By Chiwala Gift

It has been said before that a journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step and the same applies even in all aspects of life that includes academic journey. This is because; you have to embark on the process way back before the time of the journey itself and when it comes to academics, the first step is application for admission. In the following write up, I will outline my personal experience in regards to the process of application up until I secured a place in one of the world’s best university in China, thus the Dalian Medical University and how I have been adapting to life’s challenging experience of being away from home.

THE APPLICATION PROCESS
For so long, I lived not knowing that China is one of the world’s Centre of academic excellence possibly due to lack of information as my country didn’t have diplomatic relations with this area of academic excellence. It was only five years ago when I learnt that opportunities are available in China from one of the highly qualified expatriate who came to Malawi under the Chinese Medical Team project. This expatriate introduced me to cucas, a website that has information on how to go about studying in China.

It is through this website that I knew about the Chinese government scholarship and launched my application. I have to admit that it was not an easy or simple task for there was a monetary factor that was associated with accessing the information as I was required to go online every time I needed to. In addition, other opportunities that were available on the site required that I pay application fee which though small, but were hard to find as I come from an economically challenged background. As these were not enough, there was another component where I was required to outline my study plan and research project I am to carryout in China.

One thing that the Chinese expatriate challenged me is that where there is will, there is a way. Hence, if I really want to study in China, I will. However, it was not easy. But basing on his advice, I started searching for opportunities to study in China and no sooner than later that I saw the advert in the local papers that the Chinese embassy in Malawi is calling for applications from individuals who meet the requirements they stipulated.

I moved up and down consulting people who had gone on similar journey before to advise me on how to write a personal background as well as study plan. Though they offered what they could, one thing came to my mind, thus, no two thumbs are alike. Such that if it worked on some individual, it does not necessarily mean that it will work on my case hence I was encouraged to develop self-belief that I can surely do it and succeed.

Though, easily mentioned, self-belief does not develop so easily. Basing on previous experience it is no secret that many who wanted or tried ended up not being successful. Many are the factors that may lead to that, however, many people never dare trying for they think that they cannot make it. But remembering that no matter how challenging a task may be, we must try and never fail to try, I convinced myself that it is possible to compete at national as well as international level and secure admission.

You may wish to know that I had been applying for the same since 2010, when I first learnt about the scholarship, and though I was not successful, I did not lose heart but continue trying, for they say, failure is never final and we should keep on trying when we do not succeed. However, each time I failed gave me an opportunity to establish on how a good application should be, such that the subsequent application was better than the previous one which also increased my chances of succeeding.

After meeting the requirements and correcting my previous mistakes, I submitted my application and I was glad to hear that the embassy was pleased with me and wanted to interview me. Again, I had no idea on what such interviews are all about considering the fact that I had never been there before. This also provided another forum for self-belief and confidence for it is possible to mess up at the last minute. Though I was given a short notice, I found some time to review my application documents such that the interview was one of the easiest things I encountered during the whole application process.

STUDY EXPERIENCE
At a world class university like Dalian Medical University, one does not expect to find substandard facilities and the fact that China is a developed country, just tells you the kind of facilities you should expect. I am glad to say without fear or favor that the facilities here are world class, advanced and magnificent.

However, we all know that behind every machine there is a human being who should operate it. Hence the world class facilities will be nothing if there are no good operators on the ground. In addition, just as there is no machine which is 100% efficient, humans too have shortfalls here and there such that I still find problems with the teaching by some lecturers.

There are some teaching staff members, who cannot express fully during the teaching possibly due to the language factor which makes the learning to be not enjoyable sometimes. But overall, the quality of teaching is good. From the teaching building itself, the teaching materials and the teaching aids that accompany each lecture, makes me understand the lesson many times than I could if I were not here.

Knowing for sure that it is possible to take a camel to the river, but not possible to force it to drink. It is also possible to have the world class facilities and yet not making good of it for it still depends on the students themselves on whether they will come out good or not. Such that they are still expected to put in some effort to balance up with the good teaching which is offered here. I therefore, make sure that I attend classes and participate in the learning itself for it is by doing so that I grasp the concepts being imparted to us during each session and not forgetting to work on and submit my homework on time.

