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11 posts categorized "Nicole Eigbrett "


End of Term

As I sit here and try to reflect on my 15 weeks spent in Shanghai with CIEE, the strongest phrase that comes to mind is too fast.  I've studied abroad before, but I forgot how life-changing it can be.  I was walking slowly through the neighborhood today, and I realized how much I'm going to miss this crazy city.  CIEE has a solid program here, and I look forward to sharing it with future students from St. Lawrence that decide to take the leap to China.  

Studying in Shanghai has brought new life to my desire to learn Chinese, in between an insanely generous host family, enthusiastic 老师们, friends at East China Normal (Chinese and foreign alike), and the confidence I have gained in navigating life in China.  No doubt, it's tiring at times; I'm not used to cities (let alone the largest in the world), there are cultural quirks I will perhaps never be used to, and I am constantly reminded about the power of language.  

Although my experience in Shanghai is coming to a close, my adventure in China is not even close to being over; I'm taking the bullet train north tomorrow to Beijing!  I've acquired an internship at The China Foundation Center and will be living there for the summer, probably until the last week of August.  I'm thrilled to have another perspective of Chinese culture, continue practicing my language skills, gain professional experience, and dig into a new city.  As much as I miss home, I wouldn't stay here if I didn't like it!


Thursday night my Chinese class invited our teachers out to Mexican food!  Granted, we've all had better, but I thoroughly enjoyed the endless chips and salsa with my sizzling vegetable fajita.  The idea was inspired by my one teacher who didn't know what tacos were-- something as being a North American, I totally take for granted!  I've had such a good experience learning with them and it motivated me to study harder and speak more.  They also said that we have also helped them learn about Chinese culture.  I'm really going to miss this class!

Photo 1
Yesterday was an afternoon full of CIEE photo-taking, the graduation ceremony (in which I was a M.C.), then a ritzy dinner on the 26th floor of the Renaissance Hotel at the Cloud 9 shopping mall.  The high-end buffet was such a treat, and I definitely should have eaten that much!  This is a photo of us 10 students from St. Lawrence University that studied in Shanghai this semester.

Photo 2
My host mom and younger brother.  My host grandma didn't attend, but she has been such an integral member of my Shanghai experience as well.  I can't articulate how thankful I am to them.

I appreciate you readers for visiting my posts, sporadic as they have been.  I guess my job with CIEE is done, although if you're interested in continuing to read my writings, I have a personal blog as well:

And with that, I bid you 祝好,再见!

艾瑞尼可 Nicole L. Eigbrett


Thai Travels and Shanghai Shenanigans

Perhaps my hiatus from blogging is connected to denial.  This happens every semester, particularly when abroad: it all goes by too quickly.  I thought that four straight weeks of class following our independent spring breaks would be bad, but here I am scrambling to hold my life in Shanghai together before the imminent June 9th departure.

Backing up a bit, spring break began on May 3rd.  I spent nine days in Thai paradise!  We flew to the capital of Bangkok for a few days, which is a beautiful city.  Then, we rode 3 hours and took a speed boat to an island in the Gulf of Thailand called Koh Samet.  I am proud to say that in those five days, we took complete advantage of the effervescent waters, endless sun, mangoes, coconuts, and hot, humid heat -- meaning, we didn't move far beyond lounging on the beach.  I truly welcomed the break from the city though, because life in Thailand is much calmer.  From my brief experience, I also had friendlier interactions with the people, who smiled often and were always happy to talk.  I won't lie, we were bummed to leave our island paradise and return to the student life of our program.  No doubt, I'd love to return Thailand and continue this beautiful land.


The view from our hotel room in Bangkok-- 33 floors up!  The city scape isn't as immense as Shanghai, but man was it nice to see blue skies and clouds.

Photo May 05, 9 43 31
Of course we needed toride elephants! :)

Yup, Koh Samet had that "this can't be real" vibe; too wonderful! 

Photo May 08, 10 24 12 (1)

Photo May 10, 19 45 15 (1)

Fortunately, Shanghai warmed up by the time we came back.  Like, a lot.  This isn't even the blunt of the humidity, but the mosquitoes are definitely an issue.  In spite of some ideas thrown around, I actually haven't travelled outside the city in the last two weekends because I'm running out of the money, and I really wanted to make sure that when I left, I would not have any unexplored places and experiences.

Photo May 18, 0 46 20
The live music scene in Shanghai isn't crazy, but smaller venues have featured a lot of North American groups.  We went to see Wye Oak, an indie rock/folk due from Baltimore!

Peng Yous on the Bund
A bunch of us dressed up and blew some big money eating on The Bund, but it's amazing that you can be in college but still have world-class experiences (image courtesy of Matt).

