Hmmm…so here I am back in the People’s Republic a little shy under a year after I made my big exit in 2008. Unlike my previous sojourns, I’m basing out of Shanghai and I’m not working (yay) but nor am I pulling in a nice salary (booo). I’m at Fudan University on exchange. Actually, exchange is a rather poor description given that I don’t have a counterpart Fudan student in my place back at Queen’s. Visiting graduate student, perhaps?
After being (for lack of a better term) "dumped" at the doorstep of the foreign student residence at 9pm in evening last Saturday night, the logistics have slowly come together over the past few days. Aside from the supervising professors and the Queen’s liaison officer, I don’t think anyone was really informed that we would be arriving. The graduate and undergraduate students in our office had a look of utter bewilderment when we arrived and still can’t seem to figure out why two urban planning students are inhabiting office space at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity Science(although there is a GIS lab next door). The connection is rather vague, but it is there. This institute apparently does quite a bit of work on the effects of urbanization on surrounding natural environments, and this is where initial relationship was developed (around 10 or so years ago…so I’m told). The bond is high-level academic and I feel that it is largely used as a networking and opportunity tool based upon the far-reaching names of the two universities. From a student perspective, the happenings over at the urban planning and architecture school at Tongji University are slightly more enticing given the common field. Unfortunately, I feel that students feed off one another, especially in China where the professor relationship can be quite formal and hierarchical. I know little about genetics and my officemates know little about planning in Shanghai which doesn’t bone well for cross-office banter and discussion.
However, that said, I still believe this is going to be a good exchange. A lot of the responsibility to get out, learn, observe and network is placed upon me and that is sometimes the best way to discover productivity. Fudan also represents an entirely new angle of China for me where I find myself surrounded by high calibre research, minds and people that counter much of the common (and somewhat earned) stereotypes regarding China.
…There is also a fantastic view of Lujiazui (Pudong CBD) from the south side of the foreign student residence. Utterly amazing at night.