Going to Shanghai was a great experience, but the program itself was not as good as I expected. Like many people I usually read a lot of reviews before deciding which program to choose and the reviews for TEAN were great. There are two summer programs for you to choose from: 5-week or 10-week. You will find that those who went on the 5-week program were generally satisfied with their experience, while those who went on the 10-week program many have been less happy. I went on the 10-week program. I don't want to waste your time so I will get down to the review. Based on my experience I will assess the pros and cons of the program only (This is not a review of Shanghai):
+On-site staff: The staff was so helpful and friendly with all of us. She took people to the doctor if they were sick and she always checked in with us to make sure we had no problems. She was one of the best parts of the program.
+ Service activity: The community service activity was a wonderful experience! Our activity involved teaching migrant children English for one week. Despite having to wake up early in the morning to go see them, I enjoyed every minute of the activity, I only wish it was longer that one week. The school was about an hour away but it really took you away from the bustling city of Shanghai into a more rural part. THIS IS THE SINGLE REASON I DON'T REGRET CHOOSING TEAN.
+ People: As with many study abroad programs, you got to meet so many people from different countries. TEAN organized some activities so you could get to know one another.
+ Living: Being able to live in a dormitory at Fudan University then living in a typical apartment was great! You were given the rare opportunity to live as a student then live as a local.
Cons: (Please be aware that this is just my experience, others may be different)
- Off-site staff: I am most annoyed with the off-site staff based in Chicago. I contacted him fairly early in my decision process and, although they were friendly and fast at replying, I got little information from them. So despite fast replies getting the actual useful answer is a long process, it felt like pulling teeth. And some of the information I did receive was wrong, therefore was useless to me. Towards the end of the program I, as well as my house mates, were very annoyed that they seemed to avoid/prolong replying us until we had to call him. Here are some examples (quite long, sorry):
- When trying to choose my classes for the program I was given an old list of classes. Some of the classes I got approved by my home university adviser were no longer applicable so I had to redo the whole process.
- Giving information very late: We received an email advising us to buy our plane tickets, without giving us actual days when we should arrive. One week after I bought my ticket I received another email saying only some people would be provided free pickup from the airport, despite the website saying free pickup as part of their package. I along with a few others did not receive free pick up. I have never been out of the country so I emailed him expressing my concern, and he just told me to take a taxi or the subway! I had a tough time getting to school. The same thing happened at the end of the program, luckily I expressed my concern to the ON-SITE staff instead and I was given the appropriate accommodations.
- I was given a visa for 60 days although I would be staying longer. I do not travel much so I was not sure if this was correct. He assured me that every student got 60 days and it was standard. When I got to China I found that many people actually got a 90 day pass. I had to get out of the country or else I had to pay around USD$100 to renew my visa (as some others had to do). Although this may have been out of his control I felt I could not trust him, as he seemed to find a quick solution to a problem (even if he did not know the answer) without actually fixing the problem.
- The apartment we were given was significantly worse than others on the program. Appliances were broken and rooms were small. It was clear that it was a last minute solution. The way the situation was handled was horrible. When we complained the only attempt to solve the problem was to add a microwave into the kitchen. After numerous complaints, we got some monetary compensation.
- Even after the program ended I still had to deal with stuff. My home university informed me that Fudan only awards 2 credits for each class, not the 3 credits as advertised on the website. I also emailed him before I enrolled on the program in which he assured me that I would receive 3 credits per. When I and my university emailed him about the problem, he pretty much said "there is nothing I can do about it". We were both displeased by this answer. The website STILL advertised 3 credits!
Regardless of the cons, it was an overall once-in-a-lifetime experience. TEAN's accommodations were good to some not others. I thoroughly enjoyed living in Shanghai and the on-site staff made everything easy. But it was getting to Shanghai that caused me the most headaches due to the staff based in the US, as I had problems before and after I was in Shanghai.
Definitely go to Shanghai! But make sure you look at all your options before make a decision. I have no regrets but I really wish some situations were handled better. Thankfully, the pros outweigh the cons. If TEAN can better prepare their staff in the US then this program is worth it. If not, then please give it some thought before you commit to a program. Whatever you choose, I hope you enjoys your time in Shanghai!