Study & Life Experiences in China

Back there in the year 2010 when I was still sitting in my high school chair, I had no clue of where I was going to obtain and pursue my bachelor degree. I was nervous, anxious, and solicitous and all that when I thought about my future. At that time, almost all my friends already have had an idea about their future and where they were going to obtain their degree. I seemed to be the only one who didn’t have any idea and I started to feel worried. I asked some of my friends where they were going to continue their studies in the hope that I can get an idea for myself. I began to discuss my future with my parents and asked them for suggestions. They gave me some options of where to continue my studies, which were in my home country, Jakarta, Singapore, China, or United States. I was not able to make any decisions and again ask them for their suggestions. However, they didn’t really give a response or suggestions that I wanted. I was feeling mixed up and desperate at the same time.

I started to think and immediately crossed out Singapore from my list of available options because I didn’t really have interest in studying there as I heard that Singaporean teaching method is too strict and mostly a lot of people that went there feel stressed about it. I don’t know whether this statement is just a stereotype or it is right, but after all, I didn’t really think about going to Singapore to obtain my degree. I applied for scholarship in two universities in Jakarta, Indonesia and I got the two of them. I was nearly close to getting in one of those two universities, but for no apparent reason, I just seemed to have interest in China. Although I would have an easier start in US as I have two sisters obtaining their degree there, I just did not seem to have any confidence in myself. I thought that it would be hard for me because I can’t really write long pages essay and I don’t have confidence in my English level.  Furthermore, I think that it is too far away from home.

I have been learning Chinese since I was sitting in primary school. Although it is also not easy to learn Chinese, but I just have more interest in studying Chinese than English and I have more confidence on my Chinese. With all the thought that kept bothering me, my interest of studying in China keeps getting in my mind. I started to do some general research about China and I found out about China’s relation with Indonesia. I found that trade has been increasing drastically to almost 10 times from 3.8 billion in 2003 to 36.1 billion in 2010. There were a lot of news that said China is growing fast and issue that said China might be the leading country in the future. I realized the importance of Chinese language in the future and the opportunities that I could get by studying in China. The main reason that I finally chose to go to China is that I could spend my time studying not only English, but also Chinese language. As I made up my mind, I decided to tell my parents about my decision of going to China and they appear to like my decision and support me.

 

Application Experience
I began to attend some education fair and seminars to look for information about universities in China since I didn’t have any idea which university I was going to apply for. Most of the university that was in the education fair has a connection or partnership with certain agency that would help students that are going to apply for those particular universities. My father played a great role in helping me to find agency and choices of universities that I can apply for. I was busy with my national exam and IELTS at that time that I decided to use the help of agency for the admission. There were choices of universities in Shanghai, Beijing, Guang Zhou, Ning Bo, and some other city that I am not really familiar with. I began to find more information about the universities that have International Finance as their major. At first, I was going to apply to University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) but it wasn’t until my agency told me about Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU).  The two universities offer students with International program. As I think further, I decided to apply to BFSU because I thought I would have better opportunity to learn Chinese and get to know people from different parts of the world knowing that there are not much Indonesian students.

With the help of my agency, I finally decided to apply for BFSU. I didn’t face any difficulties in the process of applying to Beijing Foreign Studies University as the agency help me in taking care all of the procedures. I just had to give out all the necessary documents such as copy of certificate of completion of secondary education, transcripts, letter of recommendation, IELTS, copy of passport, and photos. Overall I was satisfied with the help of the agency. They helped me a lot during the admission process to BFSU. They offer me with set of options about the dormitories and illustrate some general ideas about Beijing. One thing that disappoints me was that my agency didn’t tell me that I could apply for scholarship. I was optimist that if I applied for the scholarship, I could get the scholarship even if it’s the lowest prize. This type of problems does not only happen once in my life. In fact, I have been confronted with similar problems before. I acknowledge the importance of checking and paying attention to small details whenever I do something and I know that I have to alter this bad character of mine for my own benefits.

 

Study Experience
The first thing that I did when I first arrived in China was to buy local phone number so I could easily contact my parents and friends and also some new friends in Beijing. It is completely easy and convenient to buy phone number and prepaid card in China, which is almost available in every store. The next important thing is to get to know some seniors and the environment along the university. Seniors could provide us with some general information like where do we buy daily needs, what foods are good, how the weather in Beijing is, how do we prepare for weather change, and so on. One thing for sure is during the first month of stay in China, it is when you spend your money the most. You will definitely buy lots of daily stuffs and needs, eat out and go to new places for sightseeing.

