In the Heart of Shanghai

Our first week in Shanghai has been a great experience. I was very impressed with the house that we rented, although, from the outside, it looked less than inviting. Overall, the amenities have been very good, and basically what I expected (and what I would expect in a country of China’s level). The neighborhood where we are located has been interesting as well. It is close to the large shopping areas, the old French colonial quarter, and the famous Shanghai skyline. The biggest surprise for me with our house (and buildings here in general) is the lack of centralized AC in a place that has proven to be relatively humid. Most buildings rely on fans, or nothing at all. In fact, there have been several days where the outside temperature has been a lot more pleasant than the air inside due to the lack of ventilation. This tends to give me the impression that I am outside and exposed to the elements regardless of whether I am outdoors or not. Overall, this isn’t a huge issue, but something that strikes me most times that I leave the United States.

One other surprising thing I’ve noticed is how little English the locals speak. Is not that I expect people to speak English in the countries where I travel, but it has been inevitably true in most other places. And, I don’t mean that  speaking English is meant purely to cater to Americans, but English more generally acts as an intermediary language between most international travelers that I have encountered. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, and in most business settings, it still seems like English is understood and accepted. However, it does act as a reminder to not expect anything when travelling abroad, and to be as well prepared as possible so that you are not left fumbling in the event of a minor road block. In other words, it’s important to consciously plan for all the ancillary day-to-day tasks that are outside of the strictly business-related activities that we are here to work on.

More generally, this boils down to the importance of being flexible – something that I have grown to embrace during my time at Fisher in general. It has been the most noticeable when working in groups and trying to coordinate schedules with teammates who all lead busy lives. A big part of adjusting to this has been limiting procrastination, which has been a common indulgence of mine in the past. By doing work immediately as it comes up, it is a lot easier for me to be flexible with meeting times and project deliverables because most of my preparation is complete ahead of time. And, that takeaway continues to serve me well both in the classroom and outside of it.