According to Gancheva, the most interesting part of Shanghai was the richness and diversity of the culture, both traditional and modern. "The most exciting thing about Shanghai is the striking contrast between the old and the new, the traditional and the global," she said. "Shanghai is an amazing place where changes happen quickly: the ultra-modern future coexists with ancient culture and traditions." Taiwanese-American student Alex Wang, NYUAD Class of 2014, agrees. "I'm dumbfounded by the confluence of history and modernity in this city," he said. "China differs significantly from the version of the country portrayed by my parents — who are ardent supporters of Taiwanese independence — and the Western media."
The NYUAD students — as well as two NYU New York students — took classes at East China Normal University and were housed in the international dorms alongside other Chinese students. While taking a course entitled Shanghai: The City and the Environment, taught by NYU Shanghai director Mingzheng Shi, Gancheva, Wang, and their fellow students had the opportunity to take a day trip to Beijing and visit the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, as well as try some new cuisine. Gancheva tried Beijing duck, but unlike some of her fellow students, passed on the scorpions. For Wang, the food was one of the best parts of the trip. "Roasted yams were by far my favorite; they're sold by the kilo and are five to six times are large as the yams I find in the States; spicy bullfrog and corn-flavored ice cream were both close seconds!"
Thinking about NYU's hopes to open a portal campus in Shanghai, Wang said, "There's a dynamism and vitality here that I've never felt in any other city. Shanghai has the potential to be the next creative capital of the world."
For Bulgarian student Darina Gancheva, NYUAD Class of 2014, studying in Shanghai, China, for NYU Abu Dhabi's January Term was a dream come true. "I have never been outside of Europe or the UAE, so this was a really exciting opportunity."