IFSA: 21st Century City

COVID-19 Program Updates

Due to global health & safety concerns and travel restrictions related to the coronavirus, Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA) has decided to offer flexible booking options for some of their upcoming programs. Learn more about COVID-19 updates to stay tuned regarding program information.

Video and Photos

Exploring the sand dunes around Qinghai lake on a group field trip!
Teaching my 3rd grade English class!
With classmates at Xintiandi
IFSA/Alliance: Shanghai
IFSA/Alliance: Shanghai
IFSA/Alliance: Shanghai
IFSA/Alliance: Shanghai


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.


IFSA Scholarships
IFSA Scholarships and Financial Aid

We believe that study abroad should be within reach of every student, so we offer a wide range of scholarships and funding opportunities for all our participants.

$500 - $2,500

Questions & Answers


8.83 Rating
based on 6 reviews
  • Academics 6.5
  • Support 9
  • Fun 8.7
  • Housing 8.7
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 1 - 6 of 6
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A Perfect Mix of Studies and Fun

My time in Shanghai was full of unique experiences and fun memories! It was the perfect mix of learning and adventure. Being able to explore the city while learning about the culture and history of China deepened and expanded my experience even more. The IFSA staff were supportive and always willing to help students navigate life in China. I had incredible opportunities like an internship with a local non-profit, an organized trip to western provinces, and guided adventures around the city to museums and other historical sites.

What would you improve about this program?
The classes are all with fellow American students - so you have to make an extra effort to find other creative ways to engage with the local students.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Developing Intercultural Agility in China

As a sociology student, I am constantly amazed by society and the varying cultures within a community. I was able to attend classes within the university district which also presented me with the ability to meet other international students. I was able to serve a non-profit organization as a grant writer which was one of the best parts of my time in China. My internship allowed me to meet so many people from all over China and our one-week field trip to Yünnan furthered my understanding of diversity in the country. There were several cultural activities including calligraphy and martial arts classes. My time abroad couldn't have been better rounded. I was learning about social structures in China, meeting people from different walks of life, and engaging with different cuisines, music, and cultural practices which gave me a holistic understanding of Shanghai/China. The program would not have been the same without all the support of the IFSA staff and our language teachers!

My study abroad experience has fueled my desire to continue learning Mandarin and aspirations of serving communities in need, both domestically and abroad while reemphasizing the value of intercultural agility.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Take advantage of all the opportunities to travel and see as much of Chian as possible! It's easy to get overwhelmed by being in a huge city, but there's so much that you wouldn't expect to see.

Best travels!
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
The Beijing director who we spent a week traveling with was not particularly kind or understanding.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

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?

What would you improve about this program?
Please see review above.