International School Community Blog

The Journey to School: Western International School of Shanghai

The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who worked at the Western International School of Shanghai (China), described his way to work there as follows:


Shanghai, the East’s equivalent of New York. The city runs 24/7, nightlife is rampant, traffic induces headaches, and glamour seems to be always in the spotlight. That is usually the thrill behind the city’s most vibrant areas such as the French Concession and the Bund. All of which is exciting to your common expat. That of course is if you are an expat living around these areas.

Most international schools in Shanghai exist around the peripheral suburbs of the city and for many new teachers entering the school they are given an interesting choice. One can either live near the school in bang-for-your-buck valued houses usually in areas with relatively limited entertainment or live in the downtown where the action is. As you probably can insinuate on your own, it is usually the young single people who trade-off for the longer commute and smaller apartments in order to have a larger selection of nearby restaurants, bars, and social gatherings.

I on the other hand belong to the group that lives in compounds near the school I work at, Western International School of Shanghai. Now this area is not as boring as I may have indicated as it has become a bit of a development zone for the never-ending expansion of Shanghai. Part of the reason being that the area we are in, Qingpu, is the location of several of the well-known international schools in Shanghai, and developers are aiming at them as their audience. In the last 2 years I have seen a great Italian restaurant open up down the street, a whole new nightlife commercial area has come about by Jinfeng Road, and a few imported grocery stores have popped up. We might not have the adrenaline of downtown, but at least we are being well fed!

From my home the school is less than a 10-minute bus ride (or in my case a 10-minute e-bike ride) away. Having two school-aged children, this location is a solid choice for housing, given its lower monthly rent (compared to apartments downtown), spacious and safe environment where kids can play with their friends without constant supervision, and most importantly the ability to wake up later on schoolday mornings. A perk that I don’t take for granted and often poke fun at one of my young colleagues in the math department about.

My school day usually starts off with a 5am wake-up, which at times means a quick morning bike ride to get the blood flowing and other times it gives the opportunity to check e-mails and get some quiet time before the start of another busy day.

At about 6:30, which is the same time most of my downtown colleagues start walking out of their apartments toward their bus pick-up points, I wake up the kiddos, throw them in the shower and take a shower myself. Cereal for the kids, bacon & eggs for daddy and walk outside at about 7:40. If weather permits we hop on the e-bike and off to school we go.


On the way to school we pass by the well-known “corner store”, the one right outside the compound gates. After a quick right turn the scooter takes is into the already buzzing Ming Zhu road. On weekdays the traffic is usually busy, drivers tend to ignore most traffic rules, e-bikes go in all sorts of direction without much concern for red lights or other vehicles. It sometimes feels like a game of chicken while driving. Experience has taught me that it is best to adopt the local culture and go with the flow.


Within the first kilometer we pass by a building that houses the strange combination of a dodgy KTV on its second floor with a wet market on its first floor. The road nearby this building gets extremely busy resulting in traffic jams almost daily, thanks to cars making illegal U-turns without signaling or other scooters pulling a left or right without looking in their rearview mirrors. Sometimes I question myself on whether it was the safest idea to get my own scooter. But at least the ride to work gets my blood pumping enough where I consider skipping my morning coffee.



Beyond this madness, the road gets a bit less congested. Crossing the Huqingping highway can also be intimidating to many but the traffic light is mostly followed there. In this area there are several newly opened compounds with real estate agents already standing outside with their signs advertising apartments for rent or sale. I always find it curious just how desperate they are to sell leases. I wonder how many houses are actually occupied.


Once we passed these compounds we see the friendly faces of the security guards greeting us at the main gate of the school. The entire journey from door to door takes less than 10 minutes for us living nearby the school, while others may spend as much as 50-60 minutes on the faculty bus coming to work day after day. Either way, we all end up at the school we love, doing the work we enjoy!


This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author and International School Community member: Denes Tilistyak. Check our his HighFour competition website here.

What to know more about the many international schools in Shanghai?  Check out our blog article called – Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Shanghai, China.

So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn six free months of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.