New School News

Notes from Shanghai: Students Reflect on Studying Abroad

Photo courtesy of Lei Ping.

Photo courtesy of Lei Ping.

This summer, Professor Lei Ping led a new summer study abroad program in Shanghai, China. A team of 14 students from The New School entered this intensive five-week program, in which they studied Mandarin Chinese, calligraphy, Chinese painting, and paper cutting. In addition to class time, students engaged in fieldwork, sightseeing, and excursions in cities including Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Nanjing.

“I wanted to do the program mostly because of how frightened of China I had been taught to be. My mother is a Cold War child, (…) even today the US media doesn’t exactly portray China well,” said Alexandra Manuso, Liberal Arts student at NSPE. “The best solution seemed, to me, to spend some time there and see for myself what the place was like.” Fortunately, Alexandra’s experience in China was not frightening at all. “I was surprised at how patient strangers were with us while we stumbled through our Chinese, and how excited many of them seemed to be to meet a Westerner.”

Adrienne Santamaria, Literary Studies student at Lang, attended the program largely to improve her language skills. “I feel that my Chinese has improved immensely,” said Adrienne. ”I think the highest point of my trip was when I told Lei that I would be transferring into the advanced class, which meant that I was skipping a level.” When asked what stuck with her the most, Alexandra said, “Xiuxi means break! We heard xiuxi every day in class, and finally, on the fifth week, it started to sink in. I don’t know why that one took us so long.”

Ultimately, both students were enthusiastic about the program. “I can’t stress enough how great an experience this was,” said Alexandra. “I would absolutely go back right now, if you asked me,” said Adrienne. “There is no substitute for experiencing another culture first hand.”

The China summer program is open to undergraduate students from across the university. Students who participate in the program take two courses: one Chinese language course (in Chinese, three credits), and one urban cultural studies course (in English, three credits). Students who are interested in studying in China next summer should contact Professor Lei Ping (

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