By: Yu, Christine Joy Ngan

In the Philippines, it is quite popular to study abroad, but not in China. Apparently, I am the first one among my family, cousins and friends to go to China for college. Most overseas Chinese (I am an overseas Chinese from Fujian) from my country go after graduating college in the Philippines to learn Mandarin, but never for proper college. Before coming to China, I actually gave this a lot of thinking – whether or not studying college in China is for the best, and after what I’ve seen, heard and experienced from the past three years, I’d like to believe I made the right choice.

College in China has certainly been a rollercoaster ride for me. I’ve had so many experiences here that I would not have had, had I stayed in the Philippines for college. Ultimately, the ride has been quite bumpy, but worth it.

The Application Experience

First, choosing the place of my intent was done by matter of necessity. We have a family business that dealt with some suppliers in GuangZhou, thus, evidently, I chose to come to GuangZhou for college. The city of choice is very crucial. One must also consider several other factors in deciding: like the weather, the distance from your country and the local culture (because I believe each city in China has a different culture). I, for one, prefer to stay in a place with moderate weather and not to the extremes. Unlike Beijing or Shanghai, GuangZhou’s summer and winter are quite bearable. It does not snow in GuangZhou, so a girl who grew up in a tropical country like me could get used to it. Summer gets a tad bit too hot though. Next, GuangZhou is just two hours away from the Philippines by plane, so going home for the weekend when I feel homesick is not a problem. Last, the local people of GuangZhou are adept at speaking two languages: Cantonese and Mandarin, so I could learn to speak two languages for the time that I am here.  One must always think of pros and cons when deciding big matters like this.

Second, choosing my school was also very crucial. I did my own research, searching for websites and various evaluations on the internet. That time, I was choosing between Jinan University and Sun Yat Sen University. I checked the websites of both schools in hopes of finding what courses they had to offer, and seeing the detailed information from both websites, I decided to apply to both universities. Waiting for the replies from both universities took the longest time, so I went to China and personally applied. I visited the south campus of Sun Yat Sen University and was truly at awe of its beautiful, green, and conducive for learning atmosphere. At that moment, I knew where I was to study. Luckily, by the good grace of God, I was accepted into the School of Chinese as a Second Language to take the Business Chinese course.

Third, the registration process and visa application was quite an experience. I’ve never seen so much different colored people all gathered in one Office for International Students. Registration in Sun Yat Sen University mainly consists of three parts, paying tuition, visa application and obtaining the temporary resident’s permit – sounds a lot simpler than it really is. First, for paying tuition: that time, the school didn’t offer card tuition payments so I had almost 10,000RMB in cash inside my bag. I was so nervous the whole time since the amount is quite big, and there were so very many people around me. Plus, I didn’t know anybody. After I paid the tuition, I continued on to the next step: visa application. I had to have complete documents (including Admission notice, JW202 form, photo with blue background and photo certification, and the visa application form) in order to successfully apply online, attain the Student Visa and go through the next step: obtaining the temporary resident’s permit. This was done in the nearest police station. Felt quite like an obstacle course for me, like I was on a mission or something: quite an experience.

The Study Experience

From what I’ve heard, college would be full of unreasonable, horrific professors, thick books and sleepless nights. As far as I’m concerned, most part of it is true. To know which parts specifically, I’d like to share with you some personal accounts of my most unforgettable memories.

When I first entered Sun Yat Sen University, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what college was to be like; neither did I have any idea where my classmates would be from. On the first day of class, I wore a black V-neck t-shirt and plain denims, to blend in with the crowd. I was especially early that day, since I was too excited to start my first day of college. I was placed in the Intermediate Level Class A of learning Mandarin Chinese. Meeting my first college classmates was quite the experience. I had classmates from Thailand, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and many other countries. I felt as though I was placed in a world UNESCO meeting. My teachers were also very kind and amusing – the opposite of what I thought they’d be. The good thing about them is that they are very patient with the students, and they know many methods of earning the student’s attention. Our teachers’ quality of teaching is also very commendable. I feel like they really put their hearts into teaching us students. We had five teachers for our first semester, one for each subject. We had Listening, Intensive Reading, Extensive Reading, Composition Writing and Speaking – the basic five.

I remember the time I had my very first midterms. I was so excited since they were my first ever. In high school, we only had quizzes, long tests and periodical tests but never had the very official “midterms”. A week before hell week, (as we students would like to call it) some of my classmates and I chose to study together at the Study Room especially provided for students in the First International Student’s Dormitory. We would burn the midnight oil together since we all had the same study habit – we listen in class, but never study nor do homework outside of class. Earphones plugged and highlighters on hand, we battled it out for three consecutive nights, increasing our knowledge and at the same time, the size of our eye bags. Studying together though, as I found out, is not the best way to really get information into your brain. My classmates would bring yummy snacks, beverages and even playing cards to the table that I’d get distracted. Those moments were fun, but if one sets one’s mind into studying, it would be best to study alone.

Studying in China is not limited to the four walls of the classroom. I am really pleased at the fact that Sun Yat Sen University hosts various events and activities that encourage cultural interaction, while understanding China’s unique culture. Once in a while, the university would have outings (that are free) that take us, foreign students, around famous places in GuangZhou like the GuangZhou Museum and the Liwan District. Occasionally, we’d also have some cultural exchange fairs, wherein one can have a taste of the world under one roof. Through the school’s efforts, we, foreign students, are able to come in contact with the world around us, including the country that brought us all together, China.

