Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Christina in Shanghai!

Teo and I love Shanghai Normal University (SHNU)!

Nĭ hăo,

My name is Christina Santiago, I am an Elementary and Special Education (Dual) major at UNC-G and this Summer I have had the pleasure to study at Shanghai Normal University (SHNU) at Shanghai, China! To begin, I want to express how grateful I feel for being here. Studying abroad began as a dream that later turned into a goal and now it is finally a reality. But, to be completely honest, I was not always sure of where I wanted to study abroad I just knew that I wanted to go study outside of the country and the faculty-led program through the School of Education was a great opportunity for me to turn my goal into reality. What really sealed my decision to study abroad here was the collaboration we’d be participating in with Mathematics teachers here in Shanghai, China. Little did I know that the best part was yet to come... I am now on my third and final week here in Shanghai and although I am a bit sad, I plan to continue to make the most of it. Keep reading to find out more about Shanghai and my adventures here! J 

Nanjing Road, Shanghai, China. 

 About Shanghai, China
Shanghai is such a large metropolitan city that offers many cultural sites. One of the most famous sites is Nanjing Road, the main shopping street of Shanghai and one of the world’s busiest shopping streets. Nanjing Road, which is divided into two sections, leads you to another well-known site, The Bund. At The Bund, you can experience a beautiful view of the modern, “new,” Shanghai, which includes the sighting of the famous Oriental Pearl Tower, the Shanghai Tower, and many other skyscrapers.  

A walk through Nahjing Road!

View of Shanghai from The Bund!

Educational Experiences

As mentioned, one of our responsibilities of studying abroad through this program is to collaborate with Mathematical teachers and experience the Chinese education. I have been honored to intern at the Shanghai Experimental School International District (SESID). To give you some background information about SESID, it is a public primary school that serves international students from all over the world. Therefore, the students who attend this school are not considered Shanghai local residents. The students that attend SESID attend this school mainly because their families have moved here for reasons such as job relocations, etc. Nevertheless, the students are held to the same educational expectations as other local students. Perhaps the biggest difference is that their instruction can sometimes be bilingual rather than 100% in Mandarin. But, generally, students are able to learn Mandarin as they progress through their school years here at SESID. 

Student game competition at SESID.

Something I have really been enjoying about the education system here in China, specifically in Shanghai, is the idea of allowing students to play, experiment and perform… an idea that is emphasized by the Lloyd International Honors College. In the picture above, the 3rd graders are seen competing with each other in a fun mathematics game. But… not just any game… it is a game that specifically reviews the unit they have completed. It is very typical to see students engaging in fun activities that involve movement to practice and assess their knowledge rather than seeing them complete worksheets after worksheets or tests. In fact, last week we observed an entire school participate in a poem competition and lots of other activities that involved poems. The curriculum here is also fast paced compared to our curriculum in North Carolina but nonetheless; I enjoy seeing how they learn in fun and creative ways. For example, in China every class lasts 35 minutes and after every class students are given a 10-minute break where they are allowed to play all over the school… literally! I know it sounds chaotic but they are so independent and disciplined that I was impressed myself, and still am the more I am exposed to it.

Shopping for supplies, Mathematical activity at SESID

Also, at SESID, and in schools across the country, children are encouraged to participate in numerous electives and extracurricular activities of their choice. One of the electives that SESID offers is the Gu Zheng elective, where children have the opportunity to learn how to play this traditional Chinese instrument… and just to say the least… THESE STUDENTS ARE TALENTED!

Learning how to play the Gu Zheng, a traditional instrument

More Experiences and Cultural Sites

Wearing a Han Fu at the SHNU Feng Xian Campus

Modeling in my Han Fu, traditional Chinese dress, because you aren’t really emerging into a culture until you step into their traditional clothing… no really though. The traditional dresses are very beautiful and comfortable… I almost wanted to take it home! 

Chenghuang Temple, burning leaves to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. 

Because I am studying here during the summer, I have been fortunate enough to experience the Dragon Boat Festival, a national holiday here in China. This festival lasts 3 days and people are typically given a 3-day vacation so that they can spend this holiday with their families. A lot of tourists can be seen here during this time as well. Because it is a national holiday that brings families together, people are usually seen engaging in different activities, from visiting cultural sites to staying home and enjoying traditional meals.

Chenshan Botanical Garden (Songjiang District).

Photos of the beautiful Chenshan Botanical Garden!!

Another one of my favorite things about China is the Botanical Gardens that are located throughout the country. I went to visit the Chenshan Botanical Garden here in Shanghai and I must say it was a breathtaking, yet a relaxing, experience. These gardens are a must see! In fact, the environmental efforts here have challenged my perspective of what I thought China, more specifically Shanghai, was like. Too many times I heard that the pollution is bad and the population is too high, yet I am so impressed with their effort to decrease their waste. For example, in just about every block you run into both trash cans and recycling cans. But that is not all; I was even more surprised with the limited amount of litter that I see around the streets of Shanghai, considering its population of approximately 24 million people.

Cultural sightseeing in QiBao, Shanghai, China

Kung Fu kick in QiBao, Shanghai, China.  

Personally, studying abroad has allowed me to get to know myself a little better as I have found myself having to be a bit more independent than the usual. This experience has also allowed me to get to know and experience a culture that is completely different from my own. But the best part of it all, I have built meaningful and life-long relationships with SHNU undergraduates and Shanghai educators. In fact, being emerged in this culture and their education system has challenged and impacted my perspective on education in ways that I never imagined. Everything I have learned here are things I hope to adapt as a future teacher and incorporate in my own classroom, in some way, in hopes to model an ideal education for all students. It saddens me to think that I will only be here for one more week. Nonetheless, I plan to continue emerging in this culture for the time left. So… my advice to anyone reading this is, if studying abroad is crossing your mind or is simply a dream for now, hold on to that dream and work towards turning it into a reality.  “It’s a life changing experience,” says everyone… and genuinely, it really is! That is all for now, I must go and enjoy my last week in this beautiful country! J

Delicious food with friends!

Because it would take me a lifetime to discuss all of my experiences on this blog, please feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more about Shanghai, China, the program I am participating in, or more about general study abroad information.



Christina Santiago
Shanghai Normal University
Spring 2017