You run a blog called Shanghai Street Stories. Tell us a bit about your site, why you started it and what sort of content you include.
SAT: For almost five years, I’ve been photographing the city’s diverse heritage architecture and writing stories about disappearing community lifestyle in old neighborhoods. Combining photography, local anecdotes and research, I piece together the history and social landscape of Shanghai’s old villas and shikumen (stone hedge door) lilongs (lane) neighborhoods.

I didn’t know anyone when I first moved to Shanghai, so I would walk for hours across the city with my camera on the weekends. Talking with residents, I discovered a wealth of stories – from the quotidian to dark, and began writing about them. I taught myself to photograph better and did more research to lend more context to the stories. I’ve also met incredibly talented documenters capturing similar aspects of Shanghai, whom I’ve interviewed for the blog.

Photo: Community living in public housing: The close-knitted lives of residents in old lilong housing, a rapidly fading phenomenon in Shanghai.

CW: What surprised you most about Shanghai when you first arrived?
SAT: I would say I was less surprised but more struck by the income gap that, while pervasive across China, is distilled in a very stark manner in Shanghai. In developed cities, you often have affluent and poorer areas more clearly segregated but in parts of downtown Shanghai, the lower middle classes and rich are co-existing spatially because the city is still urbanizing. Traditional neighborhoods filled with old Shanghainese and migrant workers sit next to luxury condos; the rich and poor may shop for groceries at the same wet market; the domestic help live together with wealthy families; construction workers sleep in temporary sheds below emerging skyscrapers. Visually, this is very powerful.

Photo: Protesting nail house: Banners calling for justice by a resident of a nailhouse, protesting against the demolition of the neighborhood.
Story: “Left behind, Shanghai’s older generation hark back to Chairman Mao” (for the Guardian)

CW: Shanghai’s rapid urban development is one of your interests. What are some of the negative and positive effects this is having on the city?
SAT: Being one of the first Chinese cities to open up, Shanghai has developed a comprehensive transportation system, (the metro system – built in 1993, which is now the longest in the world), created millions of modern housing units, updated schools and hospital infrastructure, and fostered a cosmopolitan environment that has attracted people and businesses to settle here as opposed to other cities in China. You can’t help but be impressed by what the city has achieved in a short few decades.

But if we look past the fact that the city has built over 400 skyscrapers since the 1990s, we have to question if Shanghai’s urbanization is human oriented. The World Bank highlighted in a recent report (pg 45) that Shanghai’s new urban developments are less connected and the average distance between intersections three to five times longer than the new urban projects in Paris, Tokyo and Barcelona. We see larger malls, bigger parking lots, wider highways in the center of Shanghai that accommodates larger consumer habits but less community spaces.

Photo: Shanghai Shopping: Chinese tour groups gather in front of the Peace Hotel near the Bund
Story: “The Chinese tourist in Shanghai”

CW: Tell us about one memorable encounter that you’ve had while creating content for Shanghai Street Stories. Why did it stand out for you?
SAT: I met Mr. Cai, whom I later referred to as “The Happiest Man in Shanghai”. This was in the outskirts of the city where factories had, over the decades, taken over the farmland that used to exist. The Cai family lived in the only traditional house left standing when a developer cleared the village to make way for office space. The project was stalled due to the lack of funding, so old residents returned and built an urban farm in the fallowed space.

I spent an afternoon with Mr. Cai who was positively brimming with happiness about his vegetable patch, his wife who sewed his clothes from the cotton they grew, his granddaughter whom he walks home from school, a little barber shop he keeps as a hobby that looked like a Wonder Emporium. He was such a breath of fresh air from the constant stress and cynicism you encounter in the city.

Photo: Happiest Man in Shanghai: Mr Cai runs his personal farm tended by his family in the suburbs in Shanghai.
Story: “The Happiest Man in Shanghai”

CW: How do the living and working environments in Shanghai differ from what you experienced in other places? 
SAT: Shanghai sits in the middle of developed and developing cities I have lived in. It has impressive infrastructure or “hardware” that foreigners praise China for. But there is still a gap between the “hardware” and “software”- attention to detail, the lack of patience, hygiene and care for public space, etc. This is a common observation of China. But in Shanghai, this gap has slowly narrowed in terms of attitudes, expectations and quality of services and products over the years.

