IFSA/Alliance: 21st Century City

Video and Photos


In the last century Shanghai has experienced exponential growth from its origins as a colonial trading port to a bustling international metropolis and global financial hub. Shanghai as a 21st century city also represents the enormous environmental, economic, and social challenges that are mirrored regionally, nationally and globally. With a rapidly growing population, rising lifestyle expectations, and continuing industrial production, Shanghai serves as an ideal location to explore questions of sustainability and urbanization.

The program center is located on the campus of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE). You will live in shared apartments with local Chinese university students. A week-long field study trip to regions such as Yunnan or Qinghai will allow you to explore China’s social, economic, and geographic diversity.

Questions & Answers


based on 4 reviews
  • Academics 6.8
  • Support 9
  • Fun 8.5
  • Housing 8.5
  • Safety 9
Showing 1 - 4 of 4
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Phenomenal Staff, Good Program.

First, I participated in this program when it was at Fudan, and was a more general language and culture program, but this seems to be the current incarnation of it. My third day there I was diagnosed with acute appendicitis, and had to have emergency surgery, alone, thousands of miles away from home. I was terrified and overwhelmed. The resident director, despite having a large group of students under his charge, stayed by my side that whole first evening when I was in pain and when I went into surgery. He eased my mother's fears over the phone. He came everyday to keep me company in the hospital while I recovered, and made sure that I was incorporated into the group when I was discharged. I was so touched by the personal attention and care the staff showed toward me and my family. It inspired me.

Otherwise, the program was pretty good. The language class was challenging and always in the target language. My chinese improved significantly. The culture classes were interesting, but sometimes tended toward really long lectures (one on Friday afternoons). Still I learned a great deal. The trips, especially to western China along the Silk Road were transformative. How else would I have had the opportunity to see the Dunhuang caves, or talk to a Kazakh gentleman in Chinese about American politics?

Overall, I have no regrets at all about participating in this program. It was fantastic and I highly recommend it.

How can this program be improved?
My only suggestion would be to help students find ways to interact with the city around them. Especially in Shanghai, it sometimes felt like there was a wall around me, and that the only chance I had to interact was to order milk tea or food at a restaurant.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Livin' the dream

My favorite part about this program is that you are given a Chinese roommate - mine became a very close friend, and hanging out with her improved my Chinese skills more than anything else could have!

I loved this study abroad program so much that I returned the following summer to intern in Shanghai - and all of my closest friends that summer were people who had studied with the Alliance the semester AFTER me! We didn't overlap at all, but the Chinese roommates were the same the whole year and connected us, creating a half-Chinese half-foreign social group that was the thing that made my summer great.

How can this program be improved?
The academic challenge of the courses wasn't as high as I was used to, but it gives students the opportunity to study what interests them and explore the city.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Yunan & Roommate Praise

The most memorable experience I had from my time in China was the study trip we took to Yunan, China. The Alliance provided me with access to places I don't think I would have been able to find myself. I LOVED living with a Chinese student, too. She always spoke to us in Chinese and was very very willing to help whenever I had problems. I really enjoyed my time with the Alliance and have recommended it to many other students interested in studying language.

How can this program be improved?
The Beijing director who we spent a week traveling with was not particularly kind or understanding.
Yes, I recommend this program
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China will change your life perspective

Shanghai definitely is the best example of a global city. There is evidence of foreign influence while still retaining traditional Chinese culture.
Even though my program was not centrally located in the downtown/business central of Shanghai, the public transportation system was accessible and incredibly affordable for a college student.

21st Century program is located in a residential area between SUFE and Fudan university. The area that I lived in catered to international student's tastes, but there was the quintessential late-night food vendors selling all sorts of delicious chinese street food.

I enjoyed my time in this program because even though this is a program for international study abroad students, we lived in a neighborhood that forced us to interact with Chinese locals in their mother tongue. We were encouraged and pushed to speak in Chinese, whether or not we signed a language contract. My level of Chinese increased exponentially by the end of four months. In the beginning, I was incredibly uncomfortable speaking chinese to anyone besides my teachers and my roommates. But by my last couple of weeks in Shanghai, I was able to carry on a conversation with locals and understand directions, even though sometimes they had a heavy accent. We had many opportunities to immerse ourselves in Chinese culture and to get out of our comfort zones.

The highlight of the program was the study trip to the autonomous region of China, Yunnan providence. We learned about minority groups in China and how their culture differed from the Han Chinese. We traveled in rural areas, observing another face of China outside of the city.

I would have to say, an area that can be improved on for this program is finding more opportunities for alliance students to interact with non-alliance program chinese students. Even though there were club fairs which all were encouraged to go to, I felt like there was not enough facilitation for interaction. A suggestion would be to maybe have an Alliance - sponsored/supported club on a Chinese University might be able to create a foundation for this?

How can this program be improved?
Please see review above.
Yes, I recommend this program


Meet the Alumni

About Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA)

The Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1988. Our primary goal is to provide quality study abroad opportunities, plus academic and personal support services, for qualified North American undergraduates seeking to...