Hi there.

I'm Joe, and I'm going to China. From March 18 to April 1, 2018, I'm visiting East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai, China, as part of the Padnos International Centers Staff Exchange program. Below are my experiences.


In October 2016, Chen Ying from ECNU visited Grand Valley as part of her university's faculty/staff exchange program. This interaction, along with Dave Poortvliets exchange experience to Ghana, is what inspired me to look into an opportunity for myself. I submitted my application to the Padnos International Center in October 2017 and quickly received the grant and go ahead to plan this trip.

I immediately reached out to Chen Ying about my approved grant and was connected with the ECNU International Office. Helen Sun and Yan Feiyi from the ECNU International Office began planning out my on-campus experiences including the items listed in the schedule below.

I have been out of the country a few times for personal trips but never for anything for as long or focus as this trip. Here are a few things that I've learned so far;

  • Does the country you're visiting require an Entry and/or Exit Visa?
    • China does, and this can be a time-intensive and costly process, so prepare yourself for this.
  • What is the traditional way to greet someone from the country that you're visiting?
    • One way to do this in China is to extend your business card with both hands to the recipient. You should receive a business card with both hands, as well, and examine the card for a few moments.
    • It may also be useful to have your business card translated into the language of the country that you're visiting.
  • Currency Exchange
    • Chinese money is called Yuan Renminbi (CNY). The exchange is $1 USD = 6.33 CNY as of 3/16/2018.
    • Many people don't use cash. Mobile payment is immensely popular and the preferred method of payment.
  • Be prepared to use your phone... A LOT!
    • In Shanghai, people use their phones for everything. It's a source for chatting, maps, taking photos, translating for foreigners, paying for everything, riding the train, and on and on.
      • So far I've downloaded two map apps (one for offline if necessary), 3 VPNs, Google Translate, a compass, a units converter (*F to *C, etc), and WeChat but I can't get it to work. For WeChat, you need an active phone number for that country, or at least use a carrier that works in that country.

Joe Vugteveen business card translated into Chinese characters.

My business card translated into Chinese characters.

ECNU Campus Photo with river

ECNU Campus. The Liwa River (Putuo Campus)


Shanghai China

Shanghai, China Cityscape

Friends from ECNU

  • Chen Ying - Deputy Director, Publicity Department - GVSU Exchange, October 2016
  • Helen Sun - Assistant to the Director, International Exchange Division
  • Yan Feiyi - Program Officer, Office of the International Cooperation and Exchanges 
  • Wang Subin - Deputy Director, International Exchange Division
  • Zhang Jun - Committee of Administrative Offices
  • Liu Xiaoling - Program Officer, Graduate Studies
  • Zhang Jin - IT Services Center
  • Wang Tongtong (Tony) - Office of Humanities and Social Sciences - GVSU Exchange October 2017
  • Anqi (Yvaine) - Publicity Department
  • Joey Liu - English Website Team
  • Josh Monroe - English Website Team
  • Victoria - International Exchange Division (Russian Partnerships)
  • Lucy - International Exchange Division (French Partnerships)
  • Maria - International Exchange Division (European Partnerships)
  • Jessie - International Exchange Division (Confucius Institutes)
  • Kahrlee Kozan - GVSU Study Abroad Student
  • Huan Liu (Leo) - IT Services (Web Team)
  • JianXiang - IT Services (Web Team)
  • Xiaoling Liu - Office of International Cooperation and Exchange, Graduate School
  • You Bin - Office of Graduate School Admissions
  • Joy Hao - International Student Activities 
  • Lucca - International Student Activities

March 17 and 18


Yan Feiyi picked me up at the Shanghai Pudong Airport around 7:30 p.m., March 18th. Immigration services took nearly 45 minutes and the China Unicom sim card didn't work with my phone. So an interesting start to my arrival in Shanghai.  Feiyi drove me the 1 hour to the Yifu Guest House (hotel) on the ECNU Campus, checked me in, and I was off to sleep around 10:30 p.m.


GRR (DL 4597) --> DTW (DL 583) --> Pudong Shanghai --> Yifu Guest House


Nothing too fancy here. Just a couple of airplane meals. 1 pork and 1 chicken, and I slept through the ice cream snack :(

Meal with pork, rice, salad, roll, and brownie

This my pork meal in all of its glory!

March 19, Monday


First meeting today was the University Welcome Meeting hosted by International Exchange Division, joined by the Publicity Department, Graduate School, and IT Services Center. This was a very nice welcome to the University and a little background/ history lesson. ECNU has around 32,000 students over half of which are Graduate and Doctoral students (around 20,000). There are over 200 Master's programs, and 140+ Doctoral programs, so graduate level education is critical here and in most of China. ECNU has 61 partner institutions in North America and an international student population of around 6000. 24% of ECNU undergraduate students participate in a study abroad experience, most being in Europe (France). The "Normal" in ECNU comes from a French words école normale meaning teachers' education.

Feiyi took me on a campus tour and I got my ECNU Identity Card. This serves as my meal card while on campus.

