Shanghai, China Arrival Blog #1

May 20th, 2017

First day in Shanghai,

Transportation: Getting to your destination

When you come out of the airport or train station, make sure to look for a “real” taxi or other transportation like subway. I believe taxi would be your best choice for the most part since you are new to the city and have your luggage with you. To look for a real taxi, you may follow the signs in the airport or train station, or go outside and look for a car with a sign in front of the car showing “??” (Kong Che, Empty Car). Avoid the people that coming up to you, they are not real taxi drivers. They are what is called “Black Taxi,” also known as illegal taxi. However, if you are able to speak Chinese pretty well, you might get a better price than a real taxi by talking down the price, but to be safe, go with a real taxi.

Once you find your taxi, show the driver the address. Then pay him according the meter inside the car.

Good Luck.

My First Week in Torino

When I first signed up to study abroad this past November, I was excited. Excited about the unknown. Excited about all of the possibilities of what I could experience while abroad.

But, as time got closer to my departure, I was beginning to get nervous. I had never been this far away from my family and friends before, and never had I entered into a situation where  I knew no one. I was reasonably nervous, but I knew that I did not have any reason to be. Everyone around me was reassuring me that this was going to be the best time of my life, and they were right.

As soon as I stepped off the plane in Torino, I felt at home. While it was a vastly different environment than what I am used to back at home, it was something that I could definitely get used to. Immediately upon my arrival, everyone was so friendly, helpful, and welcoming. I never felt nervous asking for help, because I knew that someone could point me in the right direction.

In my first week here, I have had many firsts, whether it was my first Gelato, my first authentic Italian Pizza, trying Kalamari, Squid and Mussels, and seeing sights that I never dreamed of being able to witness.

I am excited to see what the rest of my journey will entail, but I know that it will be nothing but great, fun memories.

Xiamen: China’s Hidden Paradise

When you think of China, what comes to mind? Many people would say massive cities, dense smog, and even more dense subway trains. Those things are true about certain cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai. But somehow one of China’s greatest gems, the “small” city of Xiamen (population of about 3 million), has been conveniently hidden from the world.

Located on an island along China’s subtropical southeast coast, the city of Xiamen feels a lot more like Miami than stereotypical China. The island is about seven miles in diameter and lined with beach most of the way around. Xiamen even has a French colonial heritage and still retains some European style buildings. However, despite a somewhat western feel, few outside of China are aware of Xiamen and almost no one speaks English (perfect for someone studying Mandarin, but perhaps a little inconvenient for an American tourist).

In recent years, Xiamen has become a go-to destination for wealthy Chinese looking for an island escape. The island is highly developed with towering high rise condominiums and high-end shopping malls. Still, it has an alluring, almost laid back charm. A wealthy local explained to me that throughout the 90’s, Xiamen residents were disappointed to not benefit from the wave of factories being built throughout China. But now, as China’s economy becomes more advanced, Xiamen has a comparative advantage over much of China — here, residents have the luxury of blue skies and acid-free rain.

Perhaps that is why it was selected to host the BRICS summit this Fall, featuring the heads of state from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The Chinese government is apparently spending $15 billion USD on various infrastructure and public works projects in preparation for this 24-hour meeting. One could say BRICS is the Chinese government’s great unveil of its hidden gem.

Xiamen has another valuable asset in Xiamen University, a top-10 Chinese university. Some of China’s brightest students call this city home and perhaps will choose to remain here after graduation. By all accounts, this costal paradise is poised for major success in the near future.

There are no direct flights from Xiamen to North America, and just one flight to outside of Asia. Unlike Shanghai and Beijing, which have been built largely by foreign investments over the past three decades, Xiamen’s development belongs entirely to China. And in September, China will reveal its masterpiece to the world.

A tower at the late-Qing Hulishan fortress.

A nice day at the beach just outside of Xiamen University’s Siming Campus.

Zhongshan Road maintains its French colonial facade with modern shopping malls hidden behind.