Coming from Australia, the first thing I noticed about Shanghai (or China, in general) was the sheer amount of people. To give people a sense of scale, there are 23 million people in Australia. There are 24 million in Shanghai alone.
I live out in state park, surrounded by green trees and the constant threat of wildfires or kangaroos blocking the road. I go out into Melbourne city on the weekends but not even that prepared me for the sheer enormity of buildings and the scale of population. I did spend my first couple of weeks adjusting by making frequent trips to parks and finding as much as a green as I could. Eventually I adjusted to the concrete jungle that was Shanghai and fell in love with the city.
In terms of the university, Shanghai University Yanchang campus is located on the most popular train line, right outside of an international plaza and just next to one of the best dumpling shops I've ever been to (more on that later). The classes run by USAC were fun, exciting and always a great time to practice Chinese. I was involved in the Intermediate Language, Tai Chi, and Chinese Politics class, all of which were led by great teachers. The dorms were American style (well according to the Americans) and really well furnished.
Bringing it back to food, nothing amazed me more than how cheap food was and how great it was. In the mornings, I would get up, take a short walk down the street to a food vendor and by a Jianbing (Chinese Pancake), which would cost me a dollar and fill me up for the morning. I did this every morning after I discovered this place. For lunch, I had the opportunity to get cheap food from the local cafeteria, or just down the straight at various food places around the university. For dinner, I would often journey into the CBD (downtown) with some of the other USAC students, and we would journey to hot pot, xiao long bao, yum cha, all types of restaurants. If we were feeling a little homesick, there were western style restaurants (including an amazing New York-style pizza joint) as well as starbucks and mcdonalds everywhere.
But food wasn't the only reason I travelled around. On some weekends I made trips around Shanghai or even to another province (Hangzhou was amazing!). USAC also provided many other travel opportunities, allowing me to go to Xi'an, Xitang and Yangzhou with USAC. China has two main holiday weeks, Spring Festival and Autumn Festival. Me and one other USACer spent our Autumn festival in the province of Chengdu, famous for pandas and spicy food. Travelling around China is a worthwhile experience and there is so much more when you are outside of Shangai!
All in all, the experience was amazing. Even those who didn't speak any Chinese when they first go to China were really good when they left and as someone who knew a bit the trip really helped me improve my language and my cultural understanding. I would recommend this journey to anyone and everyone, especially anyone interested in learning Chinese.