We toured The Bund one day, ducking in and out of the immense neo-colonial buildings that proudly fly the Chinese flag.. and then it clicked again: Shanghai really is a unique, fascinating city.  There is always so much going on!  This week I've somewhat sacrificed my exploring for the sake of pushing through work (final exams are next week), which is difficult because I dislike missing out on events.  Some of my 朋友们 have already left are continuing to depart early in order to start their summer internships back in the U.S.!  I've had the time of my life and I guess all I can do is make sure these last days are the best they can be.

I'm playing in an ultimate frisbee tournament this weekend, out in the northeast suburbs of Shanghai at the rugby stadium off of Wuzhou Avenue.  It's promised to be one of, if not the, best and wildest tournaments in Asia!  I already took a weekend earilier in the semester for a tournament in Ningbo, and I'll resume my status as a Hangzhou team member (complicated story but basically, Shanghai's team already has enough ladies).  Playing ultimate has been a solo venture of mine this semester, and it's allowed me to feel connected with my team back at St. Lawrence, while also immersing into a really cool group of ex-pats and Chinese players.  No one else in CIEE plays with the Shanghai league, but at least there's still next week to be with everyone.  That's another thing I learned about going abroad: you can't be afraid of breaking from the group and forging your own adventure.

[If you'd like to check out the tournament, see here and here!]
I'll be back next week for one last post!



CIEE Weeklong Trips

The week following our CIEE weeklong trips was a hectic one, but I simply couldn't ignore sharing the amazing time that I had in 云南 Yunnan, one of the most beautiful, captivating regions of the world I have had the fortune of visiting.  We visited several locations on the 茶马古道 Ancient Tea Horse Route, which allowed us to experience our own intersections of adventure.  The food was delicious, the people so kind and welcoming, and even bus rides were worthwhile because of the awe-inspiring landscapes.  I can’t accentuate how happy I was to be able to see the stars again, vibrant blue skies, sit in the silence and breathe deeply.  Everyone points out how clean the air is in Yunnan!  I also prefer being towered by mountains rather than metal buildings, but I admit that the return to western toilets beats ceramic troughs.

I mean, where to begin?  This trip truly was a visual splendor.  We visited a lot of UNESCO World Heritage sites, which is exciting because there are certain standards to be qualified as such.  I just hope I can justify the magic of southern China!  The highlights included...

* Visting Kunming and the Stone Forest


* Having our bus break down 3 times but having such a good time playing frisbee, jumprope, football and 

* Trekking Tiger Leaping Gorge that crests into the Jinsha River (probably my favorite day)

* Staying with Tibetan families for two nights in Napa Village, about 30 minutes outside Shangri-La.  They were very welcoming people with an incredible work ethic, sense of community, beautifully crafted homes and a field of animals atop a plateau.  This is my group that was hosted by this family.

* Watching the performance of Zhang Yimou's "Impressions Lijiang" at the face of Jade Snow Dragon Mountain.  It was definitely one of the more spectacular performances I've seen, with 400 local actors and 100 horses to tell the tale of Yunnan's natural and ethnic history, along with a bit of a love story.

* This picture does not do Lijiang or Jade Snow Dragon Mountain justice, but we ascended more than 4600 meters (15,000 + feet) into the peaks via cable car, then walked as far up the glacier as our lungs and body could handle.


* The fantastic group of students -- 3 laoshis, 13 ladies, 12 guys -- outside our hotel in Lijiang where we spent two nights.  

That was the briefest version of the week I can give you, but what I most impolore is that if you go to China you have to visit Yunnan!  It was a very refreshing perspective on China, and I only wish I could go back again soon.



In five hours I am leaving with 24 CIEE students and 3 teachers for the mystical, amazing, rugged southern province of Yunnan 云南! At least, that's how I imagine it to be. As I hit the send button to my Issues in Chinese Society professor, my mid term week has come to an end. Now I understand why we don't take classes during exam week-- it's insanely difficult to balance prep work with hours of class and then studying for tests and writing papers! Anyway, I CAN'T WAIT TO GO. Please, just take a second and Google search 'Yunnan' -- these far reaches of China look like some of the most beautiful places in the world. Since we'll be travelling along the Ancient Tea Horse Route (茶马古道), we will go from the lower valleys of Kunming City and the stone forest, to the Tiger Leaping Gorge (SO EXCITED), into the high mountains at Shangri-La (yup, they took the famous name from James Hilton's Lost Horizon), and the ancient city of Lijang. I really hope that these areas are less chaotic and tourist-ridden than the east, but even so, I am undeniably grateful (and did I mention excited?) for this opportunity. My bags are packed, and I'm ready to go, and I will probably be detached from any stable internet connection for 7-8 days. I'll certainly try to post photos upon the return. Now, to stuff my sleeping bag back into it's pouch...

