I woke up well rested after sleeping past 8 am for the first time all trip! Yesterday’s bullet train ride brought us to Shanghai, China’s largest city and financial hub. The great buffet style breakfast of our 5-star hotel matched if not surpassed the breakfasts of our previous hotels (which were already very good). We departed for the Eastern China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) and within an hour we were being toured around the enclosed campus. During this time, I was able to learn about the academic experiences of most Chinese youth by conversing with our program manager Lilliana. It seems as though primary and secondary education is generally more intense than in the United States. Although there is inherent variation in teaching styles and academic environments between schools across the country, the pressures of standardized testing and academic performance tend to begin as early as middle school in China. Students must apply themselves to achieve high standardized test scores in order to enroll in prestigious high schools. This is incredibly important, as if Chinese kids are not able to meet these test expectations they will not be accepted by good high schools and consequently will not be prepared for the gaokao college entrance exam. As expected, poor gaokao scores lead to lower-quality colleges and menial, low-paying occupations. In summary, the impact of academic performance in lower grades levels on your future career is much more significant in China than in America.
We soon entered a classroom in the information sciences building and were met by associate professor Peter Peng. Dr. Peng delivered a lecture regarding the business environment in China, which ranks 46 on the list of countries with greatest ease of maintaining a business. He discussed the necessary components to establish a business in China, the development of free trade zones in the country, and dispute settlements.
Afterwards, we joined a small group of volunteer students with whom we would interact and connect with for the remainder of our visit. We ate together in the university dining hall and proceeded to another classroom to gain a more extensive understanding of the college. ECUST has fostered talent and scientific research since its founding in 1952. Throughout its history, it has received many accolades in pioneering new technologies and student organizations. We were given a brief presentation by Tim Simpson, an Alabama native who has lived in Shanghai for 2 years to study the Chinese language at the university. He described his family’s experiences in their transition to life in Shanghai. Not only was his presentation enlightening but also highly relatable in its central focus, as many of the circumstances Tim found interesting, difficult, or awe-inspiring in China are similar to those I have noticed in my short time in the country. Following social activities and games held between our Plus 3 group and the university students, we said goodbye to our new friends to visit the Shanghai Urban Planning and Development Museum.
This museum tour successfully conveyed the history of Shanghai while emphasizing its rapid progression and growth as a modern economic metropolis. The arrangement of the city is greatly influence by the presence of the Huangpu river, a waterway roughly 114 kilometers in length that divides Shanghai into an eastern bank and western bank. In the minds of Chinese citizens, the western bank is representative of Shanghai’s past while the eastern bank denotes Shanghai’s future.
Later in the evening, we all attended a Chinese acrobatics show in a local theater. This amazing performance displayed athleticism, mysticism, dance, and showmanship in ways that are very uncommon in western society.