Why studying in China?

One evening I was writing my Chinese homework at home in Argentina and realized that studying   Chinese in a Spanish speaking country required too much effort to get very little results. It was at that moment that there was a “click” inside my head and I said ‘I want to study in China’.

Going to China sounds really challenging, and also scaring for most people. It is a remote country, very different culture, and the most important, all the people there speak Chinese.

Immediately I started to search on internet for Chinese schools and universities which accepted foreign students to study Chinese language. To my surprise there were too many, so many that it was really hard to start asking for the admission procedures.

So before moving forward there were a couple of questions that had to be answered:

1) What city do I want to go?

2) When to start, in which month?

3) Which university?

 

Studying at the university will take a minimum of 1 semester, which can be extended to several semesters or years. This means I must choose a city where I will feel comfortable. A place that I can call “home” because I will be living there for a long time. I chose Xi’an, a city which combines everything I need to feel at “home”. It is a big city, it has all the resources and facilities I may need, there are many universities, which make the environment suitable for studying and increases the possibilities of meeting other foreign students to exchange experiences. Xi’an also has a very rich history, many museums, temples and cultural places which make the China Experience really attractive.

The universities start the semesters in September and March, both two options are available for foreign students, however, there is an important point to consider about the beginning of classes. September is summer, March is winter. It makes a huge difference arriving to an unknown country on different seasons, specially where the temperature range is wide and goes from very hot in summer to very cold in winter. Personally, I love summer and prefer to arrive to a new place during summer, which makes it easier to move around, visit the place and get familiar with the city.

Searching on internet I found  many different University options in Xi’an. As I didn’t have any reference or recommendation for Xi’an universities just chose the one which I felt it had an attractive name : Xi’an International Studies University.

Said this, it was decided that I would study in Xi’an International Studies University starting my classes in September 2013. Oh, it is only three months from now. Need to hurry up!

 

Application Experience

The Xi’an International Studies University (from now on XISU) website contains information for foreign students wondering to join. This information is in English and very well divided into different sections. The most important for me at that time was the registration procedures and contact information. Immediately I sent an email to the XISU admission department asking for registration forms, beginning of classes details, assistance to request the Chinese student visa and residence. I need to say that I was worried because this decision involved many changes in my life and everything was then depending on this email, however, I was shocked when two days after I received a warm answer from the XISU admission department, including all the requested information and attaching a registration form. I couldn’t believe how simple they made all the process. To double check I sent them another email. I was hard to believe that just sending a form by email was enough to become a student at this university, no need to pay any reservation fee, no credit card data required. Furthermore, no need to translate all my documentation into Chinese. They told me ‘We are a language university, we can read your documents in your own language’. Yes!, it was this simple.

It was only a couple of weeks later that a mail arrived home containing the university invitation letter and all the forms necessary for the Chinese Embassy in my country to process my student visa. They also offer me accommodation at the university campus’ hotel and a free airport pickup service. Thanks XISU! That day changed my life.

After arriving to Xi’an the XISU admission department helped and explained us how to complete all the registration and residence procedures, going together with us to the corresponding government offices if necessary.

The China Experience became real, no more fear.

 

Study Experience

×Will the school be very hard?

×Will I understand the teachers?

×Is it true that they only speak Chinese?

×What if they place me at a level that is very easy for me?

These are just a couple of questions from the long list of questions every student ask himself when, a little bit nervous, is walking to the classroom the first day of class. Specially after we meet some teachers showing us the way to the classroom and repeating ‘kaoshi, kaoshi’ at the same time they smile and invite us to enter into the classroom.

This “kaoshi” -or test for those who never studied Chinese- is the level test which helps the teachers to decide in which class we should participate. Even more, the first week of classes we can try different classes to find out which one is more suitable for our level. This possibility the university gives us answer all those questions we had the first day of class.

It is very easy to get used to the university campus layout, the different buildings, offices, the restaurants, supermarket and everything that can be found there.

I am specially happy with the XISU infrastructure used for teaching Chinese. All the classrooms are very well equipped, clean and in very good conditions. There are multimedia classrooms which increase the learning experience. All the environment is designed to make the people feel at home, respecting all the different cultures that meet together to share the classes.

The structure of the classes is very simple and easy going, there are regular classes every morning, and optional non-mandatory classes during the afternoon, which help to complement the China Experience and Chinese language learning. The regular morning classes include studying grammar, text comprehension, listening, speaking, reading and writing. The afternoon optional classes complement the learning with pronunciation classes, Chinese culture and history, Chinese calligraphy and painting, characters history and others.

