There's no better way to truly begin to understand your study abroad destination than by getting to know the locals who call the city home. Whether it's CAPA International Education staff, a host family, other students, your internship colleagues or the fruit vendor on the corner, you'll find plenty of opportunities to do so. Below, we share a few of the best ways to seek out local connections in Shanghai.
1. SIGN UP FOR AN INTERNSHIP. Choosing to complete an internship while you're studying abroad n Shanghai is an option on CAPA programs. These unpaid part-time placements will bring you in contact with local work colleagues. Teamwork is often involved and you may be invited to participate in after work socializing. Work together and play together is a good motto. Make a point to get to know your colleagues and you'll gain great insight not only into the industry in which you're interning but what it's like to be a Shanghai local generally.
Photo: Internship site in Shanghai by Colin Speakman
2. GO TO AN ENGLISH CORNER. English Corner get togethers are well known in China's big cities. The events are hosted by universities and create a space for Chinese people who speak English and want to improve it to mingle with expats and native English speakers who are trying to improve their own language skills. This is a great place to practice conversation skills as well as meet locals who will enjoy the opportunity to speak with you in English. They may wish to discuss international affairs and learn more about other countries like the US. It is an excellent way to make new friends. For CAPA students in Shanghai, English Corner is held on Thursday evenings during term time at East China Normal University in front of Chairman Mao's statue.
Photo: English corner connections by Colin Speakman
3. FIND A LANGUAGE PARTNER. For a more personal experience than the English Corner language exchange above, CAPA can help you find a local Chinese student who wants to improve their English while helping you to improve your Mandarin. Your partner will usually be interested in learning more about your country and may perhaps be planning to visit or studyin the US in the future. Flexible meet up times according to interest can be arranged. This is also a great opportunity to go out and explore a part of Shanghai together while keeping up the conversation about the city around you.
Photo: Language partner and students exploring Shanghai by Colin Speakman
4. STAY IN SHAPE AT THE CAMPUS GYM. Apart from being a healthy activity, joining a gym brings together foreign and Chinese students who can motivate and encourage each other on the tread mill or during weightlifting workouts. Chatting while exercising helps keep you going and you already have a similar interest. Once you finish your workout, why not head out together for some well-deserved lunch afterwards?
Photo: ECNU campus gym by Colin Speakman
5. PLAY CAMPUS SPORTS. Play sports at home? Why stop while you're studying abroad? Joining a team is an excellent way to bond with your teammates and build friendships with locals at ECNU, not to mention stay in shape and help manage stress. If you don't already have a particular sports skill but area iteresting in learning how to play, join a recreational team for pick up games of soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, table tennis, swimming and more.
Photo: ECNU sports fields by Colin Speakman
6. GET INVOLVED WITH A CAMPUS CLUB. Each semester, clubs at ECNU are started up according to student interests and demand. There's plenty to choose from and you'll be able to meet locals and other international students who have a similar interest. Some popular options to try include groups who focus on games of Go (Chinese Chess), Chinese cooking, calligraphy and more. Don't have any prior knowledge, but an interest to learn? Chinese students are happy to help you come to grips with these local traditional skills and interests.
Photo: Getting ready for a game of Chinese Go by Colin Speakman
7. BOND WITH LOCALS OVER SPORTS GAMES. You will find that many locals in Shanghai follow sports - both Chinese and western games. You'll find venues like Big Bamboo and Malones where basketball, soccer and other games are broadcast. Expats and locals alike show up to cheer on their favorite teams. Why not join them? Many of these places are bars, but there are soft drinks and coffee as well as snacks served too.
Photo: Expats and locals in Shanghai cheering on their favorite sports team by 2 dogs
8. GO TO A RELIGIOUS SERVICE. Many religions are practiced in China in the official venues so you'll see plenty of churches, temples, etc when you're exploring Shanghai. If you're religious, or simply curious about how religion is practiced in China, then pop in for a service and you'll find that locals and expats will be happy to stike up a conversation If it's a serious interest of yours then this is an opportunity to become a regular and attend weekly which will give you the chance to meet locals from many backgrounds.
Photo: CAPA students outside of a church in Shanghai by Colin Speakman
9. ENJOY THE SHANGHAI NIGHTLIFE. Shanghai is well known for its nightlife. There are many clubs with live bands and locals enjoy dancing on the weekends. Seeing the social scene in China and listening to live bands from Shanghai will offer fantastic insight into the culture. Join in and you never know who you will meet. Be sure to stay safe and take some CAPA friends who you already know along with you so you can all return home together.
Photo: Shanghai nightlife by Ryan
10. ATTEND AN EVENT. Shanghai attracts many top performers, artists and exhibititors from all over the world and you'll come across plenty of local talent as well. Perhaps a famous band is holding a concert, there is a limited display art show, a Formula 1 racing event, a grand slam tennis tournament, etc. The list goes on. Locals love to see these events take place in their city and they love to see foreigners come to enjoy them too, so you'll be in good company if you decide to take advantage of the busy calendar a global city like Shanghai offers.
Photo: Acrobat show in Shanghai by Rita Willaert