First place that I visit in Beijing was the Great Wall. The university assured all the expense including bus and entrance fee. I have heard a lot about the Great Wall even before I went to China. There is a saying that if you do not visit Great Wall when you go to Beijing, then you did not go to Beijing at all. Despite the long walk to the top of the Great Wall, it is a great experience and place to go to. There are lots of foreigners and Chinese people from all ages. The university also organized trips for students to go to other cities like Shan Xi, Xi An, Shan Dong, etc.

The campus is active and provided with facilities and fair accommodation. Education is mediocre and teaching method is more to book or theory based rather than practical studies. Nevertheless, it does not apply to all type of studies in China and perhaps it is according to the major that we choose to take. Relationship between professors and students are good.  All lectures are taught in English with some foreign and Chinese professors depending on the lessons. Teaching method vary from presentations to case study and discussions. Exams could be open or close book, or final paper and presentations according to the preference of the lecturer. Students are provided with adequate time to study or review and detailed explanation of how exams are going to be. Library is well equipped with lots of books and computers, which is open to all students who want to study and prepare for their exams. In Beijing, it is common to see students from different universities studying in a café. Sometimes when I feel tired of studying in my own room or library, I also went out to café with some friends to find for new environment to study.

 

Life Experience
There are two sides of the campus, East side and West side. Each side has teaching building for specific students. For instance, teaching building on the West side is mainly for foreigners and Chinese who are in the International Business School (IBS) program, while there are two teaching buildings on the East side. One is for foreigners and Chinese as well, while the other is for foreigners studying Chinese. Dormitory is also available on the two side of the campus. There are two buildings for foreigner’s dormitory, one on the West side and one on the East side. Dormitory on the East side is more modern and it is just being renovated. I personally live on campus because I do not have enough understanding about the situations and circumstances other than that around the university until around 1 year of staying in Beijing. Furthermore, I am now used to the university’s circumstances and it is cheaper compared to living outside the campus.

The university is also surround with lots of places, which is convenient for students. Students are provided with clinic from the school, but it is small and the doctors do not seem to be too professional. You could go to the nearest hospital from the university, which is called Hai Dian Yi Yuan (海淀医院). It costs only around 3 kuai to see the doctor and it is reliable and trusted.

It is easy to find foods to eat inside or outside the university. Inside the university, we can go to dining hall or canteen and pay with studentprepaid card in either side of campus. Although foods in dining hall are relatively cheaper, I rarely went to the school canteen because of my concern for the hygiene. Therefore, I try to cook regularly with my friends. Cooking is fun; I have my own satisfaction trying new recipes and it feels good if the foods I cook taste good. Moreover, I can save a lot of money by making a dish on my own. The market sells pretty cheap ingredients and it is located close to my dorm. For example, a dish of Gong Bao Ji Ding (diced chicken and peanuts) will cost you around 15 to 20 kuai in restaurants, but with that amount of money, I could cook 2-3 plates of Gong Bao Ji Ding. However, sometimes I don’t really have time to cook due to assignments.

The first time I went to my university’s dining hall, what comes in my mind was how the foods look terrible to me. I always had lunch and dinner in restaurants available near the school canteen on the West side of the campus or on the small street behind my campus on the East side. There are a lot of restaurants ranging from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean food, which are not too expensive and are tasty. Outside the university, we could easily refer to Beijinger website (www.thebeijinger.com) to find some recommendations of places we could go to find meals and jobs, hospitals and many other things. Despite  the taste of the foods, I think Chinese foods are too oily. I was surprised to see the portion of foods that Chinese people eat and it wonders me how most of Chinese people are skinny even with the portion and how oily the foods are. Later, I figured out that Chinese people are active. Here in China, it is common to see elders in the park talking to each other, play musical instruments, dancing, singing, stitching, practicing Tai Chi (Chinese martial art), or spending time with their grandchildren instead of doing nothing.

