After a 90 minute flight from Changsha to Pudong International Airport, we finally touched down in our home for the next year. As we had gone through customs during our transfer at Changsha, it did not take long before we were sitting in the back of a taxi headed for our hotel for the night.
Arriving at our hotel, in the most populated city in the world, it was rather strange to notice that the surrounding streets were completely deserted whilst the apartment buildings in view had very few lights on. It was only 10pm and seemed odd that the entire population of Shanghai were already in bed – but apparently so?
The following morning, a short taxi ride later, we arrived at 57 Wudong Road (Fudan University International Student Dorms) to begin the checking in process. Having almost completed the mountain of admin required over the first few weeks, I can confirm that this was only the start of an incredibly stressful journey which I shall detail in a future post!
As a scholarship student I had been allocated a room, for free, in the supplementary buildings – each building consisting of 8 floors and 2 4-people flats on each floor. When given a choice of either a higher or lower floor, I deliberately requested a room on a higher floor – thinking that it may be my only form of exercise over the next year. I was allocated a room on floor 5 of building 8, although not before the lady carrying out registration double checked several times that I was okay being so high up without a lift. Whilst I’m aware that I have not gymmed all summer, I was rather offended by her assumption that I would not be able to walk up 5 flights of stairs every day. It was not until I was standing at the bottom of my stairs with 45kg of luggage that her concern made sense. Luckily Charlotte was on hand to help and I’m now just pleased that I’ll never have to haul so much stuff up these stairs again.
Whilst my bedroom was in pretty decent condition, the communal area was a bit of a state, the fridge full of mould, floors dirty and kitchen table piled high with miscellaneous items and a note explaining that someone would be back to collect it soon – ideal. Luckily the previous tenant collected her stuff a few days later and my lovely Korean flatmate, Hayley, organised a visit from the cleaners!
Before there was too much time to settle, I met back up with the Exeter lot to make the first (of 3 within 24) trek up to Walmart, in the pouring rain, in order to buy the room essentials that we could not bring from home (bedding, cleaning products, bin etc.). Also on my shopping list was a washing basket so I grabbed one before heading to the checkout. Arriving back at my dorm to set up my room, it took me almost 20 minutes of trying to assemble my washing basket to realise that it was in fact a washing machine cover – just what I needed.
Later that evening we all headed to a small restaurant just down the road from the international dorms. With over half the group vegetarian, and thanks to our attempts to say wǒ men bù chī ròu (we don’t eat meat), we were served boiled rice with shredded potato (think undercooked oven chips soaked in oil). It tasted okay but was nothing special and certainly nothing like anything we’d had from a Chinese takeaway back home.
Despite our meal being rather underwhelming, spotting a bucket filled with barely-alive turtles on our way out meant that us vegetarians were just pleased that our attempts to speak in Chinese had not been too far lost in translation.
Despite being exhausted from travelling and beginning to settle in, my insanely uncomfortable mattress (which is made of corkboard and is no more than 2 inches thick) meant that that I was lucky enough to watch the sunrise from my balcony, before I’d even gone to sleep. A trip to Ikea to buy a mattress topper was promptly added to my list of things to do the following day.