The Life Experience

To share with you, dear readers, my life experience in China, I would like to introduce to you my three different roommates for three different semesters:

The Vietnamese Senior

For my first semester in SYSU (Sun Yat Sen University), I lived in the First International Student’s Dormitory. This dormitory is very near our classrooms and the South Gate so I found it very convenient. The room is not that bad either, having a normal toilet and a decent bed. The dorm had an elevator, so having reserved a room on the ninth floor was not a problem, since later in the semester, I heard that the East Gate dormitories had nine floors with no elevators and holes for toilets. Anyways, my very first roommate was from the beautiful country of Vietnam. She was quite tall, fair and pretty. Apparently, she was a senior, meaning that that fall semester of 2011 was her last as an international degree student in Sun Yat Sen University. She was in the middle of writing her graduation thesis. I was really scared to venture out alone, not being able to speak a word of Chinese and being new to the university and its campus, so having her around was really helpful. She showed me where the classrooms were, where the best restaurants were and even took me shopping. Somehow, she became the guardian that I truly needed. I learned a lot of things from her, but the most important thing I learned is to always be of help to others. After that semester, we said our goodbyes, but still remain friends up to this very day. She is now back in her country working in a big banking company.

The Korean Newbie

For my second semester, I continued to live in the same room as last semester. My second roommate was Korean. She looked typically Korean, with her black-rimmed glasses and New Balance rubber shoes. This time, she was the newbie. She just graduated fresh from high school and came to China for college. Basically, she was the last semester me. I, being more familiar with Sun Yat Sen University, decided to be a guardian by taking her around, helping her adjust to the foreign student life in China. It really is amusing how in just six months, I was able to upgrade my status from being a newbie to someone’s guardian. I felt really proud of myself. That time, we both decided to take the HanYu ShuiPing Kaoshi Level 5. I never took it before but my roommate, on the other hand, took the test some time ago but got a low score, so she knew what she was going to face. We both memorized Chinese words together, testing each other before going to bed. There were also times that we both got hungry from studying too much that we’d secretly go to McDonald’s late at night for midnight snacks. This kept on until the day of the test finally came. The nervousness did not fade even after the test, since the results were to come out a month after. We both counted the days until the faithful day came. I went to the Office for International Students to see the results. That same day, my roommate was to go to Hainan for some volunteer work in her church. She had been dealing with too much pressure lately with her schoolwork, church work and some misunderstandings with her close friends that she chose not to check the results until she came back. I, being the impatient girl that I am, went on and decided to check both our results. Ultimately, we both passed with flying colors that I called her up immediately and informed her of the good news. She went on her trip with all smiles. We were so happy that when she came back, we went to McDonald’s a few more times for snacks. Though this resulted to both of us gaining a bit weight, our hearts were happy. She taught me to enjoy life, and value the things I have. She continued for the next two semesters, but moved to DaXueCheng to take up Finance.

The Vietnamese Aunt

For my third semester, I moved to the Second International Student’s Dormitory. Unluckily, my room was al fresco (I had no aircon) and on the fifth floor, in a dormitory with five floors and no elevators. This dormitory though, gives out a more comfy and cozy feeling than the First Dormitory. Perhaps it is because of the little chairs and table in the middle, or the green plants in the garden inside the dorm. Anyways, my third roommate was a thirty-one year old woman from Vietnam. She looked far from thirty-one. Rather, she looked like a teenager with her petite frame and flawless white skin. She was quite the chatterbox, who believed speaking with me in English could improve her skills as well. She was on scholarship, taking her Masters in Philosophy. Obviously, she had a lot more life experiences than I did, so I guess I learned quite a lot from her. The thing about her though, is that she lived a very routine life. She would wake up at 8 am, no matter what day it was. At 11:30, she would go down to the common kitchen and cook her own lunch and have it at around 12 noon. After her hearty meal, she would take time to nap for an hour or so, and continue on with whatever she had to do. This daily routine kept on for one whole semester, and I believe it was the key to her efficiency. She had to write tons of articles for her Masters that she had to be at her most efficient at all times. When I asked her how she is able to adjust her body clock to be so precise every day, she would tell me how she forces herself to, in order to achieve maximum efficiency. I was so shocked to know that these things don’t come naturally, but instead, one exerts effort, and a lot of it at that. She just recently got married, and is still taking her Masters in SYSU today.

Ultimately, I feel like these three people became my roommates for a reason. Somehow, they all imparted to me a different value; a different lesson: Always be of help to others, don’t be too hard on yourself, and live your life with discipline. I believe that with these three tips that I’ve learned and lived with for six months each, I can live a life of meaning; a life of love.

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Author Details:

 

Name: Yu, Christine Joy Ngan

Nationality: Philippines

University: Sun Yat Sen University

Major in: Business Chinese

CUCAS Says: This essay is well-structured, explicitly talks about experience that a newcomer would go through. We are glad to see more and more Philippines change their minds to come to China for their further study, and we are also happy that the author could adapt to an entire new environment quickly. And for any prospect student who would like to study at Sun Yat Sen University, CUCAS could offer the one-stop service to save your application time and also waiting time so that you do not need to fly from your home country to Guangzhou to apply in person like the author. But it is also a good experience to see the university campus by your own eyes before application, here CUCAS just leave you another option to choose.