Lunch with Subin, Feiyi, and Chen Ying at Yifu Guest House. We had a variety of beef, tofu, vegetables, rice, and fruit. I caught Chen Ying laughing slightly as I fumbled with my chopsticks. 


After lunch, Feiyi brought me to the ECNU Library for a History & Culture Museum Tour. Below are a few images from that tour, but it is pretty humbling to be standing in front of the first recorded Chinese characters dating back 2000 years.

So far connecting and staying connected to the internet seems to be one the bigger struggles. I purchased a China Unicom pocket Wi-Fi and that seems to be holding up alright.

It's a cold, grey day and I'm still so tired so I'll save the touristy stuff for another day.

5 Court Maid Figurines

5 Court Maid Figurines at the ECNU Museum

Man with no arms and dog clay statues

Funeral pottery at ECNU Museum

Jade Dragon Belt buckle

Jade Dragon Belt buckle at ECNU Museum


Lunch was made up of a variety of small plates with meat, tofu, rice, vegetables, and fruit. They made sure to include Sweet and Sour Chicken because "most Westerners like that". This is a photo of the honey glazed dates.

Many small plates of food

Lunch meal at Yifu Guest House

March 20, Tuesday


Today I spent the entire thing with Yvaine. She is a part of the ECNU Publicity Department and my personal tour and food guide for the day. She was incredible. Very knowledgeable about Shanghai, a great sense for food, fun personality, and was the perfect person to give me a tour. She could really move for someone who is 4 months pregnant! We had a number of wonderful conversations about family and the Chinese culture.

Yvaine and Joe on the subway train

Yvaine and me after a long day in Shanghai


Today will be a tough day to beat. It was a fantastic day all around minus the weather. Yvaine and I started the day with lunch at the Yuyuan Gardens. It's an incredible space in the middle of modern Shanghai. After walking through an arched entryway you're transported to ancient China with dozens of temple-shaped buildings, fountains, and flowing rivers. There was everything from small knick-knack shops to fine silks shops, from food carts to high end authentic Chinese restaurants. It's what you would imagine ancient China would look like.

We then went to the Shanghai Museum. If I thought it couldn't get any more impressive than the museum at ECNU, I was way wrong. Within minutes of entering the FREE museum, I was standing in front of a 4000-year-old stone statue. But what I found most inspiring were the magnificent piece of jade, the emotion of the calligraphy, and the reverence paid to former political and spiritual leaders.

It stopped raining so we decided to walk to The Bund, and in doing so we walked down East Nanjing Road. Picture Monroe Center but twice as wide, about 3 miles long, and walls of neon lights. The stores were higher-end fashion and design, multiple Apple stores, amphitheaters,  silk shops, and one random KFC.

The Bund is a truly unique place with towering buildings lining the Huangpu river for as far as the eye can see. On one side you have the new, modern buildings of the financial district and on the other, you have the stoic stone buildings of old China. The two sides could not be more different. The contrasting images of The Bund are some I will not soon forget.

Chinese Temple at Yuyuan Gardens

Temple near Yuyuan Gardens

Oriental Pearl Tower

Iconic Oriental Pearl Tower at The Bund. It's actually a radio and tv communication tower.

Buddha statue at Shanghai Museum

Bronze Buddha

The Bund Old China Side

The Bund, Old China side


What didn't we eat!? Today would not have been a good day for one with a weaker stomach. And my chopstick skills must be improving though because Yvaine complimented me on how well I use them.

For lunch, we went to a restaurant in the Yuyuan Gardens that translated to "Green Wave". I started with a cup of Longjing Tea which translates to Dragon Well Tea. It's a very delicious light, green tea. We (she) ordered barbequed pork, yams with an orange sauce, yellow croaker fish soup, steamed crab dumplings, seasonal beans, a rice dumpling, two kinds of glutinous rice, and a flaky nut based pastry. 

For a warm snack, we had warm Vietnamese Milk Tea. It's a lot like bubble tea. It was warm, sweet, and the perfect companion on the cold walk down East Nanjing Road.

Dinner is where things started to get a little more adventurous. We order Head of Lion, which is a pork ball cooked in hot oil, duck with the skin on, fresh bamboo marinated in something sweet, stinky (fermented) tofu, some sort of in-season greens, a delicious noodle soup, and a taro seedling dessert. To wash it all down we drank a warm water with a stick sugar cane and what appeared to be corn on the cob in it. As unfamiliar as all of these things sound, they were all really well prepared and had a ton of flavor. I think I'll pass on the stinky tofu next though.

All of the food, with the exception of the Stinky Tofu, was delicious, but what impacted me the most was that everything we ate seemed to have been thought out. From what I have observed, the Chinese eat foods with purpose. The foods that you eat and the beverages that you drink compliment each other so that you get a high amount of nutrients and the foods mix well in your stomach. This is so you don't feel sick during or after your meal. I mean I drank corn and sugar water to combat the taste and feeling of the stinky tofu. It's incredible to see the thought that goes into the food. An insight that I hope to bring back to my American diet.

