Postcard from Shanghai

Some of you may know Pamela Mansutti, who graduated from our PhD program earlier this year. Pamela is a contemporary American literature specialist, whose superb doctoral thesis deals with trauma in post 9/11 fiction. Here is a note she sends from her new home, Shanghai.

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Professors from Canada & Italy,

Some of you might not yet know about my move to Asia, so this might come quite as a surprise, but I thought I would let you know that Leonardo and I have finally settled in Shanghai, and we simply love it!

With its predominantly Chinese population and with its European allure, the city is a world apart. The signs of globalization have not swept away its national character and culture, but have rather grafted onto the Eastern habits and architecture. We were lucky to find an apartment that overlooks the Old Ming Town and faces the skyline of Pudong, thus encompassing at a glance the fascinating contrasts between past Chinese history and present global trends.

Unsurprisingly, very few people can either read or speak English properly, in spite of bilingual signs. As to the latter, we would be lost without them! Our very limited Chinese forces us to point at things when we want to ask for them, or to show notes written by someone else in Chinese to reach an address by taxi. Sometimes it is frustrating, but — honestly — we have fully embraced the challenge, are learning and having a lot of fun!

Leonardo teaches at Fudan University. My workplace instead is a Joint Institute between the Chinese University of Jiao Tong and U of Michigan, organized as a North-American institution, with three terms per year, letter grading system, and Faculty with degrees from the US. Academic matters and course contents tend to be pretty formless, at times chaotic, and syllabi are very generic, but this is how it works here and in the end flexibility leaves room for personal input. Colleagues are approachable and fun loving, all American and Japanese.

With the only down sides being the unbearable government red tape (very familiar to an Italian, though) and the mysteries around food (some items are better if imported), we can say we are enthusiastic about the city and look forward to having you as guests here in the future. Flights are still relatively cheap and Shanghai is worth a visit.

I’ll be in touch with you individually if you want, and wish everyone the best with your life and careers.


One response to “Postcard from Shanghai

  1. Wonderful to hear how the uWaterloo gospel is being spread hither and yon, Pamela, and yet another arrow in my quiver when I tell students that there is good and fascinating work in academics, if you are prepared to move out into the world.

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