My School Trip to Shanghai, China
(Bury St Edmunds, England)
I knew that going to Shanghai would be a big culture change for me and that there would be a lot of differences between my life in England and the Chinese way of life.
In order to get the most out of this experience, I didn't take a phone with me and had no contact with home for the whole nine days.
I also threw myself into the life in China, which included eating only Chinese food, using chopsticks and taking in every difference between England and China that I could spot.
I already knew that I would notice some differences throughout Shanghai compared to my normal life, but there was so much to see and I wasn't prepared for the shock of just walking down the streets of Shanghai.
For a start, it seems to me that there aren't many rules in regards to road use and vehicles. I soon realised that there is no method for crossing roads in Shanghai, you just have to rush and hope for the best.
Even when there is a red light, if a car is turning they don't have to stop for red lights, and motorbikes don't have to stop for anything.
Another thing I saw which shocked me was that people were driving around on motorbikes with children or dogs sat on their knees. This was quite a big shock for me as in England you would never see that, and it's against the law but in Shanghai nobody thought anything of it.
The Shanghai Markets
On the sides of the streets in Shanghai there are a lot of people making things and just outside the hotel there was a market everyday.
On the market they sold all kinds of food, including fruit, sweets, meat and fish. The markets were just old wooden tables with big boxes on them filled with the goods they were trying to sell, and it was so packed with people buying things it was difficult to move.
Another thing I immediately noticed was how thick the air was. I noticed this more when I got back to England and I breathed in and the air seemed so fresh.
In Shanghai, the air was so dirty through pollution it made it hard to breath in some areas. That was an obvious difference between England and Shanghai.
The food in Shanghai was a huge change. We had a buffet for breakfast every morning, and my breakfast usually consisted of noodles.
There was a lot of strange things there which I could have had, like fermented eggs and other strange dishes.
I really enjoyed the noodles, they were my favourite thing to eat in China.
I could have done without eating some of the dishes put in front of me, they didn't taste nice and I have no idea what they were!
Even when we were in the partnership school we got served some strange food which we didn't dare to try.
The cooking staff has adapted the food to what they thought we would eat, so our meals were slightly different to the Chinese pupils. We would be eating rice and chicken and then the Chinese would be eating fish heads with the eyeballs still in.
I think seeing that was a big shock for me, and it was so strange that they just had fish heads on a normal day.
Also, when some of the Chinese pupils took us out to show us some areas of Shanghai, they ordered some ice cream and it turned out they bought mung bean ice cream. This was so weird for me.
About Chinese Toilets
The thing that sticks out for me as the worst thing about China was the toilets.
In the schools, the toilets were on the floor and in some cases they were like troughs built into the ground. This was too much for me and I couldn't understand why
these were preferred to normal toilets.
Luckily the hotel has regular toilets so it wasn't necessary to use the other ones.
My favourite part of the trip was teaching 6 year old children an English lesson. This was such an amazing experience for me as the language barrier was so huge so it was difficult to communicate with them.
This was such a big challenge for me and it taught me that sometimes you have to think quickly and change your original plans for something as you are doing it.
When you look a little different...
A massive thing for me was the amount of attention I drew to myself just by being English. It was so strange to have people looking at me, talking to me and taking photos of and with me just because I was English.
It was especially obvious that not many English people were seen in Shanghai when we walked past younger children. They stopped and stared with a look of shock on their faces. Some of them waved and smiled and ran over to us, but some of them were terrified of us and ran away.
It was really strange to see people react that way, and to have people wanting a picture with me was so surreal.
Up and About in Shanghai
Another thing I loved was going to the centre of Shanghai at night. It was so lit up and bright with lights all over the place and so posh and built up.
We were staying in Pudong, which is where the newer buildings were. Pushi is the older part of the city and is separated from Pudong by a river, and in order to see the Pudong skyline, you have to travel to Pushi and look across from the Bund.
It is such a breathtaking view of all the skyscrapers, including the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Jin Mao Tower and the Oriental Pearl Tower.
On the trip, we went up to a piano bar in the Jin Mao Tower and looked out to see the nighttime view of Shanghai which was amazing.
We also went to the Shanghai World Financial Center and, as that skyscraper was even higher, the view was breathtaking. That was amazing for me and I would recommend anyone going to see that.
Looking Back...The trip wasn't just about learning about China, it was about teaching me some lessons that I could use in later life.
My confidence has improved, as when you are in a Leadership programme you have to just forget about your nerves and do it otherwise you wouldn't learn anything from the trip.
This was especially true as we had daily leaders and they were in charge or briefing the group and sorting everything out for the daily activities.
I was in charge of leading the group through the airport on the way home and also sorting out all of the transport for the last three days. This was very difficult as I struggle with confidence issues but I had to look past that in order to complete my task.
I also learnt that sometimes things can just change and ruin your plans but you have to adapt to it instead of just giving up. I learnt that whilst teaching in the schools and, having planned a whole lesson, needing to change it because there was too many people or the task was too difficult for the people it was set for.
It was difficult to keep going at some points because, with lack of sleep and not very much food, I was drained and had to do difficult tasks which took up a lot of energy.
At times, people got stressed and there were arguments and fallings out but the group came together and supported each other throughout and I think that was the reason we all made it through the week whilst enjoying every minute of it.