It is my first time being far from home by myself and I was not feeling comfortable to be away from my family and friends. In fact when I finally arrived in China, I was stressed out and stunned by how everything is just not the same as my expectations. I thought with my current Chinese level at that time, I could at least strive less hard than the others that don’t have any basic or foundation in Chinese. However, the reality is just not identical as what I thought. I could not understand what people were saying because people in Beijing have different accent compared to the other people from different part of China. In my opinion, Chinese people cause us to be more stressful because they are rude and might get angry or annoyed if we don’t understand what they are talking about. I was just smiling and try to be nice when they talked to me. I was also surprised by how Chinese people always talk loudly, throw their waste and spit everywhere. I think it is a rude thing to spit in public and even in some countries like Singapore, spitting is forbidden and the person will be fined if the country finds out. I thought Beijing, as the capital city of China, would be a modern city, while the truth is the reciprocal.

When I got to a restaurant and saw the menu, everything is written in Chinese. I don’t know how to read those words and therefore I just picked whatever I could read in the menu. At that time, I was only familiar with the word 炒 (Chǎo) or fried from the word fried rice, which in Chinese is called 炒饭(Chǎofàn), rice which is called 饭 (fàn), noodle which is called 面 (miàn).

But then, as I feel accustomed with the new environment, I realized that I now feel comfortable staying here in Beijing. I love how Beijing is surrounded with a lot of places to go for sightseeing, shopping, and leisure. Places recommended to go for sightseeing are Great Wall, Tian An Men Square, Bei Hai, Summer Palace, Beijing Zoo, Bird Nest, Water Cube, and many other great places. Beijing has places that sell fake branded stuffs like Marc Jacobs and Longchamp located in Yong An Li, which is called Silk Market and Ya Xiu Market in San Li Tun. I like to go to Xi Dan for cheaper shopping stuffs like clothes, shoes, and bags, Wang Fu Jing for branded stuffs, Zhong Guan Cun for electronic stuffs, and Carrefour for daily needs. It is convenient and easy to go anywhere in Beijing because of availability of public transportation like subway and bus. Moreover, public transportation fare is also cheap. For instance, you could go to place as far as Ya Xiu Market, which is roughly 20 km far from BFSU for 51 minutes and paid 8 jiao (cents) by bus, 4 yuan by subway, or just take a cab for approximately 51 yuan. Cafes in Beijing are easy to find anywhere. Modern Toilet Café is a café with unique concept and design that will boost up your day. I like to go to Zoo Café (动物园咖啡馆) in Wu Dao Kou to enjoy different atmosphere to study and refresh my mind. However, the place is usually crowded and filled with students that come to study as well, especially in weekend. I would recommend going and studying to café in Wu Dao Kou area on weekdays because it is usually the place that every student goes to study on weekend. Wu Dao Kou is usually a place to stay for Korean and there are lots of Korean foods there.

So far, I have been used to the environment in Beijing. I could know eat in the university’s dining hall without even feel terrible about it. The point is that everything might seem to be not as good as what we think, but as we learn and get to know more about it, we will realize and proof for ourselves how our perceptions are wrong. Most of my Chinese friends are friendly, kind, and helpful to me. Whenever I am having a hard situation or need help from them, they will help me to solve my problems. I even have a Chinese private teacher beside the school that used to teach me Chinese for 60 kuai for an hour and now teach me for free as we get to know each other and share our language in exchange. One particular thing that I don’t like about Chinese people is that discrimination still exists among them, especially in workplace. Chinese people show more respect to Westerners and there are many occurrences that Westerners are more likely to be accepted in the workplace. In this case, it happens to me as well. As an example, it is harder for me to be an English teacher compared to Westerners just because I look like Chinese. Chinese are more open to accept “white people” and trust them even though their English are not really good.

As I keep learning Chinese, I realized that from my perspective, it is not sufficient to only learn Chinese from what we get from the university, it is also important to make friends with Chinese people and find places to study from institute outside the school to further accelerate our Chinese proficiency. Learning Chinese is indeed interesting and you would not feel bored even if you learn it everyday. Yet it gets even more interesting and exciting when you are getting better in it.

Now that I have been in China for almost three years, I think studying in China is by far one of the most grateful experiences that I have. It is exciting to learn new language. I feel glad and don’t feel regret for a bit of my decision. After all, I am thankful that I could have the opportunity to know people from different part of the world with different cultural, social, and economic background. It is just wonderful to learn and share different cultures, languages, and experiences.

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Author Details:

Name: Jufilin Wijaya
Nationality: Indonesia
University: Beijing Foreign Studies University (北京外国语大学)
Major: International finance