Alice Gottesman is a junior year student from Simmons College in Boston and is a Public Relations and Marketing Communications Major. She participated in CAPA’s Shanghai Semester in Fall 2016.
Now that I have been back in Boston for nearly four months, I have had plenty of opportunity to reflect on my time abroad. Overall, the experience was positive—I made new friends and connections, learned about, and adapted to, a totally different culture, improved my Mandarin language skills, and had the opportunity to explore both China and Asia as a whole. My experience also furthered my desire to pursue an international career and provided me with the opportunities to get my foot in that door. By the end of the semester, Shanghai felt like a second home and inspiration for where I am headed in life
I had come a long way since my first day in Shanghai which I found somewhat intimidating. I arrived at the airport, feeling hazy from my 16-hour flight, and made my way to the taxis. I had not practiced Chinese since four months prior to my departure, so getting into a taxi with a driver who spoke no English but loved to talk was, to say the least, interesting. I kept up with the conversation as best as I could at the time while taking in Shanghai’s environment through the window. Eventually, we made it to the ECNU campus where I met my roommate and started what turned out to be one of the best semesters I have experienced so far.
Most of the classes I took at ECNU were both fascinating and engaging. The marketing class, taught by an international Professor Brian Schwarz, offered insight into how business and marketing is conducted in Asia with a focus on China. I learned about just how differently business is conducted there compared to the West—something I recommend researching and learning.
The Chinese language class was also highly beneficial. My Chinese drastically improved; I was able to write and speak much more fluently, and had an easier time understanding the spoken language by the end of the semester.
I also had the opportunity to get to know Shanghai off the ECNU campus. I ended up joining two Brazilian jiu-jitsu gyms to continue my training and made many friends at both gyms. Through one of the friends I made, I even ended up finding a great internship for the semester! My schedule was quickly picking up. I was taking three classes, interning three days a week, training as often as I was able to, travelling on some weekends, and trying to explore Shanghai and attend local events as often as I could. It felt great filling my life with so many different activities that I knew were not only allowing me to learn new things, but also learn about myself.
Over time, I was able to adjust to the different atmosphere that Shanghai offers. Seeing Chinese signs everywhere, constantly hearing Chinese being spoken and engaging in conversations in Chinese, and meeting new people from across the globe became a part of my everyday life. This experience made me realize that I wanted to experience the various cultures the world has to offer—not from a tourist perspective, but from the perspective of someone who fully adapts to a region’s way of life. I definitely intend on returning to China, if not Shanghai, in the future.