Variety of plated foods from Yuyuan Gardens

Lunch meal near Yuyuan Gardens

Joe eating stinky tofu

Eating stinky tofu. My hesitant look should give you a sense of the smell of it.

Variety of plated foods from East Nanjing Road

Dinner meal near East Nanjing Road

March 21, Wednesday


Today I met the with Social Media team which is part of the Publicity Department, or the whole Publicity Department. It's a very small team for the size of the university in my opinion. Think what UComm does, but if the office were only three people, Chen Ying, Yvaine, and Fiona. They have few student workers but these three ladies create the vast majority of what is produced out of that office.

I found it interesting that the Publicity Department was previously called the Propaganda Department.


Well, the weather was still pretty cold and rainy so it was a bit of a quieter day. After our meeting, Yvaine and Fiona took me to the Global Harbor for lunch. The Global Harbor is an expansive six-story mall above the campus subway stop. There is a variety of places to shop, eat, drink, catch a movie, race mini cars, and even wash your baby... or dog (I couldn't really tell from the window decals).

We stopped at a really delicious hot pot restaurant (Umami Hot Pot) for lunch and a juice cart for dessert.

After lunch, I took a few hours to walk around campus and better acquaint myself to the space. Plus I had to exchange some more money and top off my campus ID card. Shanghai can get pricey.

Man fishing in river

Older man fishing in Liwa River. Pretty sure this is illegal but no one seemed to care.

Walking path along river

Quiet walking path along the lotus pond

East China Normal University Logo

East China Normal University logo over the Liwa River


Hot Pot is a perfectly named dish. It is a HOT (temperature, not spice) POT of food. Imagine a fondue style of eating but a soup broth instead of hot cheese or chocolate. There's a spicy side and a mild side to the pot. You start by mixing up a dipping sauce from a variety of liquids that look identical, so I don't really know what I mixed up but it definitely had a peanut sauce. All of the food is brought to the table at various times throughout the meal and cooked in the same pot. We ordered (Yvaine, again) four different cuts of beef, sweet potato root noodles, fried tofu, needle mushrooms, and a huge plate of leafy greens. It

After lunch, we swung by a juice cart for a light, refreshing pear-orange dessert.

Variety of meat being cut by chefs

Beef being cut by Hot Pot butchers

Global Harbor Mall

Global Harbor Mall

Hot pot dish

Hot Pot

March 22, Thursday


Today I met with the English website team. Joey Liu is the Director and Josh Monroe is the English Language Expert (a.k.a. he's from America). They are located on the Minhang Campus which was an hour bus ride (18 miles) Southwest of the Putuo Campus. They too are a three-person team.

One of the more interesting conversations that we had was about the target audience for their English website. They aren't targeting native English speakers (American, English, Australian, etc). Since English is such a widely spoken language the English website is targeted toward Russian, Japanese, and Korean current and potential students. The website is almost completely different from the Chinese and French website. Different messaging, different tabs/link, different images, and even different colors in places. It now makes sense that they have a completely different team for the English website.

They also publish a student-focused English magazine once a quarter.


The Minhang Campus was substantially larger than the Putuo Campus. It reminded of how GVSU is set up with our downtown campus being smaller and program-specific focused and the much larger Allendale campus with a wider range of courses and programs. The Putuo Campus, however, hosts the majority of their international and exchange students because it is in the city center with access to more public transportation options.

The campus towers over and around the rivers that flow undisturbed. You can tell that the campus was intentionally built as to not impact the flow of the rivers but to ingrain the freeness of the rivers into the campus life. The campus buildings are enormous. Many of the buildings are at least six or seven stories and taller. I met Joey and Joshua on the ninth floor of the 12-floor administration building.

As big and intimidating as this campus could be, there is a much slower and harmonious pace to the life of the campus. Being outside of the city center and adorned with ancient Chinese art, architecture, and flowing water brings a unique calmness to 20000+ student campus.

Stone circle sculpture

Circles are an important symbol in Chinese agriculture. There were a series of these structures with alumni names, years, and quotes placed throughout.

Pursue what we have not been taught, and practice what we are going to teach

ECNU Motto. "Pursue what we have not been taught, and practice what we are going to teach"

Stone bridge

Just an ordinary 800-year-old stone bridge from the Ming dynasty


Today we ate lunch at one of the on-campus cafeterias, and again, as usual, ordered a ridiculous amount of food. We stared with some thinly sliced beef (sort of like roast beef) and Chinese Yams in blueberry sauce. Then came the braised beef with Quail eggs and sauteed celery and carrots. Follow that with some rice, fried corn cake things (delicious!), pork dumpling soup, and cabbage soup. And just when you think you can't fit another platter on the table, a spicy fish plate and tempura fried shrimp. There were three of us eating, that's it, just three people for all that food.

