When I first heard that NYU Shanghai was having their own version of the Amazing Race, I was pretty sure I was the first person to sign up. For years now I’ve dreamt of becoming a part of the actual show, tuning in every Monday night at eight P.M. just to see a diverse group of people travel to various parts of the world. Not once did I think I would have a similar experience in Shanghai, but NYU’s version of the television show was so identical that the entire race felt more than just a game. From the appearance of the clue cards to the road blocks, the race became more than just an event, it became a competition.
Rightfully so, when the clock turned twelve, an army of adrenaline filled students packed the auditorium with one thought on their mind, winning. Ironically, I was placed in team number one, and my teammates, four of whom lived in Shanghai almost solidified a victory. Unfortunately, if it was that easy it wouldn’t be much of a story, would it?
A team is victorious based on how fast a they can complete the race from the given start time. The teams were dismissed in waves and from the second student body president Lyndsy Qu yelled, “Go” the teams rushed out of their seats and into the streets of Shanghai. The first stop of the race was none other than NYU Shanghai’s Academic Resource Center (ARC). Each team member had to create an account using the ARC computers and teams could not get their next clue until the task was completed. From the school building we were off to the next leg of the race and students traveled via public transportation to Shanghai’s the People’s Hero Memorial Tower. Alongside the breathtaking views, the challenge at hand was teamwork. Each team had to stand on a square piece of plastic and completely flip it over without using their hands. It was especially difficult for larger teams because a single gust of wind could ruin the entire challenge. Freshman students Maya Wang and Kia Tuominen had the ingenious idea of carrying one another on their backs, while other teams took a different approaches. The ingenious ideas proved effective, and upon victory we were off to the next stop.
Teams were then asked to find the place in Shanghai that had “More colors than you could imagine.” This mysterious place was none other M&M World, located forty minutes from the last location. Teams raced around the city taking taxis, trains, and utilizing sheer leg power running to the next location, where Orientation Leader Hobin Kim waited. Teams were asked to find a rare creature in China that resided within the store. Teams which included Madison Pelletier and Evelyn Patrell-Fazio proved the importance of extensively reading the clues before making a rash decision, when they spent hours looking for the object that was located downstairs the entire time.
The next leg of the race was found in Shanghai’s M50 Art District. This part of the race was the most disastrous, as leading teams were stumped by the lack of clues in the area. It was later revealed that due to miscommunication among the volunteers, the NYU Shanghai representative was not at the location when the leading teams arrived. This gave slower teams an advantage, as they were given the clues at the same time the leading teams received their own clues, if not earlier. From my standpoint, I was quite disappointed as my team was the first to arrive at the M50 Art District but the last to receive our clue. However, due to the anomaly, my team and I had the opportunity to explore more of Shanghai’s incredible art collection and bond with teams in the same situation we were.
Immediately after the next clues were given, teams raced to Jing’an Park. This hidden oasis dwells among towering skyscrapers and gave contestants a place to escape the city’s sometimes overwhelming atmosphere. At this leg of the race, teams took the opportunity to take a break and rest before continuing on to the Shanghai Museum where a road block awaited. Once teams arrived at the Shanghai Museum, volunteer Kevin Pham gave teams their next challenge. Students were given the option to complete one of two tasks, one of which involved taking selfies with both Chinese locals and foreigners around the area, and the other to find a group doing Tai Chi and record them. My team completed the selfie challenge and met locals from Chengdu and foreigners all the way from Australia and Croatia.
The next set of clues led teams to Tianzifang where markets enveloped every corner. From traditional food to souvenirs, Tianzifang was sprawling with a plethora of great places for students to explore. OA and volunteer Victoria Rusu gave students their next road block. At Tianzifang, students were tasked to find objects with a specific quote about money, but it proved to be more difficult than expected when students began purchasing the products with the quote in order to prevent other teams from completing the challenge, a very clever and sly way of winning the competition.
After Tianzifang, the race inched closer to its end. Teams were instructed to go to the IFC (International Financial Center) Mall where the last challenge awaited. OA and volunteer Stephanie Ulan presented the teams who have not given up the final road block. At IFC, which overlooks the skyline of Shanghai and the Oriental Tower, teams had to order the establishment of the locations visited from newest to oldest without the use of any technology. The pressure was on as leading teams were dumbfounded by the challenge. This gave other teams the opportunity to catch up and potentially earn a spot in the top three. Many were disappointed by the difficulty of the challenge, but others were elated by surpassing it. As outbursts of defeat and celebration filled the air, our contestants received the final pit stop to the race. The secret meeting place was located in front of the magnificent Pearl Tower with only a mere sprint towards the finish line.
Unfortunately, Team 1 did not finish in first place, but the friends I met, the places I saw, and the teamwork I witnessed that day was worth more than any prize. A special congratulations goes out to Teams 37, 33, and 33 for completing the race in a span of five hours. Each team was awarded a five hundred RMB gift card to Häagen-Dazs, a speaker for each member, and a Starbucks coupon respectively. The committee did an incredible job planning and preparing such a city-wide event. I could only imagine how much effort and hard work was put into creating such a tremendous activity for the Class of 2020. I can definitely see this event becoming a tradition for NYU Shanghai students and I can’t wait to see how it progresses over the years. In the end, I may not have won, but the experience was well worth it. So, same time next week?
This article was written by Benjamin Tablada. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credits: Cindy Wang