Aaron - Sun Yat-Sen University

B. Business Management / Arts
Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

China is the centre point of the anticipated Asian Century. Being immersed in one of the countries top academic institutions gave me a broad understanding of Chinese way of thought, institutional structures and national future aspirations. Asian culture is significantly different and adapting to this challenge was both enjoyable and illuminating. The range of courses on offer a focus on Chinese business theory both domestic and international. I also had the opportunity to study Chinese history and language.

Personal experience

I thought it was important to learn more about our major trading partner and global neighbour. By living in China, every day becomes an educational experience. Simple tasks become a lesson in cross-cultural communication as you begin to understand events or situations from a radically different viewpoint. For example, how direct one should be when addressing a problem or asking a question or understanding the differences between individualistic and collectivist cultures when discussing opinions in class. I have come away with a deeper understanding of Chinas place in the world culturally, economically and politically.

Accommodation

The accommodation was tricky. I was advised before arrival that on-campus accommodation would be available. I was emailed photographs of reasonably nice 2 bed shared rooms- no problems there. When I arrived, however, I was informed that no accommodation had ever been available. Ultimately the university did manage to offer something but it was the oldest accommodation block with 8-bed dorm rooms. I opted to find alternative accommodation with other foreign students. This turned out to be the best solution but at a higher cost. Foreign students each paid on average between $550 - $675 per month for their rooms. My advice to future students would be to join the "WeChat" (Chinese social media app) group for their inbound cohort, arrive 1-2 weeks before registration, find a group of housemates and begin visiting estate agents in the area surrounding the university.

Budget

Prices in CNY because the exchange rate has been fluctuating. 

Rent: CNY 2500-3000 per month
Transport: CNY 2-5 per trip. (walk to uni)
Meals: Cheap - CNY 7-20 Better meal 20-60
Movies/Karaoke: CNY 50 (use student card)
Bar: Cheap- Beer 10 Cocktails 30 Not Cheap- Beer 40 Cocktail 80
Standard Tourist attraction entry fee 50-100 
Travel: Overnight bus/train 200

Weekly Budget: 800-1000 (depends predominately on rent) 

Professional development and employability

As mentioned I think China will continue to have an important influence on the Australian business environment. Despite a recent slowdown in growth the huge population of China will ensure strong domestic consumption, which opens up opportunities for doing business in China, not just exporting goods. I think this better insight into Chinese economics will be a valuable attribute in my professional career. Similarly, a better cultural understanding, especially of business norms will allow for better communication with Chinese business counterparts. For example, I visited the Canton Fair a major trading fair for global manufacturers and retailers and understand with greater clarity the Chinese business process. I have also picked up some Chinese language skills, which may be a valuable rapport-building tool.

Highlight

Camel ride to Urumqi
Camel ride to Urumqi

The highlight of my experience was a 3-week adventure along the ancient Silk Road. Some exchange friends and I began in Xi'An home to the terracotta warriors and went overland via trains, buses and even camel to the far north-west capital of Urumqi. This was a great experience to get away from urban China and see some of the varied sights China has to offer.

Top tips

  • My first piece of advice would be to do it. Although it may seem a daunting at first as time passes everything will become manageable- one task at a time.
  • I would also suggest making a meaningful effort to get involved in your local environment. It is very easy and comforting to make friends with the other exchange students and forget to really immerse yourself in your host country.
  • I ensured that every week I would be involved in an activity or meal (anything basically) without other foreign students. It was the most rewarding thing I did.
  • In China, a good way to do this is to volunteer to teach English.
Aaron - Sun Yat-Sen University