Chinese Yams with Blueberry sauce

Braised Beef with Quail Eggs and Chinese Yams with Blueberry sauce

Pork dumpling soup

Pork dumpling soup

Spicy fish

Spicy fish dish

March 23, Friday


Today I met with Feiyi and his team at the International Exchange Division. Wang Subin is one of the four Deputy Directors in charge of the division. Victoria is a fluent in Russian and is in charge of the roughly 20 partnership with Russia. Maria and Feiyi help to manage the European partnership. Europe has the largest delegation of partnerships with ECNU, with France being the most integrated of those partnerships. Speaking of France, Lucy is fluent if French and is responsible for those key partnership. Jessie is in charge of the Confucius Institutes of which there are five in America including in Central Arkansas and Iowa... Random... The Confucius Institutes are designed to teach the Chinese language and culture. Those who wish to teach at the Confucius Institute must undergo roughly six months of intense training and examination with Federal Government. Teaching assignments last one year. All in all the International Exchange Division at ECNU works with over 250 partner institutions, and that's just for a faculty/staff exchange.

Group photo with International Exchange Division


My meeting with the International Exchange Division got bumped to 2:00 p.m., so I spent the morning just wandering around Shanghai. I think I need that. I now feel the most comfortable and prepared that I have this whole trip. Something about being alone in a city that doesn't speak your language and still being able to enjoy yourself and accomplish your goals is empowering.

The first pause on my wandering was over the Wusong River on a pretty swanky bridge. The river, like much of the city, is lined with skyscraper after skyscraper. Just behind me when taking this photo are large pillars with golden angelic figures poised on the top.

Next stop on my self-guided tour was the Jing'an Sculpture Park. It reminded me a bit of the Frederik Meijer Gardens but free and in the middle of the city. There was a long, very peaceful, reflecting pond with a number of older people standing near it with their heads bowed. This definitely added a bit serenity to the otherwise buzzing park. The Shanghai Natural History Museum is also located in the park.

People's Square is where I ended my little journey. Turns out I was really close to here, if not in it, the other day with Yvaine. It's busy, busy little park near one of the main Metro transit stops, so there are a lot of people sitting on benches, kids playing in the playground, and old men playing some sort of domino-like tile game. It's a pretty park, and amazing how much green space a city like Shanghai has.

Large buildings along winding river

Wusong River

Large fox on shipping containers

Fox sculpture at Jing'an Sculpture Park

People's Square Park

People's Square Park


Plate of breakfast foods

Nothing too wild today. Honestly, after all of the food I've eaten this week, I'm not hungry. They say you should eat like a King for breakfast, eat like the rich for lunch, and eat like the poor for dinner. I feel like I've eaten like the King for every meal that I've had here. Every morning I've headed down for the Guest House breakfast. That is a combination of Western food (eggs, toast, cereal), a salad bar, soup of some sort, two steam baskets (one always has a sticky pork bun, yum!!!!), and tofu. There's always coffee, orange juice, apple juice, soybean milk, and cow milk. So it's pretty well set up to cater to the non-Chinese palette. The Yifu Guest House is where ECNU houses most of their visiting experts (yup, they think I'm an expert).

This mornings breakfast included a hardboiled egg, rice, quesadilla type thing with egg, date filled sesame seed somethings, a Chinese sponge cake, sticky pork bun!!

March 24, Saturday


Today, I met with Karhlee, our GVSU student who is studying Chinese Language and International Business here at ENCU. We had a really nice conversation over lunch about why she chose to study at ECNU, some of the pain points of the program (GVSU specifically), the incredible support she receives from ECNU, what her post-graduation plans are, and she gave me a  few more recommendations to try around town.

The two major pain points deal with classes only being offered as credit/no credit, and the credit hours not lining up with the amount of time spent in class (9 hours a week for 1 class).

I also ran into Lucy and Maria twice today. It's nice to see familiar faces on campus.


Had a few free hours again before I met with Kahrlee so I took a little stroll in a park right next the ECNU campus. It's the Changfeng Park, and like most things in Shanghai, it's quite large. I spent an hour and a half wandering around and covered half of the park maybe. It's a very pretty park with red, yellow, and white flowers around every corner. The park encompasses an unexpectedly large lake (Yin Chu Lake) with a number of water features and attractions including China's first marine aquarium, Changfeng Ocean World.

I also walked down to the Cloud Nine mall. Another enormous mall with many of the same stores as the Global Harbor, but I guess that's what happens when you have 23 million people trying to do some shopping. I did notice one uniquely familiar thing in the Cloud Nine mall though. One store had a randomized display of Michigan and California license plates. Go figure.

Large lake with bridge and buildings in background

The larger part of the Yin Chu Lake with rental boats.

Lake with people fishing

Bunch of people fishing in a smaller part of Yin Chu Lake.

License plate attached to wall

Little pieces of home so far away


We hopped right off campus and stopped into one of the dozens of small family restaurants that line the sidewalks. These little shops are what you look for when you want to eat local. You just point at the picture of what you want and they point at the calculator of what you owe, end of conversation. I ordered the pork wonton noodle soup. It is what it says it is. Pork wontons and noodle in some broth, BUT IT IS DELICIOUS!!

