A Day in Life As an Intern in Shanghai

Shanghai wakes me up with men screaming god knows what in Mandarin, the sun shining through my curtains, and the moist air that leaves every surface sticky. My alarm hasn’t even rang yet but clearly Shanghai is telling me it’s time to wake up. It’s 7:15 am Monday morning, and work is at 10am. I check the weather and the air quality index, on average the temperature is at 90°F with an air quality index of about 120. I scramble to find an outfit light enough that won’t make me die of a heat stroke or arrive to work in puddle.

Its 8:30 I walk down the hallway and press the down arrow for the elevator. The doors open to five Chinese men who all stop speaking as soon as I get into the elevator. Finally we reach the first floor, I drag myself to the breakfast room. I look for the rest of the group who are all squished around one large table. Breakfast consist of watered down coffee, warm juice, rice porridge, wheat noodles, rice, peanut butter toast, veggies, and bāozi. Usually I opt for the “coffee” and bāozi or rice. By 9am I am out the door walking to the Daduhe Road line 13 Metro entrance.

On my walk I pass a group of old men who are just as surprised as they were yesterday because an American girl is walking past them. I keep walking and a couple of people swerve on their mopeds as they do a double take because again, seeing an American is not the norm. I arrive at the metro. I go through security and down the steps to wait, immediately feeling the the moisture accumulate. By the time the metro comes I feel like I’m cooking in sauna. It’s 9:15 and the metro is packed I squeeze myself on, almost get caught by the closing doors but today I escaped the bite of the metro’s greasy doors. Everyone is packed in like a can of sardines but there’s air conditioning! The older women smile at you and the child stare with curiosity. When I reach Xintiandi, it’s 9:40 am. The Xintiandi station like almost every metro station in Shanghai is connected to a mall.

I walk into the mall and order a coffee “Yībēi ná tiě, Xièxiè (one latte, thank you).” The mall is conveniently connected to my office which is favorable on the extremely hot days. It’s 9:55, I say hello to a women we call Auntie and Daniel who is my supervisor. These are the only people in the office. Around 10:30 am – 11:30 am is when everyone start strolling in. Small talk and hello’s are passed around the office, then it’s silence while everyone is diligently working. 12:30 pm rolls around, in pairs like clockwork people stroll out of the office to go to have lunch. Daniel asks me “So today, what do we eat?” After lunch, we never go straight back to the office after eating. No one would be there, so we join everyone else outside as they take a walk before coming back to the office.

After lunch and the afternoon walk people slowly trickle in and by 2pm everyone is back in the office grinding away at the days work. Daniel tells me it’s time to go home, that must mean its 6:30pm. I walk through the mall and into the metro.

By 7:45 everyone is home and a bunch of us walk down the road to the soup dumpling restaurant. The owners always smile when they see us walking their way. I think they love the fact that we go there almost every night and we bring a ton of people. We sit outside to people watch and debrief about our days, all while enjoying this delicious bowl of soup dumplings that we somehow never get tired of eating.

By 9pm and I am exhausted but I can’t end my day yet because on the only English channel there is a classic American movie every night at 10pm. Tonight is “Saving Private Ryan”, in the meantime I get ready for bed and do some homework that is due on Friday. Once it hits 10pm my roommate and I are in our beds excited and exhausted. By 11:30pm, Shanghai is wide awake but I am dreaming about tomorrow. Goodnight Shanghai.

Samantha McLaughlin is a Marketing Major with a Global Studies Minor at Champlain College.

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