The quality of the teachers is excellent. They can incredibly transmit the ideas and knowledge using the words, gestures and body language that we need to understand. Every single word they pronounce is in Chinese. Although it may sound that it is impossible for us to understand Chinese, we only need a couple of days to become familiar with our teachers and start that fascinating connection between students and teachers. They are always helpful and available for the students, even out of class hours if required, specially if there is some event and we ask for their help to assist us to get prepared.

By the end of the semester there is a test for each different class, which is not a problem for the students who daily participate and follow the classes. In my case, studying a couple of hours every day is enough and I can have free time during the weekends to visit different places around the city. It also keeps me trained for the final test.

Something to highlight is that we are now studying in China, and the main difference with our own countries is that here we can find Chinese people. We can study many hours, do all the book exercises and homework, but the most valuable experience is talking to Chinese people. Fortunately the university has many Chinese students who love to exchange experience with foreigners and are the best resource for practicing conversation, better than any conversation class. They are all young students who will help us with the homework, pronunciation, learning idioms and best of all, they will become our friends, that will give us more and more experience about the Chinese culture.

 

Life Experience

China is big. China has a big population. China has lots of traditions. China has an ancient culture.

There are uncountable characteristics we can list about China and all of them bring some new experience to the new students. Understanding some of these characteristics will make our life easier and more exciting:

1. Life at the university:

Although we may be living in an apartment outside of the school, we spend most of the day at the school. Since early in the morning until late in the afternoon we are attending classes, studying or spending time with our Chinese friends. Thus, is it very important to feel comfortable with the school facilities, understand how they work and generate a nice relationship, which will last until the end of our school life. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner are commonly at the school restaurants. Fortunately inside the XISU campus there are a couple of restaurants with many different options each. Deciding what to eat may be all a challenge at the beginning, but trying a different dish every day is a very good option to have an overview on Chinese food styles. Eating at the university is also price convenient. Dictionary and camera are mandatory to do some homework and translate the menu.

The university must be considered like home. It is right there where you make your friends, where you obtain support from experienced people and specially where you can go for help in case you need it. The staff is really nice and looking for the students to have a good time in China. They will organize tours and push the students to participate in sport and cultural events, provide transportation and support every time.

For those who choose to live outside the university campus the most two common alternatives are to rent an apartment -better to do it through some agent- or to share and apartment with other students, which may be local or foreigners. This second alternative also helps to save some money.

2.Life in the city:

Xi’an offers a wide many of restaurants, shopping malls, bars, and cultural places to visit, starting right next to the school’s main gate. Like in most cities transportation includes taxi, bus and subway. Taking subway is fast and easy going, taking a taxi is challenging and taking a bus you can go anywhere. Xi’an bus service is very good and there are many lines going all around the city. I think the bus is also a good place to practice conversation with local people, nice to visit new places and neighborhoods, and to experience some local behaviors. I take the bus at every country I visit and it is really interesting to see how the people behave on the bus.

The city streets are very good resource to try different types of snacks and street-cooked food. There are many small stands which cook delicious food. They are not found next to the luxury new buildings but on the old narrow streets. It is highly recommended to visit these narrow streets and see the different food options offered there.

3.Life at home:

some of us decided to stay on an apartment out of the university campus. This brings advantages and disadvantages. Among the advantages we can list more privacy, possibility to have a bigger place, choose your roommate, and experience life in a Chinese neighborhood. Among the disadvantages we can see the need to travel every morning to the school, not to have the support from the school organization, not being close to your classmates after the school time, possibility to feel lonely.

In China most people are always in a hurry, walking fast and not paying attention to what happens next to them. You will find that this happens not only on the street, but inside the building and neighborhood too. However, it is very important to take the time to say ‘hello’ or ‘ni hao’ every time you meet a neighbor and to establish a good relationship will them. Chinese people are really nice with foreigners and after you said ‘hello’ for the first time and broke the ice, they will say ‘hello’ every day and be very nice with you. This will help to make new friends and contribute to have more conversations and practice speaking with local people.

Remember that when you live on your own you are alone and without the support from the school; your neighbor can be a great resource in case you need help.

 

Conclusion

Studying in China is a rich experience that expands the scope of opportunities for our personal life and professional careers. It has a unique value in terms of learning Chinese. Going through this experience is definitely something that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

 

Author Details

Name: Fernando Anasco

Nationality: Argentina

 

University: Xian International Studies University

Major: Chinese Language (non-degree)