Photo: White Elephant Shikumen Header: Finding and deciphering the meaning of a shikumen in Old Town Shanghai.
Story: “Take me to the white elephant”

CW: When you think of Shanghai, what comes to mind when you hear the following:
SAT:
Sight – The city is an explosion of color and characters. Blazingly bright LED screens, constant construction and fast moving people and vehicles.
Smell – Walking through an old neighborhood lane, there are savory smells of meals being prepared, sweet scents of flowers in someone’s porch, freshly laundered clothes hung out to dry, trash from the nearby dump site, urine from the public toilets.
Sound – Cacophonous. People talking loudly which is normal, honking vehicles, the screech of rails of the metro train and that rumbling of people’s throat right before they spit.
Taste - Food? Regional cuisines that make your taste buds sing. You eat like a king in Shanghai on any budget. Air? Sometimes, on really bad days, you can taste the pollution in your mouth.

Photo: Cyclist in alley: An alley no more. A cyclist passing through one of the many lanes in Old Town Shanghai that has since been demolished.

CW: Share a few recommendations on where to eat in Shanghai on a student budget.
SAT: It won’t take very long for any young foreign student to get plugged in with popular Chinese apps – WeChat (if you want to connect with local friends), Dididacha (booking cabs) and Dianping (a food app). Dianping is great for finding popular Chinese restaurants, which are still very affordable and delicious.

Vegetables are fresh and cheap in China, hardly an excuse not to put together a homemade salad. For herbs like basil and mint, you can buy them cheaply from the affectionately termed “Avocado Lady” who caters largely to Western shoppers.

Photo: History of a Shanghai Villa: The former residence of a Mandarin diplomat Wu Tingfang had also been a British boarding house and later the dormitory for factory workers of torchlight manufacturing company.
Story: “The Elegant History of Shanghai’s Rundown Communal Villas” (for The Atlantic)

CW: Which neighborhood in Shanghai do you spend the most time in? What do you like about it? Share a few of your favorite places there.
SAT: Friends mostly gather for drinks and dinner in the former French Concession and Jingan area; it’s a preference for many expats. But if I’m on my own, my favorite haunts are more traditional neighborhoods around select parts of Hongkou district or Old Town (where the old city wall used to be). I recommend anyone to visit Lu Xun Park (set to re-open by August). Each evening, hundreds of local residents gather to sing, dance and chat. It’s that sense of community that helps them cope with the rapid pace of modernization in the city.

Photo: Poetry in Shikumen

CW: What is your favorite Shanghai discovery? What’s special about it?
SAT: It’s hard to pick favorites. Whether it is a beautiful shikumen villa, an evocative tale told by a resident, an old map or photograph – when they align to connect the past and present, it’s magical.

Photo: Villa Entrance by Dong Dayou

Thanks Sue Anne!

All photography by Sue Anne Tay © Shanghai Street Stories 

Social Share Toolbar

10 Websites to Visit When You Study Abroad in Sydney

Doing your research before you study abroad in Sydney or looking for information once you’ve arrived? Your local CAPA team is an excellent resource, but for this Tuesday 10s series, we’ve also asked them to share a list of ten favorite websites highlighting your host city.

1. CONCRETE PLAYGROUNDConcrete Playground is a great place to find out where the locals are hanging out in Sydney. It is an online weather vane pointing you to the cultural tornadoes that are just about to hit. They handpick the most inspiring cultural events, news and eateries to help you plan your weekends and take advantage of the city each day. Updated daily, it is the work of a collective of writers and social secretaries who have a constant ear to the under and above (but never middle) ground of the creative worlds in Sydney.

2. KING GEORGE V RECREATION CENTER. Did you know that 70% of the total Australian population participates at least once a week in sport or recreation? Social sports provide a great opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals and an opportunity to give a new sport a try. King George V Recreation Centre also offers Lady Hoops sessions and Youth Programs around the city.

