IES Abroad's Shanghai Economy, Business & Society program is an incredible opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and learn about yourself, the rest of the world, and how the global environment is shaped by students and travelers. I had a wonderful experience in Shanghai with IES Abroad. The excellent staff are part of what makes this program so wonderful. The program includes plenty of time to travel independently and explore Shanghai, but there are also plenty of excursions with the cohort that immerse you in Chinese culture and bond you together.
From visiting nearby cities to ancient water-towns or learning about traditional Chinese medicine, there is plenty of exposure to the rich and diverse Chinese culture and landscape. This is an abroad program unlike any other. You aren't going to Europe to stay comfortable with Western practices and retain the ability to navigate with English. In this program, you're going to learn Mandarin (and some Shanghai-dialect Chinese!) no matter what your language level is on arrival. Students who came in as intermediate speakers of Mandarin left with advanced proficiency, and students who had never studied before left with the ability to comfortable navigate the city, ask for directions, order food, shop (and haggle) and so much more. This is a truly valuable experience because no matter your intent to return to Asia, you are learning about a part of the world that will undeniably contrast what you're familiar with, and you will grow from that exposure.
During a school break I was able to travel to several cities in China and hike through the world's deepest river gorge, into a mountain range in Western China. Travel and accommodation is accessible and inexpensive, especially compared to Europe or North America. For the budget-minded traveler who wants to get the most out of a semester abroad, China is the place to go, and IES Shanghai EBS is the program to choose. Our living arrangements were fantastic - clean and modern service apartments right in downtown Shanghai. This meant that the commute to classes was short, but we also lived within a 10-15 minute walk from some of the most bustling sites. Museums, restaurants, art galleries, bars, malls, markets. Everything is accessible. American students I met through classes at Fudan University who were enrolled in other exchange programs were much less fortunate in their housing placement - they had to commute a considerable way to get to any night life or daytime attractions, and this made their experience less enjoyable. They were restricted by their location and thus couldn't fit as many activities into their time abroad. Shanghai Economy, Business & Society has no such problem.
Part of the program was a week-long trip to Seoul, South Korea, where we experienced a completely different variety of Asian culture. Having free time in South Korea to explore and understand some of the nuanced differences between Chinese and Korean culture despite the underlying similarities from Confucianism was extremely rewarding.
The Asia-Pacific region is one of the most geographically, culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse regions in the world. By virtue of studying there, you have the liberty to travel and visit parts of the world you may otherwise never get the chance to. I couldn't recommend this program more strongly.