City and Environment Class Recommendation
When starting off this semester, deciding which classes to take was pretty difficult. At your home university you would normally have peers you could ask about certain classes and what is expected in them, but it’s hard to find that for these classes in Shanghai. From my personal experience, I want to recommend that you take the City and Environment class while you are here in Shanghai.
Our first meeting in this class was the only one we have had in the classroom so far. After this, the expectations and overview for the class was set and we have been outside of the class ever since. I could write a blog post about every trip, but I will keep it as brief as I can. One of the first trips was to the Shanghai Exhibition Center, where we learned about the housing problem, population control, and how Shanghai is actually sinking! Shanghai 上海 literally means on the sea and there was an exhibit there that explained how the city is now sinking due to ground water movement and how the government is using different techniques to combat this problem. Second, in the last 4 years, there has been 1 large scale mall created for every month on average. In another class, we met at one of these malls that is directly connected to the Shanghai subway system and learned about how people often just window shop and now use malls for entertainment. We also noticed how empty it was. Our teacher then took us to a nearby historical Chinese neighborhood and explained to us that a community like this was destroyed in order to build the mall we were standing in before. It was very eye opening into how Shanghai’s rapid development is changing lives and the city on almost a daily basis. One last experience I will share a little about is going to Chongming Island. We have gone several times to the island and have developed a knowledge of how this rapid development in the city has forced a project like this “Eco-Island” to exist. People want to be in touch with the environment and this island has supplied the demand by creating a 1-hour travel time getaway from the hustle of Shanghai.
I think that a lot of students opted out of this class because of its meeting time. It meets on Friday afternoons from 2p-5p. Some weeks when we would travel far, a class would be cancelled to have a double (6hr) meeting. But, as I described above, the experience is completely worth it and exactly what you make of it. If you want to travel on a weekend, you can still have the time to get back and take a train or flight early on a Friday night. Our class has 5 students who are all excited about getting out of the classroom, which make the mood a very happy one. I am not aware of another class that gets you out of the classroom to see Shanghai like this one does. Unless you are someone who will plan day trips and study on your own, this class creates the ideal learning and immersion situation for understanding in so many different ways how quickly Shanghai has developed and what that means for now and the future. Throughout the semester, you will have readings that you can decide whether you want to do or not. The times where I’ve read have definitely augmented the experience, though. As for the other assignments, the trips we take will give you an idea of what you will write for your (up to 10 page) final individual research paper as well as the final group documentary. Right now, I am writing my research about China’s investment into Photovoltaics (solar energy) in its cities to combat environmental pollution. From our several visits to Chongming Island this semester, the 5 of us have decided to do our documentary on the island. We’ll be going back there soon to record footage about the opportunities it creates for city residents to invest in “natural capital.”
Overall, the experience and structure of this class has provided me with most learning opportunities outside of the Chinese language classes. I think that if you’re a student who wants to get the most out of this experience, this class is a must take. I was exposed to parts of China and Shanghai I would have never found on my own.