3. CONSERVATION VOLUNTEERING. Australia is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world; 91% of Australia is covered by native vegetation. Preserving this wealth of biodiversity is important for future generations. However, the country also has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world and a very high proportion of its surviving animals and plants (over 1,700 species) are listed as threatened with extinction. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, this is a great place to do something different and check out various short term projects (even just a day!) within Sydney or around the country during your time abroad. However, if conservation isn’t your thing, you can also check out other volunteer opportunities across multiple different sectors.

4. JETSTARAustralians are known to be seasoned travelers. There is a saying that every Australian birth certificate comes with a passport. Jetstar is one of Australia’s most popular and cheapest airline carriers. They offer great deals on a daily basis and fly all over Australia and neighboring countries. It’s a great way to see what options you have to discover new and exciting places while you are Down Under.

5. CITY ART SYDNEY. City Art paints a picture (pun intended) behind the sculptures, monuments, fountains, murals and memorials in Sydney as well as provides information about the way they are cared for through the Conservation Program. The various walking tours offered are a great way to explore the city and to learn about street art and sculptures that you may not have even noticed.

6. SYDNEY CRICKET GROUND AND SPORTS GROUND TRUSTSport is something of a national obsession in Australia. We’re avid followers of ‘footy’, which covers everything from rugby union to the uniquely Australian AFL. The Sydney Cricket & Sports Ground Trust manages all of the events at two stadiums that sit side-by-side: the Sydney Cricket Ground and Allianz Stadium. Together these two grounds form a central sports precinct which includes a sports museum and occasionally hosts major concerts as well. The precinct hosts Rugby League, Rugby Union, Soccer, Australian Rules Football and Cricket on a weekly basis, so it’s a great way to experience another aspect of Aussie culture.

7. SYDNEY: DESTINATION NSWThe official tourism website for Sydney, this site gives you a great run down and explanation of the endless suburbs that make up Sydney and the never-ending activities, events and workshops you can take part in. One of the highlights is a blog by “Chief Funster” (who wouldn’t want that job title?), Andrew Smith, a Californian whose job is to experience and review all things fun in the state of New South Wales.

8. SONGKICKMusic Festivals and concerts are abundant in and around Sydney. Scroll through the upcoming shows to see if anything tickles your fancy while you’re in town. Alternatively, you can either download the app or link it to your Facebook and it will let you know when your favorite artists are playing nearby!

9. NOT QUITE NIGELLAAustralia is not known for its cuisine; however, the melting pot that is Sydney has resulted in endless choices for eateries that show the influence of Asia due to its close proximity as well as highlight the multiculturalism that is evident in every corner of this city. Not Quite Nigella is a food blog by born and bred Sydney-sider, Lorraine Elliott. She creates recipes and travel reviews; however, her main focus is on restaurants in Sydney that range from Asian, Swedish, American, French, Caribbean and many, many more!

10. CAPA SYDNEY BLOGGERSWho better to find out more about the CAPA Sydney Program than alumni? Read through the various blogs and Q&As by past students to learn about CAPA, Sydney and Australia from a student’s perspective as well as how you can develop personally and professionally through internships abroad and MyEducation events that take place throughout the semester or summer while you’re abroad.

Do you have a favorite website you follow in your own city or abroad? Tell us about it in a comment!

Social Share Toolbar

Learning to Dance Tango and Salsa in Buenos Aires

One of the most popular MyEducation activities that CAPA International Education students studying abroad in Buenos Aires enjoy is attending a Milonga, where locals typically dance Tango. Summer students this year were also treated to classes of Salsa and Bachata in the bustling neighborhood of Palermo.

CAPA Buenos Aires intern Pía Lastra took a few photos for us and spoke with students Kurt Kohler and Delonte Egwuatu for their take on the event.

“Going to a Milonga was a well suited MyEducation activity because it gets you involved and aware of the local culture,” Kurt said. “The atmosphere was colorful yet dark and romantic. The people were very charming.”

After having a typical Argentine appetizer, the Salsa class began. Everyone moved to the rhythm of the music. From one side to the other, two instructors demonstrated the Salsa steps for dancers to follow. This was a fun, individual warm up to prepare students to dance with a partner.

The instructors then divided the dancers into groups according to their knowledge. CAPA students joined the beginner’s group. The teacher placed men and women into two lines facing one another and assigned instructions to each line. Finally, when everyone had learned the basic steps, they began dancing in pairs.

