Study And Life Experience in China’s University

 By: Indira Kotamraju

China- A fascinating country with a fascinating history and culture, this was the country I opted for to pursue my undergraduate medical course. Though I was not a first ranker, I was top notch in my studies. But due to the system of caste based reservations which were introduced after India became independent to provide equality of opportunities to socially deprived classes, many like me do not get to pursue their choice in higher education. So I tried to look for openings outside the country. Ukraine and China were the choices before me.

When you think of China , The Great wall appears before your eyes. Then who can forget the Beijing Olympics? The country that invented Gun powder. Then the History lessons i Had read in my school days flashed before my eyes, Fahien, the traveler and Huan Tsang who had taken Buddhism from India to China, subjugation of China by Western powers, the communes, the Long March under Mao Zedong, and the progress of Modern China under Deng Xiao Ping all came to my mind in a sequential procession. My father who used to tell me some of these tales and those of Confucius and Taoism backed my choice, though Medical Education in erstwhile Soviet Republics was cheaper than in China. Initially I was a little skeptical as I had very little knowledge about the education system, then I started my research on it. I was pretty impressed with what I had read online about the university I was getting into -“Nanjing Medical University –Jiangsu Province”- the Nanjing that was once capital of China under the  Ming dynasty,and then I started my preparations for getting into it. I got an application for it from an overseas education consultants office, filled it up and sent it for further processing, and after twenty days I received an approval letter from the university and along with it came an overwhelming news about my selection for  Jiangsu Province Entrance Scholarship – Jasmine, which offered me a scholarship of twenty thousand RMB. I was very surprised and delighted about it and so were my parents, but what we didn’t know was the basis on which they selected me from amongst many others who were granted admission. Our  agent, had informed that it was based on my high school scores, a certificate for which had to be submitted as a part of my application procedure. The news of my scholarship got me very excited about this university and the country. I then started to prepare for my travel and life in China. And along with me were a motley group of students who had opted  the same way I did. All of us together set out on our journey from India on 10th October 2011 to China.

Shanghai – the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper by population in the world is very much like our city of Mumbai (even the last two letters in their spellings tally) a financial center, a transport hub with world’s busiest counter port through which millions enter and exit China, this was the port through which I had entered China for the first time ever. Shanghai was a place worth the awe. But our destination wasn’t reached as yet. Nanjing, a place eight hours away by road from shanghai was our ultimate destination. An overseas in charge from the university came to pick us up from shanghai airport. He had arranged a bus for us from shanghai to Nanjing. The journey from shanghai to Nanjing was very memorable for all of us, and especially for me. I was filled with a mix of conflicting emotions of sadness in heart for leaving my parents, family, friends and my country and along with it was excitement of moving to another great country, with tiny little butterflies in my stomach at the thought of nearing my university and entering a new phase of my life.

After a long emotional journey for eight hours all of us saw the most awaited   thing – the gates of our university with Nanjing Medical University written on a marble plaque right at the entrance, the very sight of which filled our hearts with joy. As the bus passed through the campus from the gates to the dorm, we got a slight glimpse of our campus, with which we fell in love at the very first sight. The campus was huge with lush green trees rhythmically swaying to the fresh breeze passing by and with water bodies streaming all around the campus. A campus of this sort was something unimaginable back home. The campus obviously included many buildings for teaching, dining and living for all the students both international and Chinese. The Chinese and us – the International students shared the same dining hall- actually halls as our university has four dining halls providing us with a lot of choices. Initially it was a bit tough for us to get accustomed to the Chinese food as it was in no way similar to what we have back home. We slowly adopted ourselves and the university too tried to provide our style of food and had started to serve us with it and made an effort to make us feel at home. It was very thoughtful, I must say. It made our survival a bit easier. We even had an option of cooking by ourselves in the common kitchens we had in our dorms. We were provided with a full furnished kitchen with one on each floor. Our dorms resided only the International students which also included students from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Living in the dorm with different people drawn from different countries and different cultures opened us up to the world in a way and helped us to understand various people and their culture and traditions, and soon all of us felt like one and bonded well, what made it even easier for us to bond quickly was that we all could speak one common language – English. We did not have a language barrier, something that made it difficult for all of us to share the same kind of bond with the Chinese. But this problem was no longer bothering us as our academic sessions started  and it was  the university’s policy to concentrate mainly on teaching us the language in the first year. And we started to get  差不多in the language and were allowed inside the Bamboo curtain, and once inside I have found the Chinese as very warm and genuinely hospitable people.Our medium of study was English though. The Chinese lessons were just to make our stay easy, for communication and future clinical purposes.

