NYU Shanghai

What NYU didn’t tell you about the Shanghai program

Classes are officially over for the fall at NYU Shanghai, with only final papers and exams left for the next week. Below are a few things I learned which might be helpful for incoming study abroad students:

1. The host university has a campus common time on Wednesday, which means local club meetings and events usually happen on that day. NYU cultural classes also tend to be scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, so try to keep your Wednesdays open.

2. Use your own container when getting carry-out (打包 da bao) from the cafeteria. Stores usually put hot food into plastic bags or styrofoam containers, which could leak unwanted chemicals into your food. Buying portable chopsticks can make your meals even more environmentally friendly. Plastic or stainless steel containers with lids are readily available at supermarkets like Carefour. Ask Karen at Student Life for questions!

3. Choose to live on-campus if you can. Although off-campus housing conditions are definitely fancier than NYU dorms, take advantage of being able to spend a semester on an actual campus. The host university, ECNU, has beautiful grounds with trees, bridges, rivers and traditional Chinese architecture and landscaping. The dorm rooms for upperclassmen tend to be larger than the ones advertised on the website and have free cleaning and garbage service. The dorm building is also right across from the campus’ best cafeteria, as well as very near the back gate, which hosts an entire street of great eats from rice porridge and dumplings to CoCo’s milk tea and popcorn chicken.

When the NYU Shanghai campus in Pudong is finished in a year or two, the program may be moving there, so take advantage of the opportunity to live on a Chinese campus while in an English-speaking NYU setting.

(I also heard at the beginning of the semester that off-campus appliances kept breaking.)


Filling red bean and green bean pastries by the back gate are about 7 kuai for 5. (Evelyn Cheng).

4. Don’t buy water; fill up bottles or buckets at the water dispenser in the student lounge. Off-campus apartments have a filtered water spout built into the rooms, but on-campus rooms don’t have running, drinkable water. I bought jugs of water for 7 rmb each until my roommate began refilling them in the student lounge. A few jugs of water every week can add up.

5. Take a variety of classes to fully experience all that NYU Shanghai has to offer, especially the cultural classes. Here are the ones I took:

Global Connections taught by Anna Greenspan is great if you are interested in the sociology and urban issues behind China’s recent growth. There are also many field trips to places you would otherwise not visit, such as the 1933 slaughterhouse-turned-art space, the Baoshan secondhand electronics market and Thames Town, a model town built with British themes on the outskirts of Shanghai. However, expect these field trips to last longer than the allotted class time.

On one field trip we went to visit an old Shikumen house, which had a study room.  (Evelyn Cheng)

On one field trip we went to visit an old Shikumen house, which had a study room. (Evelyn Cheng)

Borrowing from an ancient Chinese tradition, ink impressions preserve the shapes and surfaces of objects. (Ma Nan)

Borrowing from an ancient Chinese tradition, ink impressions preserve the shapes and surfaces of objects. (Ma Nan)

Photography: Art in Translation by JJ is definitely geared towards artists rather than snapshot photographers. Camera and Photoshop techniques are taught, but the greater focus is on trying to express yourself powerfully through digital art. Field trips to art museums and exhibitions such as the famous m50 galleries and the Shanghai gala are interesting, but only if you appreciate contemporary art. The most interesting component of the course is going to old Shikumen houses and making ink impressions. Also, the class has a photography exhibition at the end of the semester, which requires extra time to prepare and set up. But the chance to have an art exhibition at least once in your college career is significant, especially since this semester NYU President John Sexton happened to be visiting and each of the photography students was able to present his or her work to him.

Journalism: Methods and Practice by Duncan Hewitt is an excellent course in understanding journalism in China from both foreign and Chinese perspectives. In addition to the materials he presented in class, he brought in a variety of guest speakers including French documentary maker Sylvie Levy, Chinese journalist Ji Chen and French correspondent Baptiste Fallevoz. Our class also visited James Areddy at the Wall Street Journal office in Shanghai. For a group story assignment we visited migrant worker communities, which helped us understand some of the many issues facing modern China.

During one journalism class a French journalist came in to help us create our own video story. (Evelyn Cheng)

During one journalism class a French journalist came in to help us create our own video story. (Evelyn Cheng)

Advanced 1 Chinese by Zhang Laoshi really helps with improving your oral and written Chinese, particularly formal usage. We had to write essays almost every week and had three presentations in Chinese. Classes are also very interactive as we must constantly be prepared to practice using vocabulary words or answer questions about the textbook, which covers popular Chinese topics from online dating to counterfeit products. Our class also visited a local wet market for a field trip.

The er hu and other cultural classes are also a great way to experience Chinese culture – for free. Or in other terms, you are getting your tuition back if you take these courses! They include traditional Chinese instruments, calligraphy, painting, cooking and knot making.

NYU also offers an excellent language partner program through which you can make a new friend and learn more about the local community. You can sign up at the beginning of the semester and NYU will pair you with an appropriate ECNU student.

Whatever courses you take, being involved in NYU and  Shanghai itself will definitely make the semester a highlight of your college years.

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