Theme: “Study and life experience in China’s university”

“Changes”

 

Less than two years ago, I was hopelessly into clubbing, playing billiards and street racing. Simply put, I didn’t want to do anything except have fun. I was just cruising through life, spending my time on useless pleasures. Looking at my reflection in the mirror now, my appearance has not changed much, but my personality and mindset are completely different. Now, I prefer spending my time studying and improving myself. My views, perceptions and attitudes toward the life have changed by living in China. Nowadays, I know which goals I want to reach and continue to exert my efforts to realize them.

My name is Artur Tszyan. I am a twenty-one-year old, second generation Uzbek national of Korean descent studying International Business at Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU). I have a strikingly Korean appearance but my mother-tongue is Russian, the common language of Post-Soviet nations. Yet, the People’s Republic of China has always attracted me with its five-thousand-year old history and culture. China’s current stance as the world’s fastest growing economy has brought many exciting new opportunities for its people and foreigners alike. The first time I thought about studying abroad was in my last year of “college” (upper secondary school in the Uzbek education system). Despite my attraction to China since my youth, in all honesty, getting my Bachelor’s degree in the Middle Kingdom was not my first choice. However, after living in the country and experiencing all of the great things that my university and Beijing has to offer, I truly believe that I made the right choice. My experience in China has left a positive impact on my life. This includes the university and its facilities, my daily activities, places I’ve visited, and important recent events. I also want to share my experiences in making new friends both Chinese and foreign, my academic journey, and finally, the knowledge I’ve gained from living in China.

Initially, I was planning to go to the United States and was accepted to two universities there. However, due to reasons of international relations beyond my control, they halted the granting of visas to Uzbek citizens. My parents encouraged me to look elsewhere. Following their advice, I sent applications to schools in Malaysia and Russia, and one application to BFSU in China. I had expected the application process to be a long and winding road, but to my surprise, it was a relatively simple process. I turned to a friend who owned an education consulting firm in my home city. Despite not having any affiliation with BFSU, he connected me with Susie of the Marketing Department at the International Business School, who helped me solve many issues regarding my application. With Susie’s help, the process of applying to BFSU only took a few days of filling out required forms, translating my academic records into English, and sending all of my application documents and application fee to the correct address. At that time I thought if everything is going to accomplish so fast than instead of usual four years of Bachelor’s degree I can get it in a year.

BFSU was the first school to respond to my application. Only two weeks after my application was delivered, I received a happy response from the school. I had been accepted to the International Business School’s Sol-Bridge program. However, I was faced with the dilemma of which country to go to. I was still waiting for the replies of some of the universities I applied to. I turned to my father for advice. He said, “Why are you waiting? You’ve received a reply from BFSU. Just choose now.” It was fate, but ultimately, I chose BFSU because of my desire to learn Chinese and improve my English. BFSU offers an international business program in English with mandatory Chinese language classes. Further, BFSU is among the best language universities in China and its International Business School (IBS) is a promising department. The expenses for tuition, food, and accommodation are also relatively affordable compared to other universities around the world.

With my decision made, the next stage of my journey to China was getting my visa. I took my acceptance package and personal identification documents to the Chinese Embassy in Tashkent, and within a week, I was granted entry into the People’s Republic of China. I bought a plane ticket, packed my bags, and said goodbye to my family and friends. With that done, I flew for five hours and arrived in the capital of China – Beijing.

The first thing I noticed about Beijing was the difference in the weather. It’s a lot different from Tashkent, dustier and heavier. My first impressions were influenced by my zero knowledge of Mandarin. Even the simplest signs in the airport were confusing. I needed to exchange currency at the airport but because of my lack of language skills, I spent almost half an hour gesturing what I needed. Admittedly, in my time in China, the language barrier was the most difficult to overcome.

In my daily life, meals and accommodation were surprisingly easy to adapt to. Most of the time, I eat Chinese food which is not so different with the food I eat at home. I am very open to trying new cuisines. I’m used to eating rice with every meal and I love indulging in spicy food. The school canteen in my university is very convenient. It offers a variety of choices in very low, low prices. It’s the perfect solution for hungry stomachs and thin wallets. It’s close to our classroom buildings, so I don’t need to venture far to satiate my hunger. More often than not, I prefer cooking for myself because I cook for my taste and it’s cheaper. There’s a big supermarket near my university, where I buy all of the ingredients I need. The dishes I make are from my mother’s recipes or the internet, and mostly Russian food. If I make something for the first time following a recipe I found online, I encourage my friends to taste it first and give me feedback. If they’re still breathing, I’ll take a bite.

I chose to reside in the school dormitories because it’s cheaper and closer to my classroom buildings. I have lived in the White Building of BFSU, one of the international dormitories in the West campus, since my arrival. I can’t imagine a more convenient accommodation on campus. In my first year, I had a French roommate. I’ve heard stories of people not getting along with their roommates, but I was lucky, Philip, has become a great friend. We would go out for dinner and he would introduce me to many interesting places in Beijing because he’s been here for five years and is familiar with many of the hidden gems the city has to offer.

Yet, my mission to get my degree was not completely smooth-sailing. At BFSU, my English was deemed below the university’s requirements, so the school placed me in the English for Academic Purpose (EAP) program for one semester to improve my English level. I liked that all of my professors were Chinese because of their teaching style, support, and overall friendliness. The intensity and speed of the class felt a little slow from the beginning (everything we learned was already familiar to me), so I concentrated on making new friends. My EAP classes consisted of mostly Chinese students, and we got along very well from the start, sometimes go studying or having dinner together. I found my English language skills improving tremendously and that I was using English more than my native Russian (except when talking to my family on Skype). I liked that I was not relying solely on my native language and tried to communicate more with native English speakers while making new friends.

