Big Apple vs. Small Shanghai

On the left is a room in Coral Tower Residence Hall in New York; on the right is a room in a residence hall of NYU Shanghai.

As my third week at NYU Shanghai approaches, I’m thankful to have finally settled into a routine, familiarized myself with the best eats nearby and stopped getting lost around campus. NYU Shanghai consists of exactly one academic building — you’d think getting lost wouldn’t be an issue, but with 17 levels and elevators that only stop at certain floors, getting lost is a lot easier than you’d think.

Coming into NYU Shanghai, I knew there was only one building and I’d heard that many students found the environment eerily similar to high school. On the bright side, I’d also heard how close you get with friends in such a tight environment and how, despite the smaller size of the campus, the city of Shanghai has so much to offer that it really doesn’t feel like you’re missing out on the big city atmosphere.

I was so excited about everything I wanted to do in Shanghai that I didn’t consider how the extremely small community might affect me. It turned out to be a shock during the first week of classes when I found myself continuously seeing the same people. It felt odd staying in one building throughout the entire day. There’s a large department store nearby that my friends and I frequent for lunch or dinner, a small jianbing cart (Chinese street food equivalent of a crepe)  and FamilyMart — think 7-Eleven — next to the school, but besides that, the majority of our time is spent at the academic building.

The academic building is located in Pudong — what is considered the heart of Shanghai’s commercial center. The area is far less busy than I’d expected. In NYC, once you step out of Silver or Stern, you’re surrounded by multitudes of students, professionals and tourists. Once you step out of the NYU Shanghai building, you’re surrounded instead by trees and a few tall buildings along with the occasional passerby.


Most of the classes are small and discussion based. There are a few large lectures, but NYU Shanghai seems to really value small community learning. There are classrooms located on every floor and lounges as well. My friends and I have found that empty classrooms function as great study spaces. That way, we have lots of room and don’t bother anyone if we want to talk.

In terms of the dorms, I initially settled into a really nice apartment-style double in NYU Shanghai’s newest residential building: Pusan Road. However, two weeks later I moved into NYU Shanghai’s longest-running housing option, Jinqiao, mainly for convenience. I do miss my room in Pusan Road, it was really spacious and had queen beds! While the only cooking option is the communal kitchen on the second floor, the building promises a gym — which isn’t finished— and the price range is quite similar to that of Jinqiao for what I would actually consider a better option.

In Jinqiao, the housing options are all suites, with two standard doubles and one large double. The perk of the large double is, obviously, more space, but it also has its own bathroom. Each suite also has a washer and dryer, and of course a kitchen, making it a pretty standard dorm room. The only inconvenience to me was the building’s location and lack of immediate access to the metro. Shanghai is not like New York City in that everything is easily accessible by walking or subway. Everything I needed in the Big Apple was only a few minutes away, but in Shanghai, getting to many places besides the academic building or my dorm room can take up to an hour or more.

While my third week of classes has yet to start, I’m finding myself growing accustomed to this new environment — no matter how different it is compared to New York. There is definitely a high-school-like vibe here, but I’m realizing that isn’t such a bad thing. I am beginning to really appreciate the small community atmosphere and am excited to see what Shanghai has to offer.


Email Amy Qi at [email protected]



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