View of the skyline by night.

Arriving in a new and foreign country is fascinating and exciting. But it can also be unnerving and strange. Luckily, for the first few days TEAN has everything covered. That way you can ease into your new life abroad without worrying too much. Here are 5 parts of orientation that I found most beneficial during my orientation in Shanghai.

1. Instant Friends

Right after your first step out of the airport exit, you will meet the other program member, with whom you will probably spend some of the best time of your life. You will have classes with them, range through the city with them and explore China on TEAN’s guided excursions or trips of your own. But during orientation the best thing is that you are all in the same boat. The culture shock, the food, the communication problems, during those days we shared it all. You can look forward to collecting experiences and memories together right from the start.

Several tourists took the same picture of us. We were surrounded by cameras when we took this group shot.

2. A Smooth Arrival

After spending hours on a plane, possibly transferring in some random airport somewhere in the world, the last thing you want to worry about is what to do after the arrival in Shanghai, especially if you have never been to China before. I was very glad that TEAN gathered us all in the airport and arranged a bus to take us to the hotel. For the first days you will be living in a hotel, in order to explore some of the typical tourist attractions of Shanghai. After orientation you will also be taken to your apartments by bus.

Boat tour on the huangpo river (stunning view) during our trip to the water town Zhouzhuang.
Boat tour on the huangpo river (stunning view) during our trip to the water town Zhouzhuang.

3. Learning to Get Around 

While we did take the bus to some of the sight seeing attractions, we also used the metro a lot to get around. TEAN will hand you a metro card with enough money on it to get around during orientation and a few trips afterwards. The Shanghai metro is the longest subway in the world, covering 548 km. Learning how to navigate this useful transportation system will make you feel much more independent and ready to take on Shanghai on your own. I was also pleasantly surprised that the announcements are in both Chinese and English.

Getting around the city.

4. Phone and SIM card

We received a phone and a local SIM card directly from TEAN. That way we could communicate with our new friends and call our residence director with questions or in cases of emergency. The phones provided by TEAN are certainly no smart phones. But even with limited Chinese skills it was easy to have the card cut down in size, so that it fit into an android or IPhone. Being able to make and receive calls made me feel much more secure while walking around Shanghai alone.

5. Introduction to New Foods

During orientation TEAN paid for all main meals. I hardly spent any money on food the first few days. We always ate lunch and dinner in different places, and therefore got to explore many different styles and dishes of the Shanghai and general Chinese cuisine. Trying the food was definitely an adventure. I advise you to keep an open mind with food and just try everything you can. Eating tofu and a type of sea grass made me truly realize that I was actually in China and to me that is one of the best feelings.

So many new things to try and so little stomach room.
So many new things to try and not enough stomach room.

Of course there are more great things about the TEAN Orientation. But the ones listed above made the transition into China very smooth. I was able to enjoy all the great sites we visited a lot more, because I didn’t have things to worry about. So when you will stand on a cruise boat looking upon the breathtaking skyline of Shanghai just like I did, the only thing on your mind will be the joy of being in this beautiful city and on this amazing adventure.

Katharina Gruenewald is a student at the Iowa State University and a TEAN Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with TEAN in Shanghai, China.