Within two months, I asked the IBS administration to transfer me to the Bachelor’s degree program. I passed the IELTS test to prove to the office that I was ready to move onto the degree program. A couple months had passed since school started, but I told myself to be strong, and overcome all of the academic obstacles that came my way. The foreign faculty and the material we covered were more complicated and intensive. Being motivated really helped me because the IBS program was very different from the EAP program. My classmates were ahead of me by two months in every subject, and I had to actively catch up. The assignments were harder and took longer to complete. My final exam scores reflected this struggle. I passed, but just barely. I was deeply dissatisfied with my transcript, but this motivated me further and gave me stronger incentives to study harder in the future.

My favorite aspect of the IBS program was being part of a very international group of students. Everyone had a different background, culture, and story to tell. I got to know my classmates better by communicating and socializing with them. My academic struggle was inversely correlated with my personal life. I met many people who would eventually become very close friends. I have become inseparable with three in particular: Maha, Sasha, and Medet. We all share a common language, Russian, as we all come from Russian-speaking countries. We’ve become something of a band, sharing common interests like studying, sports, and play. In our first year, Beijing was still new to us, so we spent most of our free time traveling and discovering parts of the city. Together, we went to the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Happy Valley, and many other sites.

I didn’t want to limit myself to Beijing, so over the holidays, I went to Tianjin. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. The colonial architecture and the cleaner and less crowded streets were very refreshing. The city seemed small because I was able to do a lot of sightseeing in one day. My friends and I went to a Chinese restaurant on the street for dinner. We ordered a lot of different dishes to share and were surprised by the big portions and the price. Twenty kuai for everything, which is unheard of in Beijing for the amount we ate. I also need to mention our class trip to Shenzhen, organized by IBS. The trip left me with a lot of impressions. I was introduced to the daily operations of a logistics company who gave us a tour of their telecommunication, airbase, and mobile stations. We also went to the beach. It was a hot rainy day and I would have regretted it if I went to Shenzhen and didn’t swim in the ocean. Shenzhen is a relatively young city, but has already grown tremendously and continues to reach higher levels of development. The number of factories in the area illustrates the whole industrial power of this region.

After being in the city for over a year, I have become more goal-oriented. I’ve started to think more about my academic performance and achievements as opposed to just traveling and hanging out. Familiarity was the theme of my second semester. This made my school and personal life comparatively easier. I was more devoted to my school work from the first day as to not miss anything important. The teaching style and topics covered varied from the when I was in school at home. Sometimes my friends helped me understand the school assignments that were more difficult. I liked that some of my professors pointed out the hardworking students in class and supported students who were having difficulties in keeping up with the class.

Entering my second year, I decided to set specific goals. In my first year, I felt like just an average student. In my second year, I had a stronger desire to be one of the top students in our class, not just in academic fields but also in extracurricular activities. Not only did I look to internet research, my own experiences and knowledge for home assignments, projects, and presentations, I searched for resources in the library, academic journals, and upperclassmen. I prefer studying in the library because it is very quiet and comfortable and there are thousands of resources that are available to use. Going to the library and spending hours going over the materials became a pattern in my daily life, especially during exam periods.

Another routine that is important to me is when I do physical training. Sport is one of my favorite activities. I started Muay-Thai or Thai boxing around three years ago. Before coming to China, I trained three times a week. In 2011, I took part in a Muay-Thai competition with competitors from over 19 countries. I didn’t win the title, but being part of such a global contest was a great honor. I wanted to continue my training in Beijing, but martial arts are an expensive hobby here. As an alternative, I signed up for the gym and swimming pool amenities in the university. The gym at BFSU is well-equipped and the pool is a 50-meter Olympic sized pool. The membership fee is not too steep, so instead of martial arts, I go to the gym three to four times a week for two hours a session and go swimming in the weekends.

As my confidence in my academic career becomes stronger, I have put more efforts in extracurricular activities. I took part in a taping of a television show on BTV. The show needed foreign students to come and sing a song. Although our role was small, it was an amazing experience to meet popular Chinese television personalities and hosts, see the process behind a television production, and to be on stage in front of lights and cameras. After the show, the BTV representatives gave us small gifts and treated us to dinner. Furthermore, I was recently appointed as a School Ambassador for my school. This role involves representing the school in events locally and overseas. In this new position, I feel a new sense of pride and responsibility toward my university. I hope to live up to my university’s expectations and promote my university effectively to other countries in the future.

My experience living and studying here has changed me for the better. The country, people, food and other important aspects in China are different from my life back home and it took time for me to adjust to these changes.  My first year at BFSU helped me understand the many facets of a foreign education system, professors and their teaching styles, and introduced me to many new foreign friends. It was more of an adaptation period for me, as it was my first time being away from home and family. By my second year, I learned to be fully independent, self-motivated, and organized. I appreciate the knowledge that I have gained both academically and socially. They have broadened my world view and perceptions. Even though coming to China was not my first choice, I believe that in the end, it was the best choice for me.

Chinese class

 

Great Wall2

 

Summer Palace 2

School Ambassadors

 

 

Author Details:

Name: Artur Tszyan

Nationality: Uzbekistan

University: Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU)

Major:  International Business