My amazing six years In China

By: Neha Urvashi Gunnoo

(Mauritian student shares her experience in Sun Yat-Sen University studying MBBS)

The draught of humid and hot air that slapped me in the face when I alighted from the bus from Hong Kong airport some 6 years ago, woke me from my slumber and made me realize that my dreams had finally come true.  The excitement of setting foot in China left me spellbound and a sensation of immense pleasure grabbed my whole body, and overcame the sadness that I had felt all throughout my journey after leaving my country for the first time.

My ‘A’ Levels at Secondary School qualified me to enroll for a 5-year MBBS course at the prestigious “Sun Yat-Sen Medical University”. When I reached the admissions office, I was struck by the warmth, kindness and compassion of its personnel. In fact I had applied for a medical seat from Mauritius a far-distant island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Within one month my application forms were processed and I was issued with my admission letter and my JW 202 form. That was the start of a long journey that would bring me to the country of one of the world’s oldest civilization, now characterized by its warm people, rich cultural diversity and top of the notch technological feats.

Once settled in my hostel room, I had enough time to familiarize myself with the local surroundings and the residents in the vicinity of the University. I went from discovery to discovery and I realized that Guangzhou was a melting port of cultures with people of different nationalities cohabiting and living peacefully. When my classes started I rubbed shoulders with foreign students and we quickly became friends. My first contact with the Chinese culture was in the beginners’ class for Mandarin. The language sounded complex and difficult to understand, but after an intensive learning and teaching which lasted for a few sessions, I began to appreciate the richness and beauty of the language.  My learning of the language was reinforced by home assignments and a lot of language drills, which finally bore fruits.  My classes of Chinese language comprised mainly of four skills which were reading, writing, listening and speaking. Each teacher had his own teaching style. The older ones put much emphasis on books whereas the younger teachers preferred the innovative and interactive teaching methods. The teacher-student relationship was unique as at times we ended up in singing Karaoke together. Others invited us to off campus events during holidays. I further enhanced my mastery of the language by interacting with my Chinese friends. As my Chinese was poor in the beginning, I could only say ‘ni hao’ dui bu qi, wo ting bu dong’ but gradually I managed to converse and I built up self confidence after a while. In my proficiency test called HSK and end of course exam, I scored a level six which spurred me to go still further. Group works were organized and there was sharing of good practices and gradually my performance improved. We were now getting impregnated with the Chinese way of life and we started to feel quite comfortable in our daily activities. Another surprise that lay in stock for me was that I realized that the Chinese language that I had learnt was not good enough to facilitate my understanding of the technical words in the medical jargon. In brief it was totally different, but I persevered and later on I could manage to understand everything from Molecular Biology, Epidemiology to Biochemistry. Our teachers were our saviors as they were sympathetic, cooperative and always helpful.

To better embrace the Chinese way of life and enjoy some mobility and freedom I and my friends bought the simplest means of transport which was in fact a bicycle. It enabled us to explore around the campus and within the close surroundings of the University. It was then that I realized that the best way to integrate the local community was to go towards the local residents and meet them in their own surroundings.

As the years went by, we got used to the Chinese way of life, as well as the Chinese way of teaching which was in itself very inspiring. We often had to go for further research in the University Library. I was impressed by the large collection of books written in English. Free wireless internet was also easily available.

The real business started when we had our anatomy classes. It was quite challenging to remember the different parts of the human body as this aspect of our course was totally new to us. To overcome this problem, I and my close friends sat together, organized group works and discussed tricky questions lengthily. Gradually the passion for learning grew and we felt at ease as the days went by. We made study groups and often talked to our teachers for a better quality of teaching. The teachers were most of the time very cooperative to our pleas and were always happy to help.

The city of Guangzhou welcomed as with open arms. The disciplined and hard working residents of the city left a deep impression on us. Life is simply amazing and thrilling. You feel comfortable, safe and confident in that vibrant, fast moving city. The tall buildings whose summits seem to kiss the grey sad clouds, were technological marvels. There were so many things to see in that animated city, from big shopping malls to the traditional but picturesque Chinese architecture of the edifices that had been standing there proudly as witnesses to the drastic changes in the evolution of the city.

The first winder holidays took me and my friends to Shenzhen. Travelling by train itself was a thrilling experience but nevertheless we managed to get out of the subway and reach the famous site of ‘Window of the World’. The place was breathtaking and captivating. All the famous wonder of the world were there in front of me. It was a dream that had come true and we managed to “go round the world within a day”. We were lucky enough to have been invited for dinner on that day by the relatives of a Chinese friend. We had a memorable feast for supper and the exquisite and mouth watering foods increased my appetite. After eating to our full we went back to our hotel and discovered that the city of Shenzhen was easily accessible from other cities by high speed trains.