So, I previously mentioned that Shanghai is an expensive city. And it is... for China, not for America. This meal cost me 12 Yuan, or just under $2. I can get a frappuccino-type drink for 7 or 8 Yuan, or roughly $1.30. I take the subway basically anywhere in Shanghai for 4 Yuan ($0.65). Shanghai is a high-fashion society though, so things can get expensive quickly, but if you don't mind taking the subway and eating at these sidewalk shop, you can get by pretty cheaply. The hard part is figuring out how to pay for things. Cash is not always accepted. If you can't pay by your phone, you may not get to eat there.

Pork wonton soup

Sooo much soup! This is $2.

March 25, Sunday


I didn't have anything scheduled so I didn't really meet anyone new today. Well other than the pretty cool bartender at Shanghai Beer Factory who wanted to practice his English and in exchange gave me a free drink.


Well, today was a day filled with small adventures. I left the Yifu Guest House at 9:30 am and returned around 7:00 p.m. so forgive me if I miss a few of the places that I visited today.

I started my journey by tossing in the headphones and streaming some tunes by "The Weeknd", which turned out to not be the best idea as you'll find out later. I left campus heading south today with the goal of getting to the "French Concession" area. The French Concession is roughly only a 90-minute walk away from ECNU so clearly, a lot else happened today.

My first stop was the Kaiqiao Greenlands. No particular reason to stop by here other than it's a big park with a number of small walking paths to explore. I'm realizing that these parks are not a rarity in Shanghai. I stumble across these parks seemingly every 20 minutes or so. It's a great feature of Shanghai.

Next, I took a few moments to check out the Jiao Tong University (Xuhui Campus). The Xuhui Campus is the urban campus similar to ECNU's Putuo campus. Jiao Tong University has a Minhang Campus as well that is right across the street from ECNU so I'm hoping to visit there on Tuesday. Jiao Tong University is the second oldest university in China and is renowned as one of the most prestigious and selective universities in China, or so says Wikipedia.

Next stop, Huashan Greenland Park. Just another huge park in the middle of the city. I sat here for a few moments and watch a small group of ten or so people doing Tai Chi.

The Propaganda Poster Art Centre was a small three room museum in the basement of an apartment complex. It held hundreds of pieces of propaganda art used as a rallying cry to unite the people of China for or against certain causes. The art was both for and against the Chinese government at different times through the 1900's. The anti-American sentiment in some of the pieces from the 1940's and 50's was very clear!

The French Concession is a pretty different part of Shanghai. Don't get me wrong, everything is still written in Chinese but you can definitely see and smell the French influence in this area. The architecture is noticeably French with tall arched windows and balconies all around the building. This is also where the French and U.S. Consulates are.

My first Western meal of the trip was here at Boxing Cat Brewery. Not that I was craving a Western meal, but I wanted to make sure to stop by the brewery. This is also where my Wi-Fi card died and I lost my internet connection for the day.

Fuxing Park. You guessed it. Another massive, perfectly manicured park. Fuxing Park translates to French Park and is located on Fuxing Middle Road.

World Expo Museum was closed but I'll try another day.

Since the Expo was closed I figured I'd just finish the day by checking out the Huangpu River from this angle. The first thing that I noticed was the huge Lupu Bridge to the south. The Lupu Bridge is the world's second longest steel arch bridge, so, yeah, it's impressive. Turning and heading north along the river is scenic river walk and yet another beautiful view of Shanghai.

Stopped by Shanghai Beer Factory because why not. And because I just had to stream some tunes earlier, this is where my phone died. I'm now roughly 7.5 miles away from ECNU and it's getting dark quickly. I recalled passing a couple of Metro stops between Fuxing Park and the World Expo Museum, so I just retraced my steps until I found it. Conveniently it was Metro line 13 which is the closet line to ECNU. I hopped on the Metro and was back in my room in after a quick 35 minutes ride and walk.

Graffiti Wall

"Graffiti" Wall in Kaiqiao Greenlands Park near Liu Haisu Art Museum

Entry to Jiao Tong University

Entrance to Jiao Tong University

People doing Tai Chi

Tai Chi in the Huashan Greenland Park

Fuxing Park

Fuxing (French) Park

Lupu Bridge

Lupu Bridge. Connects the Huangpu to Pudong districts

Shanghai River Walk

Shanghai river walk near World Expo Museum


Today was an American splurge day... sort of. I had the pulled pork sandwich from Boxing Cat Brewery, but it wasn't your ordinary pulled pork. The Szechuan-style pulled pork is delicious. It has all of the barbeque-ee characteristics that you want with the added heat common in Szechuan food. It's rainier and colder in the Szechuan area of China so the spicier foods help the body for fight off illnesses, or so I was told.

The recommended beer was a red ale. The unique thing about this red ale and the reason it was the perfect pairing is that it was brewed with dandelion root. Dandelion root helps with digestion and soothes an upset stomach. Spicy Szechuan meat to eat and the soothing agent to drink. I'm telling you they don't take eating and the body lightly here.