Listening: A killer Chinese playlist on YouTube. This song is especially relevant, and beautiful! 《彩云之南》South of Rainbow Clouds (Yunnan) by Xu Qian Ya 徐千雅 :



Thursday was Qing Ming Jie, literally translated as Pure Brightness Holiday but more widely known as Tomb Sweeping Day.  It is a spring festival of honoring ancestors with sadness but also reverence and gratitude.  Xinhua has a good overview and links on the day if you are more interested here.  My host family left Shanghai this past weekend (I was also away) to place flowers, food, and 'sweep' their relatives tombs, so we all took the day off in the city.  

No class meant a bit of exploring to another temple, this time in the southwest Xujiahui area.  We visited the Longhua Pagoda and Temple, the largest and oldest in the city at 1700 years.  The temple was especially bustling for the holiday, but I preferred the setting of this one next to Longhua Memorial Park, as opposed to Jing'an in the middle of the city.  Incense floated through every passage way, people burned prayer tags, folded paper gifts and ate steaming bowls of soup from the cafeteria.  The walls are a lovely saffron color and each hall had magnificent renditions of Buddha and the other deities.  From ECNU, it's an easy metro ride down line 3 to Longcao Lu.  Admission is only 10 kuai, and I'd recommend making a picnic out of things at the neighboring park if the weather is good (try to ignore the intimidating Communist-era scultpures).

Photo Apr 04, 15 20 44

Photo Apr 04, 21 08 55

It seems that Shanghai residents are indifferent, possibly bothered, by spring, because it's so capricious.  Sudden misty showers and 30 degree (Farenheit) temperature fluccuations can be jarring, but if keeps the city blooming this beautifully, then I am all for it.  These bushes are right outside our Chinese classrooms.  Now if only we could convince the laoshis to hold class 外边 ...

Photo Apr 02, 12 31 22

Nicole 艾尼可


CIEE Weekend Trips


During the weekend of March 22nd, CIEE students had the choice of going to either Hangzhou, Nanjing, or Suzhou for a 2 day excursion.  I picked the two water towns of Suzhou and Zhouzhuang, which are a mere hour and a half to the east of Shanghai.

Suzhou is actually a fairly large city with 10 million residents, but it's old streets still thrive with traditional architecture, canals, vendors, and lots of squishy red bean paste desserts.  The gardens here are marvelous, and there's even a distinct amount of greenery along the highways.  We visited the Qing Dynasty-era Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan), which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It had the gradnoise of traditional Chinese dwellings, the feng shui balance of rocks and water, and it was simply huge.  I wouldn't mind building a garden like that for my backyard.  We also went to the Suzhou Museum and had a chance to bargain and wander the streets in the evening.

Zhouzhuang, 45 minutes away, was decided the "most beautiful water town of China."  The old canal area was quaint, and we all took gondola rides, zig-zagging between the buildings.  I can only imagine how lovely it must be to live there during the summer.  



Huángshān 黄山

Long overdue telling of my weekend at Huángshān 黄山, or Yellow Mountain. From Shanghai, it was a five hour bus ride southwest into the misty mountains of the Anhui Province. I was quite happy to take a break from the city. Huángshān is the most visited mountain in China and has a series of peaks, known for their swirling seas of clouds, cragged pines growing out of sheer cliffs, and breathtaking sunrises.

Well, not if the earliest bus from your hostel doesn’t leave until 6 AM and the clouds bring torrential rain! The day looked promising, but once the rain began, we couldn’t see beyond 20 feet of ourselves. We were initially surprised by the wide, concrete steps, stone-carved railings, hotels, cable cars, and family-run gift and refreshment stops every few kilometers. The Chinese have an interesting perception of national parks, though I suppose in a country of 1.3 billion, very few places remain untouched.

The development was deceiving—the hike became ridiculously step in certain parts. Major props to the men in business suits and that one woman in 3-inch pink high heels; I’ll never understand, nor do I want to. In spite of the crazy tourist crowds in matching ponchos, soaking gear, and sore legs, I am thrilled that we went! We jovially called ourselves the soggy masochists and sang, danced, shared snacks, bartered in the old town Tunxi 屯溪 district of Huangshan City 黄山市, and ate family style for our meals. The hostel was extremely affordable and just as awesome as those I’ve visited in Europe (kind and helpful employees, clean, safe, good vibes).





Here's to more adventuring!



