We began our third day in Shanghai by visiting Yangshan Port. In order to get there, you have to take a bus along the world’s second longest bridge to an island that was formerly a fishing village, but is now the world’s largest cargo port. As with most things in China, the sheer scale is incredible. Stacks of shipping containers stretch out for miles, a testament to all the exports that are manufactured in China. The section we were in had just been constructed within the past couple years, and apparently took just a couple months to build. Part of this can be explained by the way the government operates; while in the United States, the government is very transparent about what they are planning, and tend to advertise and debate large projects, in China things just kind of appear. This definitely explains how massive infrastructure projects such as the Three Gorges Dam are able to be built so efficiently; however, everyday citizens don’t really have a say in how things are carried out.
After the port visit, we had most of the afternoon free. A few others and I went with Evan Becker to visit one of his friends who goes to university at NYU Shanghai. It was interesting talking with him about his experiences of going from a small suburb outside of Philly to a place that’s so big and so foreign. The program there is set up so that students spend three years studying in Shanghai, and one year in either New York or another city. Most of the students are interested in entering either business or the Foreign Service after graduation, and come from many different parts of the world. I was surprised that someone would be able to commit to living in a foreign country for three years without even knowing if they would like it, but it’s something I have a lot of respect for. It definitely made me appreciate what it must be like for all the foreign students who come to the U.S. to study, and the kind of challenges that come with learning a new language and culture. It also made me realize that although I had done and learned a lot in my two weeks in China, I had barely scratched the surface. Going forward, I would definitely like to study abroad for at least an entire semester, as I think that in order to truly experience and be changed by a place, you need to take a risk and commit to spending a significant amount of time there.