During my second winter holidays about fifteen of us took the train for Beijing. We all knew that it would be freezing cold over there, but the obsession to see and play with snow, overcame all our apprehensions. We had great and memorable moments in Beijing. The climax of the trip was climbing over the Great Wall of China at Badaling. I felt as if I was Edmund Hilary at the summit of Mount Everest.

The Great Wall of China prompted me to reflect on the ingeniosity of the Chinese people of that time. Who would dare to think that this great wall which can be seen from outer-space, was built by the Chinese tradesmen. It was awesome and it was only then that I realized how ambitious and advanced the Chinese were at that time.

It is said that the best way to appreciate the Chinese cuisine is to eat the traditional and typical local food. So I took my courage in both hands and went hunting for the rarest specimens. At the start I had mixed reactions towards some foods and I hesitantly tasted some with my finger tips, at the night market. I tried star fish and other delicacies but could not even touch snake and twisting scorpions as I was psychologically unprepared to try such adventures. Nevertheless I was impressed by other people who were enjoying brochettes of scorpions and other animals. Finally, I made up my mind, to enjoy a good meal at McDonald.

I was also attracted by the Peking duck famous among gourmets all over the world. It tasted sublime in my mouth, and it was then that I realized that I had tasted the favorite meal of the Kings and Emperors of ancient China. My wish is that the rich culinary heritage of China should be preserved so that the generations to come continue to taste the mouth watering delicious dishes that has stood the test of time.

Life in a big city like Guangzhou is very easy as all facilities are available on a 24 hours service. If you are craving for a hot meal or soup on a chilly afternoon, food outlets are available at a stone throw.  The atmosphere in these small restaurants is convivial and warm. Apart from the tasty dishes, many young people of our age are fond of shopping. I personally do not waste any opportunity to purchase the latest model of a dress if the price is within reach. Famous shopping streets in Guangzhou like Beijing Lu and Shang Xia Jiu Lu are shoppers’ paradise. These streets are always well animated with karaoke, lively restaurants and other leisure activities. You also have the possibility to stay indoors, enjoy the comfort of your hostel room, if you are not keen on going outdoors. The dorms are well equipped with a hot water system that works round the clock. All the rooms are air-conditioned and that adds to the comfort of the residents especially in summer.

Some students who prefer to live outdoors in flats or apartments are free to do so. They offer more or less the same comfort but are relatively more expensive in terms of rent. I had many friends who used to stay in apartments and if you are fluent in Chinese, finding apartments in China is relatively easy but they speak little English so you would  probably spent a good hour making sign languages to them, trying to make them understand what you are saying. You can find real-estate agencies basically everywhere in the city and they can get you apartments within a day. Real estate agencies are there to make things easy for you but I personally prefer my hostel room to an apartment as I prefer to live on the campus grounds among my fellow friends.

I have also been deeply touched by the willingness of the University authorities to provide foreign students with activities that would add some happiness to their lives. Very often the foreign student office organizes trips, sports events and get-togethers for us. This shows their sincerity in providing maximum comfort to their guests and this goes to their credit.

I have also been puzzled at the fact that some Chinese individuals that we come across in the streets are fascinated by our physical appearances, our curly hairs, color complexion and big eyes. They are so impressed that they propose to take their pictures standing by my side. The Chinese people are in fact a friendly people, sincere and kind at heart.

Do not be mistaken, the number of vehicles ranging from public transport to private cars also add to the ambiance as many drivers continuously keep horning while finding their way in the heavy morning and afternoon traffic. You definitely need to be an agile, experienced driver to find your way in the heavy traffic on the motorways and highways. The lifestyle in Guangzhou is faster and more hectic than anything I am used to. Everyone rushes to everything and the car horns are constantly beeping. This created a dynamic environment and we would see something out of the ordinary every day.

Generally speaking I can say that China is my second home country as during my six years of stay I have come to appreciate the multi-colored facets of the Chinese society. I can consider myself lucky enough to be studying in China as I have gone through a unique experience of living in one of the world’s oldest civilization, which is now one of the world’s most powerful economy.

China is to me a unique place as it represents a perfect blend of traditions and modernity. I find myself very lucky to be a scholarship postgraduate student in this amazing country now.

 

Author Details:

NAME: Neha Urvashi Gunnoo (妮荷)

Nationality: Mauritian (毛里求斯)

University: Sun Yat-Sen University (中山大学)

Major: MBBS-Respiratory Medicine (呼吸内科)