So, you’re going to Fudan University or thinking about doing so, well here are some things I did to prepare for my trip and somethings wish I’d known before take off. First and foremost, Fudan’s spring semester, and I assume fall as well, starts MUCH later than most schools. This means you will receive your admissions letter, your visa, and your courses much later than most schools. Relax, this is completely normal, and everything will work out. This is a good time to practice your patience because if you’re coming to Shanghai, you will need it. If you leave in spring, expect to receive the admissions letter right after the New Year. Once I received this, I immediately went to the Chinese consulate to submit my X2 visa paperwork. You will wait for an hour or 2 before getting your number called, so bring something to keep you busy. It takes four days for the visa to process, and you will need to return with $140 which can be paid by cash or card. If you are in a hurry, there is a rush process at an additional cost.
Once you have this, it is time to book a flight to Pudong International airport “PVG”, the large airport in Shanghai. I booked a one-way flight from LAX to PVG using CheapOair for $550. Next, I recommend going to a money exchange to swap a few hundred dollars for Yuan as I learned it could be extremely tedious to try and find a money exchange in PVG. Time to pack and I recommend packing light. You will be here for at least four months, so bring what is needed like clothes and some toiletries. The rest can be bought here for the same price as in Los Angeles, if not even cheaper. Before you arrive, have the address to your room or dorm in Chinse and English. You can use a taxi, the train, or a DiDi which is like Uber in China.
Housing is the next big step, and it requires some time and thought. Shanghai is a megacity, and it really is huge. To give you some perspective, you can take a train ride for 2 hours and still be in the city. If you want to live on/around campus, you will be an hour train ride from the city center; however, the district around Fudan is very lively with lots of locals, restaurants, a Walmart, a shopping mall, and even a movie theater. I live in the dorm, and there is limited space so be on the portal as soon as it opens if you want a spot. It cost about $1100 for a whole semester, but you will need to buy a few things to raise the living standards. I bought an office chair, a Wi-Fi router, a good mattress, and blanket for about $300. Living on campus makes it much easier to get to class. If you want to live in the city center, it will cost $400- $600 a month and you can use international housing agencies like Yoga to make the process much easier.
Next, I will talk about Networking. I connected with a few students who were on exchange from Fudan. These students were extremely helpful before the trip and especially after I arrived. I recommend making a set of questions and asking them for an informational interview over coffee. I also got the perspective of previous students who went to Fudan on exchanged. These students were the most helpful because they have a similar perspective and can give you lots of key insight. Finally, Shanghai has a large USC alumni base so try your best to tap into it using LinkedIn and Facebook.
Finally, let’s talk about apps you will need. You will do almost everything such as pay for things, text people, and sign up for things using WeChat, so get it ASAP. As I said earlier, DiDi is like Uber but much cheaper. This next part is very important. You want to grab a VPN for your phone(s) AND computer because practically ALL apps you use are blocked in China. It is possible to download a VPN in China, but it is MUCH harder so I HIGHLY recommend doing it before you come. I used express VPN which is the most reliable VPN here, and it costs about $10 a month for all your devices. The Currency app will show you the price you pay in USD. The language barrier is a bit of a problem here, so Pleco will help you to translate. With whatever free time you have, look into learning some common Chinese like saying please and thank you, ordering food, and asking for the bathroom because you will need it. I spent a semester in conversational Chinese and the LONG winter break practicing, and I still wish I had done some more practice. When all else fails, use your VPN to pull out Google translate and you will be ok.
Till next time Malih Kabbani