March 26, Monday


Today I met with the IT Services Center. This office includes IT as we know it at GVSU, the Web Team, and the Big Data and New Media team. Hua Liu (Leo) is would be considered the Web Manager and JianXiang helps with the implementation new CMS sites. That's it. A Web Team of two people and neither of them is a developer. The Big Data and New Media team is in charge of the social media on campus and specifically the integrations into their WeChat account.

In 2012, ECNU had around 400 sites developed on a series of personal servers with little branding consistency, major security holes, and no web governance. For the past 5 years, Leo and his team have worked to resolve these issues and bring forth some stability to ECNU's web presence. They now have around 250 sites with the vast majority on using the university purchased CMS, WordPlus Pro. It's essentially a Chinese built WordPress. The workflow of creating and managing a site at ECNU is similar how we run things at GVSU.

This WeChat thing is super powerful, although I'm not sure how comfortable Westerners would be with sharing that level of personal data. With the vast amount of data that this tool is constantly gathering the New Media team can push some very targeted initiative and promote healthy, happy students. For example, since WeChat is used to pay for meals at the campus canteen, the data can determine if a student is not eating enough and offer reduced-price meals, nutritional counseling, questionnaires, etc. This messaging can be sent directly to one student through the tool. Sounds a lot like Big Brother, but when the data is used in such a constructive, student health-focused way, I can really see the merits.

They are aware of web accessibility but it is not currently being implemented. The goal is to make the next version of their homepage WCAG 'A' compliant. Leo actually published a report of regarding accessibility and he found that every institution that he researched was failing to be WCAG 'A' compliant.

The GDPR is not a topic that they have thought about here.

I also swung by Yvaine's office today to drop off her umbrella and Metro card that she let me borrow. She had bag filled cookies, fruit, yogurt, coconut milk, and candies as a gift for me just because. We stopped by Chen Ying's office as well to say hello, and she mentioned that she and Yvaine want to take me to Hangzhou on Saturday since they had to cancel the tour on Thursday! Just out of the blue. These two are some of the kindest people that I have ever met. They refer to Hangzhou as Heaven.


It's been threatening to storm all day today, and I had some work I'd wanted to catch up on, so I stayed near campus for the day.


The temperature dropped a bit today when the storm front moved in so I jumped over to the soup place that I visited the other day with Kahrlee. I ordered the pork dumpling soup again partly because it really is delicious, and partly because I had the exact change for it. You also don't tip here.

Dumpling Soup

Second bowl of the week. This one was spicier!

Store front with Chinese characters

Here's where you can get it if you're ever in the neighborhood.

March 27, Tuesday


Today I meet with Xiaoling Liu and You Bin from the Graduate School, on Minhang Campus. These two, along with the rest of their team, have their work cut out for them. They receive around 20,000 graduate (masters) and 1,200 doctoral applications per year, and the government set quota is 3000 graduate (masters) students admitted. I'm not sure if they have a quota for doctoral students but they admit around 600. Needless to say, graduate schools are extremely competitive in China. 

The Masters in Chinese Philosophy and Masters in Business are two of the more popular programs and each program admits 100-120 students each year, 75% of which are full-time students.

Most of the graduate programs at ECNU are two or three years long and require an internship and a thesis to graduate. They offer both full-time and part-time options. 70% of the students are full-time and straight out of their undergraduate programs.

Any international student, other than a student whose undergraduate education was in Chinese, take classes in English. ECNU has six graduate programs that are taught entirely in English; Politics, Contemporary China Studies, Chinese Philosophy, Anthropology, Statistics, and Mathematics. Also, since the Chinese Government strong desire to have international students at their school, many of the graduate students receive a full-ride scholarship to attend ECNU. If you are a Chinese citizen the prices of your graduate work depend on the program that you choose, with the more popular programs being more expensive. The MBA program is around 100,000 renminbi per year, or $16,000. The less popular programs cost around 6500 renminbi, or $1000.


I also met a very friendly lady on the bus back to the Putuo Campus. She works in the Accounting and is planning to run the Chicago Marathon in October. She also said that I must like vegetables because she thought I was very thin and look young for my age :). She gave me two more recommendations for food!


My meeting with the Graduate School didn't start until 2:30 p.m. so I had the morning to wander.

Zhong Shan Park

Jing'an Temple and Jade Buddha Temple seemed a lot like tourist traps, in my opinion. I walked to these two temples and they were so crowded, each with two tour buses out front so I decided to pass on actually entering the temples. The temples looked nice, and super old, but a few too many Westerners for my taste!

Suzhouhe Mengqing Garden

Park with people dancing

Two groups of people doing two very different movements. One was a rhythmic "Zumba"-type dancing and the other was methodical Tai Chi.

Entrance to Temple with stone lions

Entrance to the Jing'an Temple

Large concrete art piece

Concrete hill with a bunch of concrete planters. I really don't know what this is, but it's kinda cool.


Ummm, well, outside of breakfast and the cookies from Yvaine I'm not sure I ate today. I will have to remedy this tomorrow!

