Discovering Shanghai: A Journey through Language, Culture, and Community Service

Programs for this blog post

Chinese Language & Culture

Authored By:

Wen Cai

The bustling metropolis of Shanghai welcomed us with open arms as we embarked on an unforgettable journey of learning, crafting, and community service during our first week. With eager hearts and open minds, we immersed ourselves in the rich tapestry of Chinese culture, from mastering the basics of Mandarin to creating traditional crafts and contributing to environmental conservation. Here’s a glimpse into our incredible first week in Shanghai.

A Warm Welcome and Mandarin Class


Our adventure began with an orientation session at our language school, where we were greeted by friendly teachers and fellow students from around the world. The classes were divided into different levels, ensuring that each of us could learn at our own pace. Beginners focused on essential phrases and pronunciation, while advanced students delved into complex grammar and conversational nuances. Each day we have our community conversation with local people and at the end of the week we had our first presentation! 





Crafting Chinese Fans

Fan making

In the afternoon activity, we delved into the world of traditional Chinese crafts. We attended a workshop on crafting Chinese fans, an art form with a history dating back over 2,000 years. Our instructor explained the cultural significance of fans in Chinese history and demonstrated various techniques for painting and holding them. As we painted delicate patterns on our fans, we felt a deeper connection to Chinese culture and appreciated the intricate beauty of this ancient art.

fan making group

Hands-On Pottery Experience

Pottery Painting

Midweek, we rolled up our sleeves for a hands-on pottery class. Guided by a skilled potter, we learned the basics of shaping clay on a pottery wheel. The tactile experience of molding clay into pots and vases was incredibly therapeutic and satisfying. We discovered that pottery requires patience and precision, and by the end of the session, we had created our own unique pieces to take home as mementos. The process of transforming a lump of clay into a beautiful object was a metaphor for our own transformation during this trip.




QingPu Day Trip and River Bank Clean-Up


Our first Saturday took us beyond the city to Qingpu, a serene district known for its picturesque water towns. This day was dedicated to environmental conservation, a cause close to our hearts. We participated in a river bank clean-up project, working alongside local volunteers to remove trash and debris. As we cleaned the riverbanks, we were struck by the importance of preserving natural beauty and felt a sense of accomplishment in contributing to the local community. 







We headed to a local farm where we rolled up our sleeves and got to work planting and harvesting vegetables. The farmers taught us about sustainable farming practices, and we got to experience firsthand the effort that goes into growing food. For lunch, we prepared a meal using the vegetables we had harvested. Cooking together in the open air, we shared stories and laughter, enjoying the delicious fruits of our labor. The fresh, farm-to-table meal was a highlight of the week, emphasizing the importance of community and connection to the land.



Preparing for our lunch

Our first week in Shanghai was a whirlwind of activity, learning, and cultural immersion. From the classroom to the pottery studio and the riverbanks of Qingpu, each experience enriched our understanding of China and its traditions. As we continue our journey, we are eager to deepen our language skills, explore more of Shanghai’s wonders, and make a positive impact on the community. This week was just the beginning of what promises to be an extraordinary adventure in one of the world’s most vibrant cities.