Meet Cato: The wise Dutch teenager with black nails and a love for the bird's song

Having lived in several different cities around the world, this Dutch teenager not only looks more mature than her age, but also has acts more mature and has big thoughts.

Holin’s words:

When I first saw Cato, she was being interviewed by other media. Facing the journalist, Cato was expressing her point of view casually and confidently, especially with the help of her fluent body language.

Wearing black-framed glasses and all dressed in black — even with black painted nails — this cool girl looks, talks and acts like a mature adult. You would never guess that this Dutch girl is just 17!

After knowing her background, I got to know why I had this feeling.

Before moving to Shanghai, this born and bred Amsterdam girl had two-years' high school education in Mbabane, Swaziland. In her years studying at NYU Shanghai, she completed a study-away in Berlin and Washington D.C.

Keen on Chinese history and culture, this cool girl can even read early Han maps from 200 BC. Cato has already prepared for another year of intensive training in traditional and classical Chinese at National Taiwan University after her graduation soon. Before that, she will also complete a language immersion program in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

“Being fluent in Chinese will allow me to serve as a link between a Western or European experience and China,” said Cato. “No matter what, I do want to maintain a connection with my experience in China, and Chinese will be important.”

Go, Cato! May luck be with you!

Meet Cato: The wise Dutch teenager with black nails and a love for the bird's song
Holin Wang / SHINE

Facing the camera, Cato smiles radiantly, just like her age.

Name: Cato Isabelle van Schaik

Nationality: Dutch

Job: Student

Years in Shanghai: 4

Holin: Do you have any story that really impressed on you when you came to Shanghai?

Cato: The first time you see that Bund at night, that’s an impressive memory. I came out of the Metro and I was like, ‘oh’. It’s very big and crazy. I’ve never seen buildings as big as the ones in Shanghai.

I think when the Mobike came to Shanghai, I became able to cycle more throughout the city, and sometimes there’s moments where you find weird spaces — I happened to find my apartment where I live now, because I was biking on Zhonghua Road and Baidu Road.

That is one of the moments I liked very much, and I realized that Shanghai is very new and also very old.

Holin: What do you usually do on the weekend here?

Cato: When I’m free in Shanghai, I generally go to Shanghai Museum. I like to cycle around People's Square and walk to Shanghai Museum, and then cycle to Fuxing Park.

I think Shanghai has nice parks, very nicely organized parks. And Shanghai Museum is always interesting ‘cos in Shanghai Museum you always see all these tourists, and then you will see all these people living in Shanghai or in other places in China, so it is a good place to be.

Holin: Okay, Shanghai Museum must be one of your favorite places in Shanghai. Give me more places you like.

Cato: Yes, Shanghai Museum is my favorite place in Shanghai. I think if you want to do something on the weekend and you want to have a full day, go out for lunch or dinner with your friends and then go to Shanghai Museum.

You can also walk around Lujiazui to see many of the beautiful buildings or go to the former French Concession. And the Rockbund Art Museum is also very good.

Holin: Which road in Shanghai do you like best? 

Cato: I think my favorite road in Shanghai is Zhonghua Road (in Huangpu District), because it is long and it has all these different parts; it also has side streets that are interesting. If you want to choose one road to see a lot of Shanghai, I would do that road. You can see different parts of time there, kind of like a summary of the city. I’ve never cycled it from beginning to end, but I guess I should before I leave.

And Changle Road is also a very good street — it’s one of my favorite streets.

Meet Cato: The wise Dutch teenager with black nails and a love for the bird's song
Joan Zheng / SHINE

Cato expresses her point of views with her body languages during the interview. 

Holin: What’s something you love about Shanghai? 

Cato: Shanghai has a lot of green and parks. Even here on Century Avenue, you go outside and there is a park, so as a result there are a lot of birds. Sometimes you can feel like Shanghai has just cars and scooters, but actually if you listen very carefully Shanghai has an incredible amount of birds, and I really do like that about Shanghai.

It has green and weird patches of park, little corners of green and nature and birds. You can hear the birds in Fuxing Park. I don't really like Century Park that much, Century Park is weird. It's too big, and you have to pay to get in. Century Park feels very, very made. 

Fuxing Park is such a surprise 'cos you know you are in the busy Puxi and then 'woop!': there is Fuxing Park — it's like a surprise.

Holin: Anything you dislike here? If so, do you have any suggestions to change it or make it better?

Cato: What I do like is the metro, which is very nice, clean and quick. But what I dislike here are the buses. The buses are so confusing. There are so many buses; you never know which one you have to take. And every time I think I know which bus to take I get it wrong. And one other thing is that the roads here are really big, so that’s sometimes annoying that it feels the human scale is out a bit.

My suggestion is “do less buses.” Why are there so many buses? Why does every single street have a different bus? Or maybe I should just figure out how the buses work, whatever.

Another thing I really miss in Shanghai is cheese, good cheese, and good bread. Every bread here is sweet. I like Lost Bakery, I think that's it's name — I’ll look it up!

Holin: Compared to your country, are there any shortages in Shanghai? 

Cato: I guess Shanghai needs bigger sidewalks. You know in Shanghai you can find most things you need, it is easy to find in Taobao or figure it out. I don’t really miss a particular part of home that much. I think things here are pretty well organized. But like some places, they are well done and very pretty but not very human, there’s a lack of livability — it sometimes feels like places here are made for cars and buildings.

There is a shortage of terraces where you sit outside and eat, like on the street level. I feel sometimes in Shanghai people cannot find so many terraces. And there’s a shortage of clean air, I guess.

What does Cato want to say to her future self? Have a look! Cato is sending a message to her future self to watch ten years from now!

Filmed by Holin Wang and Joan Zheng. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Special thanks to Andy Boreham.

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