Exploring Shanghai’s Architectural Diversity with NYU Students

A diverse group of foreign students from Shanghai New York University eagerly engaged in an outdoor field trip as part of their Summer Chinese Language Immersion Program. Equipped with headphones and smartphones in hand, they studied the intricate historical buildings of the Bund area with much interest on a pleasant Friday afternoon, capturing moments of their educational journey.

This educational expedition, a part of their ‘Citywalk’ theme, involved almost 40 participants. They divided into two groups, one delving into the inscriptions and plaques of the Bund Source area, uncovering the architectural and historical diversity of modern Shanghai. The other group wandered through old town Shanghai, witnessing the striking interplay between historical significance and modern advancements.

Guided by Chen Hansong, a post-85s generation urban explorer with over six years of experience, the students received bilingual insights on the city’s architecture and history. One particular stop was the opposite of the China Industrial Bank Building, where Chen engaged students in a lively discussion about the language on the building’s facade, ultimately explaining why ‘Industrial’ was an apt description.

Another challenge presented itself on Huqiu Road, where the students, some of whom had been studying Chinese for just a year or two, tried to decipher the seal characters engraved on the third floor of the Bund Art Museum. After a lengthy discussion, they were delighted by the revelation of the hidden words: ‘Asia Literature Forum’.

Among the students was Konstantin from Russia, who enthusiastically shared his newfound interest in Shanghai’s history. Now a sophomore with nine months of Chinese learning under his belt, he admitted to enjoying Chinese cuisine and sightseeing hotspots like Xintiandi, expressing satisfaction with his improving but not perfect Mandarin skills.

The program’s coordinator, Shui Xiaobo, highlighted that the students were to complete a year’s worth of curriculum in nine weeks, which includes traditional cultural projects such as Tai Chi and calligraphy, apart from daily language classes. The current year set a new record in attendance, including students from prestigious universities such as Brown and Purdue.

First-time visitor to Shanghai, Hou Madi from Purdue, praised the city’s blend of heritage and modernity, providing an enriching backdrop to their immersive language experience.

Relevant Facts:

– Shanghai’s architectural diversity is a reflection of its complex history, with influences from traditional Chinese styles to Art Deco buildings from the time when it was known as the “Paris of the East.”
– The Bund area is famous for its historical buildings that line the Huangpu River, with architectural styles ranging from Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, to Baroque and Neoclassicism, developed mainly during the 19th and early 20th century.
– NYU Shanghai is the first Sino-US higher education joint venture to grant degrees in China, established as part of a partnership between New York University and East China Normal University.
– Immersion programs are known to accelerate the process of language acquisition. Activities such as city walks can provide context and cultural understanding that enhance learning.

Key Questions and Answers:

– Why is architectural diversity significant for language students?
Architectural diversity in Shanghai serves as a physical representation of the city’s historical and cultural narratives, offering language students a richer context to understand the language they are studying.

– What challenges do foreign students face when studying Chinese in Shanghai?
Foreign students may struggle with the complexity of the Chinese language, including the recognition of characters, tones, and the regional dialects. Furthermore, adapting to cultural differences can also be a challenge.

Challenges and Controversies:

– Balancing rigorous academic schedules with cultural immersion can be taxing for students, as they are expected to absorb a large volume of information in a short period.
– Ensuring that the preservation of Shanghai’s historical architecture does not succumb to the pressures of modern development is a pertinent issue in the city’s urban planning discussions.

Advantages and Disadvantages:

Advantages: The field trip approach to learning offers a dynamic and interactive way for students to learn about history, culture, and language, making the experience more memorable and engaging.
Disadvantages: There might be a trade-off between the depth of cultural understanding and the breadth of the curriculum covered due to the compact nature of the immersion program.

Related Links:

– For more information about Shanghai’s history and architecture, you can visit the official Shanghai travel guide at Meet in Shanghai.
– To learn more about NYU Shanghai and its academic programs, visit the university’s official site at NYU Shanghai.