23 September 2019

Field Course to Shanghai

Along the Yangtze River Delta cityscape

In June, ten University College Utrecht students travelled to China to study urbanism in and around Shanghai. 

After last year’s primer, East China Normal University in Shanghai, University Utrecht’s Faculty of Geosciences and University College Utrecht continued their collaboration with an intensive month-long programme, consisting of a two-week course and an equally long field visit. 

Faithful to University College Utrecht’s broad Liberal Arts and Sciences curriculum, the group included students with various major subjects, next to Geography and China Studies major students.

Field work in the city

“The field visit consisted of presentations by experts on diverse topics, ranging from urban heritage to urban planning for the future, assignments and site visits. We visited the old city, a migrant neighbourhood, New Town, heritage and redevelopment areas, as well as creative hotspots”, explains Leo van Grunsven, Lecturer in Geography at Utrecht University, who coordinated the programme.

“The assignments included student-guided walks in diverse areas of the city, and field work in small groups on a self-chosen topic. At the invitation of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, a weekend was spend in Suzhou, while cooperation with the Geography Department of Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics made it possible to spend two days in Hangzhou as well.”

Intercultural classroom 

In the classroom, the students had lectures and conversations with local geographers. Students from Shanghai’s own university also joined the class and participated actively in course work. “Working together with local students was very nice. We got to know more about the Chinese culture and thinking, and Shanghai, on a personal level”, wrote one of the participating University College Utrecht students in the course evaluation. 

The field course highlighted the distinguishing characteristics of the Chinese metropolis and its history, as well as of Chinese society, culture and governance. “But the informal encounters with the urban life in Shanghai, in part through the local students, were the gist of the course”, says Leo van Grunsven.

“Once more the course and the field trip turned out to be a great success. I am sure that the students look back at the course as an unforgettable experience. We organisers already look forward to next year.”