Alumni Spotlight: Max Leblanc


Max Leblanc is a 21-year-old dual French and American citizen who grew up in New Jersey and is currently an undergraduate student at Skidmore College. He is studying International Affairs and Biology and interned in Shanghai.

Describe a goal you set and how you went about accomplishing it:

One of the goals I had set for myself before I left for Shanghai was making as much of an effort as I could to apply the Chinese I learned at University of Melbourne. I really wanted to integrate into Chinese culture as much as I could rather than being just a tourist. In the beginning of my experience in Shanghai, I was a little intimidated to speak Chinese because I was afraid people would not understand my pronunciation.

However, as I started to meet new people especially at work, I started to learn more words and improve my pronunciation. This gave me more confidence to speak in public like at shopping malls when I need to get a size for clothing or ordering something on a menu. Being able to communicate better makes want to continue to improve my Chinese vocabulary even if I’m not in China.

Tell us about an experience that you had that you could not have had at home:

One experience that I have had in China that I certainly could not have in France or America is the traditional Chinese cultural experience. For example, Tea is an integral part of Chinese history that emperors regarded as crucial for physical and mental health. I was walking in Yu Garden, which is an area of Shanghai to visit old Chinese temples, eat some local food, and buy some silk products.

As I was strolling along, 3 Chinese students approached me asking questions about myself. A couple minutes later, I was walking with them because they wanted to take me to a traditional tea ceremony. Going inside a private room, a woman was showing and explaining different types of tea to me and their various effects to the human body and mind. The woman also washed the teacup after introducing each type of tea. I was able to taste the best fruit tea of my life, which was a splendid red colour.

I was even able to take some fruit tea home with me after the ceremony. This experience was unique because not only did I learn about tea practices; I was able to meet local students. It is isn’t common to see other people my age just approach me like that in France or America and was a wonderful moment.

What was the best place you visited outside your intern abroad city?

My favorite city outside my intern city was Hangzhou. I would say I even liked it more than Shanghai. I went to Hangzhou to visit my friend from my university in America. It was a beautiful city surrounded by green hills and mountains. It had a national park with a lake in the centre. My friend and I rented bikes for the day and we were able to explore the entire park.

I saw lotus flowers for the first time and also the Broken Bridge that is a historic bridge of Hangzhou. One thing I really liked about Hangzhou was the people. I found that they were a lot friendlier than Shanghai. It seems that life had less pressure and people valued their leisure time more. I also like it because there was lest foreign influence than Shanghai.

I loved the local food like fresh grilled fish on a stick coming directly from the lake. I also really loved the way people dress. Women dress quite elegantly with a summer dress, high heels, and a sun umbrella.

Where was your best photo taken and what was it of?

My best photo taken was in GufuBao village in Hebei province about 2 hours south of Beijing. It’s a picture of myself with one of the little girls in the school at the village site. She certainly made me smile, as I was so happy to make an impact at her school.

This photo was very meaningful because it taught me how much of a difference in gap there is between children who live in the large coast cities like Shanghai and those that live in a rural village. This photo also taught me about what’s important in life and how fortunate I was to be able to travel thousands of kilometers to help children in need.

Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad:

There are so many delicious foods to eat in Shanghai and I highly encourage everyone to try foods they cannot eat in their home country. For drinks, China has incredible watermelon juice, banana milk, coconut milk, tea, and milk tea with pearls. They are all very refreshing especially during the summer when the humidity of China is quite high.

For foods, China has great tasting bread for meals and/or snacks especially pork floss bread and sausage bread. In addition, food from Xinjiang province, which is noodles with beef, peppers, and onions, are delicious. Xinjiang restaurants are all around Shanghai and are definitely worth the search.