“It was a good experience to meet new people,” Delonte said. “Subsequently, both Kurt and I made new British friends. Dancing lightened the mood and allowed for casual conversation, making it a great time. I would definitely go dancing again after this!”

Once the salsa class had finished the students never lost their energy to continue on to their Tango class. They wasted no time! As soon as they had learned the Tango steps, they quickly sought out a partner and began to dance.

Delonte mentioned that the Milona allowed him to become familiar with different genres of Latin American music. “It was also a great opportunity to relax,” he said. “I enjoyed myself while learning how to dance some tango and salsa! I always like how open people are to teach you and go slowly with you when you’re a new leaner.”

Kurt actually turned his experience into research for class. “When I had to do my academic presentation about tango, I chose the MyEducation Milonga event to do fieldwork,” he said.

If you’re studying abroad in Buenos Aires, make sure to try your hand at a Milonga and keep an eye on Milonga Hoy, a website that lists events taking place around the city, updated daily.

Social Share Toolbar

CAPA’s Official Blogger Jada Green Interviews Fellow Study Abroad Student Darien Ruschy

Jada Green is CAPA’s Official Blogger for Summer 2014, sharing her story in weekly CAPA World posts. A Lehigh University student, she is studying abroad in Sydney this term.

For this week’s post, she brings us an interview with fellow study abroad student Darien Ruschy.

- – - 

Darien Ruschy is a student on the CAPA Sydney program. She is an interior design major and did a 6-credit internship at Leffler Simes Architects. She talked to me about her time in Sydney and shared some of the things she learned from the experience.

JADA GREEN: What made you decide to study abroad in Sydney?
DARIEN RUSCHY: I thought it would be a great experience. My friend was signed up for the program and joked about me also going to do the program after I finished my semester in Denmark. I mentioned it to my mom and she told me to do it, so I did!

JG: What was the adjustment process like when you got to Sydney?
DR: I think it went pretty smoothly. It was kind of interesting because I think I was experiencing reverse culture shock from being in Denmark, while at the same time sort of experiencing a different kind of culture shock. Switching from biking every day as main transportation to taking the bus for two hours every day was a big change.

JG: How did your expectations of Australia compare with the reality of living here for six weeks?
DR: I kind of thought it was going to be all sunny and beaches and outback, and then it rained a lot when we first got here. For some reason, even though I knew we were going to Sydney, I didn’t picture such an urban place.

JG: What were some of the main cultural differences between the U.S. and Australia that you noticed?
DR: It was surprisingly hard to understand Australians sometimes, which is something I didn’t expect at all. I think a really big thing is how influenced Australia is by other countries. At my internship site, it seems like everyone is from somewhere else and it makes this really cool mixture of food and activities and such.

Photo: Urban Sydney by Richard Taylor

JG: What are some of your favorite things that you’ve done in Australia?
DR: I think one of my favorite things was just hanging out with my roommates and walking around the city. I really liked surfing and just hanging out at the beaches like Manly and Bondi. There were awesome sunrises every day too!

JG: What didn’t you do that you wish you had?
DR: I didn’t go to the Sydney Fish Market. I wanted to go there because my high school teacher would show every single class of his this video about teamwork and it took place there.

JG: How was your internship with Leffler Simes Architects? What did you learn from it?
DR: My internship was great! I learned a lot about working in an office environment, what goes into designing a building and how to integrate into the culture of a workplace?

Photo: Sydney Fish Market by Mixy Lornezo

JG: Do you see yourself travelling in the future?
DR: Yes! I want to travel around the U.S. and I wouldn’t mind going to Southern France.

JG: Has studying abroad taught you anything about yourself?
DR: Definitely. I learned that it really helps to reflect on my experiences and it pieces things together that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. I also learned to just do things even if it scares me.

JG: What advice would you give future CAPA students about doing a study abroad program?
DR: I would say if you’re at an internship, don’t be afraid to ask questions and take the time to talk to everyone about their job, even if it’s hard to approach them!

Thanks Jada and Darien!

Applications for Fall 2014 are now closed, but if you’re interested in becoming CAPA’s Official Blogger for Spring 2015, fill in an application as soon as you’ve been accepted on a CAPA program. 

Social Share Toolbar