Getting to Know the City

My first month in Shanghai has been spent trying to get a grasp on the city. I began my internship just two days after my arrival, and jumped right into the swing of things at the Shanghaiist. I spend half my week in their office, approximately an hour long commute away from my housing, writing multiple articles each day on various topics surrounding the Chinese news.

I quickly realized that my normal approach to research, which is exceptionally thorough, but often painstakingly slow, wouldn’t work at the Shanghaiist. My job was to get a general grasp of the story, survey the opinions of a variety of different sources, and provide a brief, but insightful, summary of the subject. It was a challenge to say the least. More than anything, my time at the Shanghaiist thus far has shown me a new way to think. Rather than analyzing and inserting my opinion into a piece, I am simply collecting information, and then organizing and formatting it in a way that makes it easy for the reader to grasp. It is a skill which I imagine, if I can get good at it, will serve me well not just in my academic career, but in any work environment post-college.

My internship provides me with a unique opportunity to engage with issues facing contemporary Chinese society, but more than anything, my time spent in Shanghai has provided me with the perspective needed to understand the issues.

Shanghai has so much to offer that I have spent my first few weeks simply exploring its streets and neighborhoods. One of my favorite approaches to doing so thus far has been on my return trips from my internship. When I get out of work in the evening, hungry for dinner, I try to stop at a different subway stop each night that’s on my way home. Considering the fact that my commute is nearly an hour long, and considering the sheer size of Shanghai, the possibilities are seemingly endless. From posh neighborhoods with extensive, groomed gardens, to side streets with small family-owned restaurants, each region has an entirely different feel. The results of such excursions vary. If I stay within a certain parameter of my work, I find malls and shopping centers, with a variety of popular, but chain restaurants. But on my journeys I have also happened upon quiet, residential streets, Fifth-Avenue style roads, and historic districts.

Along with each of these neighborhoods come new people and new identities. One of the more striking aspects of the scale of this city is the variety of identities subsumed in its population.  And to think that the diversity which this single city encapsulates is a mere fraction of the cultural, linguistic, and geographic diversity which makes up the country of China is humbling, to say the least.

Although I know that I have yet to come anywhere close to exploring the entirety of Shanghai, I am excited to begin to visit other areas of the country before I go home. I am finally comfortable and confident enough to venture elsewhere, and I look forward to the experiences of the coming weeks.