Believing that too much is poisonous; I plan my study clearly so that I should not have much stuff to look on when examination time comes. I usually review/or revise the materials almost daily to update myself and familiarize with the course content for this is what I will need during and after examination.

Considering that two are better than one, as well as there is power in unity and the future is to the organized, I teamed up with some other students to form a study group where we discuss the courses we are learning and help each other where we missed. This helps us to be at the same level with the teachers and follow the teaching all the time.

Realizing very well that there is no sweet without toil, I have my own schedule that I follow which helps me prepare for the examinations as well as enhance my understanding of the course content for it is only by doing that, that I feel will isolate me from the rest. After all, I am not here for a long time, but a good time. These simple and few strategies, have seen me going the few months I have been here and they seem to be a winning formula in as much as university education is concerned.

LIFE EXPERIENCE
There is no other interesting thing in life than to live your dream, for it is said, if you do not allow us to dream, we will also not allow you to sleep. I literally had no problem on my day of arrival in Dalian for my country mates were at the train station to welcome me. That night and subsequent few days were not challenging as I had people to orientate me about the campus. Even if there is no one to your rescue, the campus of DMU is well labeled with maps that gives geography of the area.

The real test came when my name missed out on the list the college had prepared to go for visa extension, and I was told to go for medical examination at an address I was given. Unfortunately, the address was in Chinese and I had no clue on how to go about it and though I tried to seek the help of my country mates, they were not available as they had lectures to attend.

I had a simple option where I could get a taxi to the Quarantine and Inspection Bureau, but this could be very expensive. Hence I took the risky option of going by public transport because as a man, I have been taught to take risks. I set off by bus, and could ask anybody in the bus including the driver who had to exercise patience on me for we could not hear each other. Lucky came my way when I met a girl who was also going for the same and I had finally saved lots of dollars on that particular day.

As a foreign student, one really has to devise cost cutting measures if they are to enjoy the learning and bring out something good from it. Dalian being a tourist city, has a high cost of living save alone on food. As such, I have learnt, that it is better to buy some things online “taobao” where the costs are relatively lower than the market. Needless to say, Dalian is very cold in winter and the protecting clothes are very affordable at the online store than in the shops here.

In addition to that, I have developed a habit of traveling by public transport for it is very cost effective and I usually buy things in bulks most of the times which makes it cheaper thereby helping me save money for possible future use. Instead of making phone calls using credit, I use other applications like QQ, Wechat and even Skype which are relatively cheaper when compared to direct phone calls at local and international level.

I am lucky to be accommodated on campus for this is the Chinese rule for new students, I understand. However, time is surely coming when I will need to move out of campus to have a feeling of outside Campus life. It is therefore, not expected of me to give you a clear picture on how to rent an apartment, but I have been advised by the college that there are agents who deal in that and that it is better if at least two or three students share an apartment for in so doing, the cost will be shared amongst them and they can cover each other up in case of emergency, like sickness.

Finally, I would not be fair if I cannot recognize the efforts that my Chinese friends make in teaching me Chinese language so that I have no problems when I am out of campus. It is with such treatment and hospitality that I do not miss Malawi and have nothing to complain that makes me say “it is good and wonderful to be here.”

In conclusion, studying abroad is not a one day thing but a process which one has to invest more energy and resources as well. In addition, the application process is challenging and seeking other people’s advice is not a mistake but advantageous. When the deal is sealed one has to know why they are here and give much priority to that, failing which they may leave earlier than they came and individual as well as group study are beneficial to achievement of good results. Considering that this is a foreign land, one has to devise costing cutting measures which provide for emergency exit.

 

 

Author Details:

Name: Chiwala Gift
NAtionality: Malawian
Major Course of Study: Master of Science in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

University: Dalian Medical University