Although the medium was in English initially it was a bit hard for us to understand the local  accent . We slowly started to understand and later follow it. Now it is pretty much good as all the lectures we get are given to us by professors who know the language (English) and subject very well, with most of them being overseas doctors or students themselves in the past. The lectures are very knowledgeable, and as a source of additional information we even have a huge library which houses medical books from various doctors and authors belonging to various fields from all over the world. The library is one of the  best things my university has, and is my personal favorite place where I generally go and look for books on topics that interest me the most, especially during the time of exams. During the exam period the campus is a sight to behold with all the students both Chinese and international engulfed in the study and in serious mood. But study is not the only thing we keep our interest in. our university hosts a number of events like sports day, cultural fests, dancing competitions and many more which helps us find our inner talent, prove it and improve it. All these activities also help us to improve our relations with the Chinese students.

Its been three years since I first came to China, the first one and a half year we stayed in the university dorms, though the dorms were comfortable we wanted to move out as we had to use common washrooms in the dorm and we wanted our personal ones. So we started to look for apartments close by. The residential areas were calm, soothing and nice. We got enrolled at a housing agency which would help us find our dream home away from home. It wasn’t easy to find an apartment though. A lot of them we didn’t like and many more that we liked didn’t click. We had to face a lot of trouble renting one for a fair price. And we didn’t have enough time to look furthermore. So we ultimately had to drop the idea of moving out. And we continued staying at the dorm, after all our dorms were no less and we finally figured out that sharing the washrooms wasn’t that big of a problem as good hygienic conditions were very well maintained by the dorm management. Not just in the dorms the hygienic conditions in the entire university is very well maintained. Health and hygiene is one thing my university is very particular of. It has many policies that help maintain a hygienic environment in the campus. It also houses a clinic in the campus to which students run to at the time of need. My university truly believes in “Health is wealth and wealth is knowledge.”

It has been a wonderful experience for me so far in China with a lot of ups and downs. It has taught me a few life lessons, of which being Independent and Responsible were the major one’s. It was in my first year that I learnt that here you cannot totally depend on anyone like you used to depend on your parents and family. You are all by yourselves. At the first it was a bit tough but it made me strong mentally and emotionally and made me very independent. And physical absence of parents not only challenged me emotionally but also economically. At the beginning I knew nothing about money management. My parents used to send me money every month, I could never manage it well and always used to finish the entire money before the month ended. I slowly started to understand how to handle money after running into tight corner a few times . I consider these lessons that I have learnt from experience equally important and useful as the medical knowledge I gained from reading books. Now, I think coming out of my country and home at such a tender age was worth it. I was just eighteen when I first came here, but not one day did I regret it. Yes, there were times when I wanted to go back home leaving everything, but I stayed because I had to and didn’t like to run away from hard times, that just helped me grow as a person and made me stronger. I think everyone should experience this at least once in life, because as they say “the best learnt lessons are from experience not books”. And all that I have learnt from my experience is that while in China or in any part of the world, you just have to be a chameleon, adapt to your surroundings, feel at home and grow accordingly.

With all the conditions favoring my education, health and growth the three years of my stay in this country has been very eventful, beautiful and memorable. And finally as they say “ experience is not what happens to you, It is what you do with what happens to you” China happened to me and I am taking the best out of it, after all I am in a country which believes in “ be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”

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Author Details:

Name: Indira Kotamraju

Nationality: India

University: Nanijing Medical University

Major: MBBS