March 28, Wednesday


Today I spent the whole day at the Global Education Center with the International Students Office. They are mainly responsible for admission and student life/ campus activities for their international students. Is started with a quick introduction to the admissions team from Gang Wang, and then I was off to meet with the Student Activities team. I don't think I have missed being involved in student activities as much as I did today. My conversation with Joy Hao and Lucca were wonderful. They truly care about these students. ECNU international students are one lucky group.

So there are four staff members to run the student activities. They offer 13 organization and two sports teams that are designed specifically for the international students. Again, there are over 6000 international students from more than 60 countries. Most of the students are from Japan and Korea with about 500 students coming from America. Four staff members doesn't seem like enough to me. Their language and culture clubs are the most popular of the student organizations, and they are national champions in Soccer and Dragon Boat. Dragon Boat is like crew but with bigger boats, more rowers, drums, and flags.

I also sat in two separate ECNU international student information sessions. One for undergraduate students and one for graduate students. Many international students apply and receive the Chinese Government scholarship which covers tuition, room and board, health insurance, and pays a monthly stipend of 3000 RMB. Not a bad gig.


Nothing really new here. I was in meetings all day so when I was freed, I just walked a short distance and strolled through Changfeng Park, this time at dusk/night.

Pond with bridge in background

Just more of the beautiful ECNU campus.

Park with light and trees

Changfeng Park at night


Joy asked if I would join her for lunch today. This was perfect because I hadn't eaten today, and she was going to the faculty/ staff canteen which I hadn't been too yet. You grab your tray and walk down a long line of small plated foods. You just grab what you want, and somehow the machine at the end knows what you grabbed and displays what you owe. Tap your ID card on the sensor and away you go. There must have been 40 different options to choose from. I ended up with a chicken/mushroom/peppers in a brown sauce, an egg and some green vegetable slaw, rice, steamed egg with mango and watermelon, and yogurt. Joy also thought I use chopsticks well.

After my meetings, I headed over to Ellen's Bar. I had heard about it from a couple of students throughout the week as cool student hangout. I was underwhelmed. I mean the drinks were super cheap, so I guess it makes sense for students, but very limited food, dark, smoky, and the place was empty. Maybe it doesn't start hopping until later at night... and maybe I'm getting older.

Small lunch plates on a white tray

My choices for lunch today!

Darkly light bar room

Ellen's... meh

March 29, Thursday


No meetings today so I didn't meet anyone new.


My trip to Zhejiang University in Hangzhou is being canceled. There is a very important meeting between the ECNU President and several members of the Chinese government so the ECNU staff isn't available to take me to Hangzhou today.

So today is a free day for me.

There are just a few other things for me to check off the "Things To Do In Shanghai" list, so I'll try to do finish that up today.

I started out by hopping on the Metro and heading over to the Century Park in Pudong. It's a huge park situated around a lake and a number of small water features. This was actually the first park that I had to pay an admission fee (10RMB). There were a number of nice things about the park but nothing overly exciting to require an entrance fee. I think Pudong is a wealthier area so they can get away with the fee easier. It was definitely the largest park that I have visited though. I walked around the perimeter and it took me over two hours to complete. That doesn't include all of the interior trails.

After Century Park, I visited the AP Plaza (Fake Market) still in Pudong. It is a higher-quality knock-off market that isn't exactly legal but China seems to look the other way regarding it. I had a blast here. There were probably 40-ish different shops selling shoes, bags, watches, glasses, electronics, and on and on. I can see where this place could be uncomfortable for a lot of people. The sellers walk right up to you and almost usher you into their store. If you do go into their store, you'll probably end up buying something. Just make sure to haggle, and haggle hard. If nothing else it was worth the experience. I'd highly recommend this place.

I then jumped back on the Metro and headed to East Nanjing Rd and then to The Bund again. I wanted to see these placed on a nice sunny day, a holy moly was it busy! Far busier than Yvaine and my first trip. But this is still such a cool area. I'm glad I went back.

I walked over to the City of God Temple of Shanghai, and again so touristy, so I skipped it.

Yuyuan Gardens was the last stop today. I was really busy and touristy here as well, but I wanted to make sure that I went into the actual garden area. It was very nice and very old. I'm not sure why it's called a garden though, there's really nothing garden-ee about it. You walk through the main gate and you're on a stone path surrounded by water. There a number of small building, gazebos, and bridges to wander through. You will probably get lost because it all looks the same and is quite windy.

Also, today was the nicest day since I've been in Shanghai. I now have a solid "farmers tan" and tan lines where my watch lies.

Bonsai trees in planters

Cool little sections of various types of bonsai trees.

Oriental Pearl Tower

The Bund with the famous Oriental Pearl Tower

Yuyuan Gardens with rock structures and pond

Just inside the Yuyuan Gardens entrance.

