Blog: My summer in China
Posted on: 3 May 2019 by Florence Whitton in 2018/19
Florence spent a summer in China on the XJTLU summer school. Here she shares her experiences of the summer of a lifetime!
Hello, I’m Florence. I’m from Kent and I’m currently in my third year studying Criminology. I initially looked into the University’s Study Abroad Programmes out of pure curiosity, but the more I read about the experience, the more I was convinced it was an incredible opportunity that I didn’t want to miss out on.
After extensively researching possible programmes, university websites and attending drop-in sessions held by the Study Abroad team, it was clear to me that from all the exciting destinations the University had to offer, I would enjoy China the most.
When I arrived, I definitely experienced a culture shock. Day-to-day activities and life in China is so incredibly different to what I am used to and comfortable with. To begin with, I found it difficult to keep up with the fast pace of learning. I also found it hard to focus in the high humidity. But this was something I became accustomed to and managed to deal with. Initially, I also struggled to confidently go out without the friends I had made in halls and in my Chinese class.
I like to think that I made the most of every single day in China. For me, an average day consisted of Chinese Language class at the University in the morning. That class tended to last until mid-afternoon. Then I would usually spend the rest of the afternoon with friends, either joining in the cultural activities the University had to offer, such as character writing and learning to play the board game Mahjong, or exploring Suzhou (the city we were living in). We’d go shopping or relax by one of the many beautiful lakes (DuShu lake was my favourite). Then, most weekends we left our student accommodation in Suzhou and explored a different place in China.
Despite the initial culture shock, after six weeks in China, on my very last week away, the new friends I had made in the summer left the country before me. At first, I was really daunted. But when it came to those last days on my own, I surprised myself. I was actually looking forward to using the language I had learnt throughout the trip and applying it to real-life situations. I was also looking forward to navigating myself around an unfamiliar city. Rather than staying in as I had no one to explore with, I took this opportunity to visit Shanghai, one of the world’s largest cities, on my own.
I went up Shanghai Tower (the second tallest building in the world), visited the Bund, Nanjing Road and People’s Square. Those few days were one of the many highlights of my summer. They proved to me how much my confidence had grown throughout the trip. For me, this experience was absolutely invaluable as I would have usually stayed within my comfort zone. I’m proud of myself for really making the most of the programme.
My advice to you
For anyone thinking of studying abroad, I encourage you to utilise the time you have away and step outside your comfort zone so you don’t look back on your adventure with regret, as you’ll not get the time back. For example, for me, as well as learning Chinese and exploring Suzhou (the city I lived in), it was important that I visited as many places as possible, including Beijing, the Yellow Mountains and Shanghai.
I also found it important to put myself out there to make new friends and form connections with people from all over the world in order to understand and appreciate other cultures. I met people from Korea, Poland, Russia and Canada. This was something I really appreciated as it’s rare that I have the opportunity to meet so many new people, who I’ll stay in touch with and meet again in the near future.
Not only this but I definitely made the most out of the Chinese cuisine, eating foods I didn’t even realise existed. I really enjoyed the hot pots, which consist of raw ingredients like vegetables and meat that you cook yourself at the table in a boiling broth. I have also actually brought back some new recipes for my family and friends to try at home, like noodle soup and chilli beef.
Overall, studying abroad in China was invaluable to me in coming out of my shell, adjusting well to new situations outside my comfort zone, broadening my horizons and gaining self-confidence.
If I were to look back at my summer abroad in China in 10 years’ time, I am sure I will view it as the pinnacle of my university experience. For this reason, I think it is so important that other students make the most of the fantastic opportunities the University has to offer and hopefully be as fortunate as me in benefiting from the experience.