Jing'an Temple

Photo Mar 12, 16 56 34
Jing'an Temple is on one of the main metro lines, green line 2, that runs through the heart of Shanghai.  It's a monument with over 780 years of history, though rennovated after a fire in the 1980's.  Even with the crowds, this temple felt a bit tamer.  The incense wafted through every walkway, murmured chanting behind private, screened rooms, and the clattering of coins and bells on the giant Ming Dynasty bell.  I dabbled a bit in Buddhism last semester, and although I didn't join in the prayers to various Boddhisattvas, you could feel the spiritual reverence.  Oh, and there's a mall next door and tons of Western-style cafes right in the vacinity if you're looking to revert to consumerism afterwards ~!


Shanghai and the living is good

Admittedly, this Shanghai is probably the easiest for a North American to adjust, but China will always have its ancient, bizarrely charming ways.  I’m constantly amazed and finding new things, but I’m also gaining a comforting sense of familiarity, whether it be buildings, traffic patterns (basically a lack thereof) or the same street vendors. 
During orientation week, CIEE organized an Amazing Race Shanghai to inspire some friendly competition amongst students and have them practice taking public transport around the city.  In most cases the locations were not easily identified on a map so we had to ask locals!  It was a glorious day to run around the city (lots of stares with my skirt without tights), though my team called it quits after the second stop; we were more interested in Starbucks and the ritzy shopping mall.  Oops!

Two weekends ago, my host mom graciously gave me a tour of Old Shanghai.  We went to Yuyuan Gardens, which is also a shopping plaza; East Nanjing Road for shopping; toured the Bund to view Pudong (still need to return at night for the lights); Jing’an Temple (for the mall not the temple, have to go back there too); and South Shaanxi Road.  Initially she was showing me the quitessential Shanghai landmarks, but then it turned into a hunt for new shoes and leather jacket for me!  I realized this week that if I’m going out at night, I need to dress the part a bit better (L.L. Bean boots and slip-on sneakers aren’t quite cutting it)!  Persistence, patience and humor paid off: on Shaanxi Road I not only found shiny black heels, but also the leather jacket down the road!  Jinawen (my host Mom) haggled the boutique merchants down and I ended up paying satisfying price of about $83 between the two things.  They were negotiating in buzzing Shanghainese while I was trying to hold back my smile.  Granted, the last thing I should do is buy more clothing and end up with a second suitcase to take home, but I want to haggling a shot because it was already a better shopping experience than going to the mall.

Nicole 艾尼可


Settling In

Shanghai is everything at once but in a favorable way. It’s all you would expect from a city of 23 million, not only the largest in China, but the world: the clamor, the energy, the purpose, the evolution. Unhinged motion is contrasted by elderly steadiness. Whifs of pungent sewage between hot steamed dumplings. Car horns, yelling merchants, sizzling woks, rogue cats, laughing children, chirping birds. And surprisingly, many trees and parks amongst towering concrete. Granted, it’s not the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes or the rising slopes of the Adirondacks, but I feel the beauty. It’s in layers and I’ve barely brushed the surface.


For all the hype and preparation I’ve rattled through my mind, I’m surprisingly not as intimidated by the city.  It’s bizarre being amongst all these people I look similar with, but Shanghai is so in flux with migrants and foreigners, it’s incredible to recognize the diversity of the Chinese.  When alone, I’m not given a second glance, but I receive a lot of muddled stares when I’m buzzing in English with Caucasian-looking students.  For orientation last week, it was  wonderful meeting students from all over the U.S. (and abroad) who are curious and eager to explore China.  

In regards to lodging, my home base is in the Putuo district, about a 15 minute walk from campus, with an amazing host family.  I have never  felt so immediately welcome, accommodated, and honestly appreciated into a household this quickly.  I have a host mom and grandma, Wàipó; my mom’s husband works in Germany and her son attends boarding school in Boston.  They’ve been hosting U.S. students for several years now, and I’m their tenth (11th? 12th?)!  Needless to say she knows the routine and has provided all the necessities for an awesome experience.  We live on the second floor of an enormous (at least 30 floor), pink apartment building; but that sort of size in standard in Shanghai.  Everything seems to be built up, since there’s no more room to go out.  Out of the CIEE participants this semester, there are about 25 of us with host families.  St. Lawrence requires us to lodge with families, though it makes the most sense because it’s the best way to immerse into the culture.  I’ve already resurrected a lot of rusty Chinese from two years ago!   Oh man, and the food.  I don’t know where to start… that’ll have to be a post on its own!
Global Education Building
The Global Education Building at ECNU where the our program offices and courses are conducted.
Photo Feb 27, 15 54 07
Quite a lovely view when the sun's out and the smog is light!


Nicole 艾尼可