Turns out this noodle and soup thing is pretty popular. I found a little shop outside of the Yuyuan Gardens area that had minimal English words but I could decipher it enough to order some food. I order the "with spicy egg" option, and I receive almost an identical bowl of soup as my other soup shop but with a spicy egg. I had to laugh at myself a little after this one. I think the broth may have been a bit different as it was darker and they were not joking with the spicy part. I liked it, but that would not be a popular spot for someone with a more sensitive palette. And the egg was not spicy just the broth. Go figure.

Noddle and egg soup

Does this not look identical to the other place!

March 30, Friday


Today I had a quick recap and farewell meeting with Wang Subin, Chen Ying, Yvaine, and Feiyi. These four have been the organizers and support for everything that I have done the past two weeks. Even through their exhaustive schedule, they were always available to chat or answer any questions that I had. They will always hold a special place in my memories of Shanghai.

I had a quick lunch with Wang Tongtong.

Group photo with ECNU staff

Wang Subin, me, Chen Ying, Feiyi, Yvaine!


Well, today was my last day exploring Shanghai and I still had a couple of things to check off my list. After lunch, I headed out on my daily walk. This may have been a mistake. Where I was headed was further than I had anticipated but it all worked out.

My first stop was another really pretty park with more water features. New Hongqiao Park is just another of seemingly thousands of wonderful little parks in Shanghai. This wasn't the largest of the parks that I visited, but still a great little spot to take a break from whatever you're doing.

Continuing on my walk, I stopped by Shanghai Stadium. This was one of the stadiums that were used for soccer during the 2008 Summer Olympics (Beijing). It was massive.

I then headed out toward the Longhua Temple but visited one of my favorite places while in Shanghai. It's going to sound a little strange but it is the Longhua Martyrs' Cemetery. It's not a cemetery in the sense that you might think, but more of a memorial park. It was gorgeous. And I think what made it gorgeous is that it was simple yet screamed with a deep respect for loved ones and country. There was a cascading water featured, several stone carvings of soldiers, and quiet gazebos for reflection and meditation. It is a place for peace in an otherwise bustling city.

I left the cemetery and headed to the Longhua Temple. Just another of the many temples but this one didn't have near the attractions of the other temples. There was just one towering spire with a few smaller one or two-room building. Simple.

New Hongqiao Park

New Hongqiao Park

Shanghai Stadium

Shanghai Stadium

Longhau Martyrs Cemetery

Longhau Martyrs Cemetery


Wang Tongtong and I headed over to Cloud Nine for a quick bite to eat. And, as tradition apparently, we ordered a ton of food. I'll try to remember what everything was but just look at all of that food!

We had some soup dumplings which is a pork dumpling with a little broth inside. Delicious but messy. Tofu, a rice pudding mixture, a spicy chicken, vegetable and beef taco things, a dumpling soup, and yams in a honey sauce. We also had the corn water that I had earlier in the week with Yvaine. I'm missing something I'm sure, but you get the point. Lots and lots of food.

Small plates of lunch food

Spicy Chicken in a small dish

Small plates of food for lunch

March 31, Saturday


Today, Chen Ying and I hopped on the bullet train and headed West to Suzhou for a tour of the city.



Suzhou is about a 45-minute train ride to the West of Shanghai. It's a bit touristy but has maintained a lot of the old china architecture.

Upon arriving, we walked down the original first road in Suzhou. There were a number of small family-owned shops, an opera theatre, karaoke from a balcony stage, river taxis, and a several couples find the perfect spot for some wedding photos. This part of Suzhou is very pretty.

The Suzhou Museum was like many of the other museums in Shanghai with a lot of ancient Chinese art, calligraphy, pottery, and sculptures. My favorite piece was the image below of the "mountains". Those are individually hand cut stones that when wet appear to be a charcoal drawing against the light background.

The Suzhou Gardens are often compared to the Yuyuan Gardens for being "must see" places near Shanghai. I'd say the Suzhou Gardens are nicer. The Suzhou Garden is quite a bit larger with more sculptures, defined garden spaces, and more water. There are fewer buildings but the buildings that are at Suzhou Gardens are filled with art and regional history. The Bonsai Garden was my favorite spot.

Stones in shape of mountain

Stone sculptures at Suzhou Museum

River Taxies in Suzhou

River taxies in Suzhou

Bonsai Tree

Bonsai Tree in the Suzhou Gardens


Again, we ate everything in sight, or at least I felt like we did. Here is what I can remember that we ate;

  • Scrambled egg with seasonal vegetables
  • Squirrel Fish with Sweet and Sour sauce
  • Tofu
  • A white fish soup
  • Mini dumpling soup
  • A seasonal spinach-like green vegetable
  • Soup dumplings
  • Head of Lion (pork meatball)
  • A green tea

Squirrel Fish with sauce

Squirrel Fish with Sweet and Sour sauce

Several small plates of food

White Fish Soup, Tofu, Eggs with Vegetables

Several small plates of lunch food

Soup Dumplings and Seasonal Vegetables

April 1, Sunday

Yifu Guest House --> Pudong Shanghai --> DTW (DL 582) --> GRR (DL 3587)