Studying in China

21 January 2017

Megan-CHINA-250wAfter leaving School in 2014, I began studying Chinese and Film Studies at The University of Hull, a choice my parents were not too keen on at first due to distance, but soon warmed to. One of the most exciting parts of my four year course so far has been my year abroad. Completing my first semester in Beijing, attending Beijing Language and Culture University, I have learnt more than I could have ever fathomed. As clichéd as it may sound, you do learn a lot about yourself, as well as the language and cultural differences when spending prolonged periods in another country. My first semester has been a roller-coaster, with classes from 8:30am until 12:30pm every weekday and having to adjust to food, climate, and culture shock, it has been quite the adventure!

When I say not much can prepare you for the transition from school to university, believe me when I say that the same stands even more so for studying in a different country. It was diving in at the deep end, and even with my previous experiences of China from my visit in 2011 as part of the Hanban/Confucius Institute Immersion Course, it was a lot to take in and digest. It is simple things from just how loud streets can be with people honking in traffic, to sales attendants following you around constantly when you go into a shop; it takes a lot of getting used to. Squat toilets were also an unpleasant shock, but each of these things has been crucial in gaining a better understanding of Chinese culture and people living in China. On top of that, all lessons are in Chinese. I'm never without my dictionary, since I regularly have to check vocabulary, so I can follow explanantions.

Glass-Bridge -300wThe best part about being in Beijing however, is being able to jump on the subway and travel around the ancient and cultural parts of the city. Beijing is not lacking in temples, museums, or historical sites. I have been to three separate parts of the Great Wall now, visited the famous Fragrance Mountain, and even went to cross the Tianyun Shan Glass Bridge in the outskirts of Beijing. I was also lucky enough to take a long weekend journey to Xi'An where I saw the Terracotta Warriors, climbed Mount Hua, and visited the HuKou Falls. Being able to travel around China with my friends has been the most amazing adventure, and I have loved taking photographs wherever I go. (A small gallery can be found at the foot of this page, and a larger version in the SCEN Galleries section) Next semester I hope to go to Inner Mongolia, and possibly Shanghai.

During all these adventures though, I must admit I have been quite homesick from time to time. Yes, even at the age of twenty you can still miss your parents! With the support of my family and friends, however, it has been made a much easier experience. It is natural to get homesick of course, especially as it was the first time I have spent Christmas away from family (the winter holiday for China is during Chinese New Year, not like European holiday times), and so not being too hard on myself for missing home has been something I have had to work on. 

Glass-Bridge -250wGoing to China has given me invaluable experiences and made me realise just how crucial a year abroad is, not only for language students, but for all students wishing to learn about and understand perspectives and philosophies from their own country as well as all around the world. Global citizenship is becoming more and more important as countries become more connected, and to become more understanding of those we share the world with is to create a more unified world.  Therefore, I would thoroughly recommend any student to take the opportunity if they can to spend time abroad and immerse themselves in the country's culture, as well as speaking with its people. It is an eye-opening experience, as well as a lot of hard work, but greatly enjoyable all the same.

I will go back to China at the end of February for another five months before the summer holiday, after which I will return to Hull for my final year before graduating. Then I wish to apply to Edinburgh College of Art to do a Film Directing Masters if all goes well, before moving on to the world of work. St George's now to me feels like a lifetime ago, but I know it was my time there, being taught by dedicated and enthusiastic teachers, that helped me get to where I am today. So, my final piece of advice for you is to enjoy your time in school as best you can, and however tiring it may be, work as hard as you can, too. It will all be worth it in the end!

Megan Hammell
University of Hull, Third Year BA Chinese and Film Studies