From reading about the SILC Business Program on UTS’s BUILD Abroad website, I was interested in being able to learn Chinese from a beginner’s level whilst sightseeing and learning about the business culture within China’s biggest financial hub. From the day I left Sydney the buddy system implemented by the SILC team was tremendously helpful – from organising my taxi pick up service at the airport to making sure I had a point of contact with a local at all time via WeChat. The stress of arranging accommodation, transportation to and from the airport, researching places to visit, learning Chinese, communicating with hotel staff was drastically reduced since SILC’s staff and buddies provided prompt and useful information and helped solved any problems which arose – even the not so pleasant issues such as a clogged toilet. SILC’s friendly atmosphere made me fall in love with Shanghai because although there are some unpleasant Chinese people, there are many more lovely and caring people who go above and beyond to help during difficult situations. My buddy was extremely helpful and kind enough to take time out of her weekend to take me and those who arrived early around the Jiading district. We got to know one another as we took a stroll inside the gardens which encircled the Confucius temple and had a banquet lunch where we got to try tea infused with slices of carrots, apples and other fruits. It was weirdly refreshing.
The day finally came when we had to start class. I don’t think anyone of us wanted to wake up at 7am but the free breakfast buffet at our hotel was enough incentive to drag us out of bed. The classes we had were not at all what I imaged. The relaxed, interactive classroom environment made it easy to engage with what our lecturers were saying. It was fascinating and eye-opening to learn about China’s lifestyle, such as traditional tea ceremonies. For instance, we not only learnt, but witnessed, WeChat being used as the main method of payment rather than cash and credit cards.
Other than mere classes every weekday, the SILC team arranged tours with the lovely FeiFei as our guide. Her friendly and happy personality made every trip with her so much more enjoyable. One such trip was to Su Zhou – a city known for its canals and bridges – where we were given free time to meander through the various lanes of traditional architecture.
Additionally, the program provided us with an opportunity to enter a kind local’s home and enjoy the delicious homemade feast prepared by a local mother. Such an opportunity to interact with the locals on such a personal level opened my eyes to the lifestyle of a local. Shanghai’s lifestyle was not only limited to this, we were also able to experience the rush of lunch time at Shanghai university as students scurry left and right to snatch up the food before it’s gone. By joining in with the local retirees at the retirement centre in activities such as dancing, ping pong and singing it was an unforgettable memory as we wouldn’t have been able to live like a local for a day without this program. The students from Shanghai University’s music campus in Baoshan were so talented and exposed us to the traditional musical instruments which are now rarely played.
Overall, SILC’s program exceeded my expectations because the classroom environment was not like quiet and boring classes I normally take – both the business and especially the Chinese lessons were interactive, funny and most importantly made me want to learn more. The tours and trips we were taken on were unforgettable and are an experience of a lifetime. Not many tourists get to first-hand experience and immerse themselves into the life of a Shanghai local!