Knot Working

Today was a day of education. We visited Donghua University in Shanghai to meet with local students and learn more about the smartphone industry. We began the visit with a lecture from a Donghua professor about the current state of smartphone utilization in China. Though the heavy usage of smartphones for consumer activities had become obvious by this point in the trip, I was still surprised to learn just how much the average Chinese citizen uses the smartphone for their everyday activities. From transportation to groceries to (overwhelmingly) apparel, online payment far surpasses transactions carried out in brick-and-mortar stores.

After the lecture, we were paired in groups of twos with students from the university. Hayley and I were paired with a third-year landscape design student named Windy. She took us to one of Donghua’s impressive dining rooms and treated us to a lunch (one of my favorite meals on the trip, I wish Market would stock some of Donghua’s options). During lunch, we were able to chat directly with someone who lives in the environment we are studying, which gave us a much more relatable perspective of what it’s like to live in China. Because of this direct interaction, I preferred this structure of university visit to CUFE, where we all were interacting in large groups with groups of students. After lunch, we went on a tour of Donghua’s beautiful campus. It was interesting to see what differed and what held true between Pitt’s structure and Donghua’s. At Donghua, boys and girls are given strictly separate dorms, and students are expected to be in the dorms and asleep by the 11:00 pm curfew when the lights would shut off. Donghua also puts a stronger focus on fitness, reinforced by a mandatory P.E. credit students must complete. After the tour, we were given the task of tying Chinese knots with our student guides. As a relatively crafty person, I went into the activity excited and marginally overconfident. Alas, that bubble was very quickly burst. After a good deal of time struggling to form even a semblance of the iconic Chinese knot, each of us ended up with a moderately loopy tangle of red, waxed string. But, the struggle was worth it as a bonding exercise; we were able to spend a large chunk of time chatting with Windy, even taking a selfie (pictured) and exchanging WeChats.

After leaving the university, a group of us decided to check out the Shanghai shopping scene. Clothing in China turned out to be much more expensive than we anticipated, so our main shopping destination ended up being a U.S. favorite: H&M. The cross-cultural exploration didn’t stop there; for dinner, a group of us went to a nearby Mexican restaurant (a meal that was arguably some of the best Mexican food I’ve had, go figure). It was a day of failures and successes, cultural exploration, and comfort!

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