Photos by Victoria Ontiveros, (Johns Hopkins University) Student Correspondent CET Shanghai, Fall 2018
Donghua University is in downtown Shanghai, so we’re only a five minute walk to the metro. We have class in the building across from the dorm, but my commute to my internship is about 40 minutes.
One thing that took me a while to get used to was the fact that scooters were allowed to drive on the sidewalk. They dodge and weave through pedestrians, honking if someone is in their way. You definitely have to be hyper aware of your surroundings, otherwise you risk a collision with one of the scooters.
I always stop by Starbucks on my way to my internship. The station where I switch subway lines the first time has a Starbucks just beyond the turnstiles. Even though Chinese people don’t have the same habit of having a cup of coffee every day, I definitely need some caffeine to start my day.
One of the first phrases I asked my roommate to teach me was how to order a venti iced latte from Starbucks–一超大杯冰拿铁. By early November, the baristas new my order before I even had to say it. I had originally wanted to avoid American chains like Starbucks but my coffee addition got the better of me.
Starbucks in hand, I transfer to line 2 of the metro. This line is always crowded no matter what time of day. Everyone was surprised and taken aback by the number of people on the metro every day but slowly we all accepted the pushing and shoving as a part of our commute.
One thing that I always notice is how everyone is constantly on their phones on the metro. I’m used to people checking their phone, texting, and then putting it back in their pockets, but it seems like everyone on the metro is always reading and scrolling on their phones, never looking up. One other thing that surprised me (and that I still haven’t gotten used to) is that a lot of people don’t use headphones, and, instead, play their TV show or video game on their phone out loud.
Recently, I’ve started to make an effort to go to coffee shops to do my homework after classes or my internship. In the U.S., I’m used to going to my university’s library, finding my favorite desk, and doing work there all night. In China, it is not common for students to do work in the library. We were told that there isn’t seating for studying in the library on campus. Instead, students go to designated classrooms to study at night or do work in their rooms. I really don’t like to do work in my room, so I find that coffee shops help me focus better. Plus, I can get another cup of coffee.
Up until now, I’m sure my day commute to my internship seems really similar to a commute to work in the U.S. Shanghai can feel almost American sometimes, especially when I have my Starbucks in hand, but not all of the city is like that.
Some parts of the city can make you forget you’re in China, and other parts look distinctly Chinese; it’s an interesting blend of modernity and traditions. In fact, Shanghai is turning old residential blocks, keeping the exteriors and transforming the interiors for commercial use.
This residential block, made up of old houses, is surrounded by new, tall buildings. The city is constantly changing. I’m sure if I come back in 10 years, I won’t recognize a lot of it.