Shaun - Tsinghua University

B. Economics / Arts

Academic experience

At Tsinghua, I selected subjects from both the school of humanities and the school of economics, also from both mainstream local student classes and "English" classes. It turns out as some English courses were also compulsory for local students, especially common in the school of economics, most classes are, as a result, composed of mainly domestic students. For me, they included Intermediate Macroeconomics and Econometrics(1). Despite sounding like a good opportunity to meet local students, it is very hard to engage in lengthy conversations with the local students or to build rapport with them as they rarely mingle outside of their clicks. Academically speaking, one major problem was that the only revision session that the course organised before the exam was conducted completely in Mandarin as apparently none of the professor aids spoke enough English to teach the class in English.

Smaller courses, or electives, on the other hand, are much more enjoyable! The professors are much more approachable and willing to help. Also due to the smaller class sizes, roughly around 15-20 students, there are usually healthy debates and discussions on the contents taught in class. Despite the early 8 AM start, I really enjoyed the course on Developmental Economics. However, it must be noted that none of the courses in Tsinghua have tutorials, meaning that self-motivated learning is a must.

Personal experience

I think the friends that you gain through exchange is the most valuable asset that you gain abroad. And operating, conducting daily activities in another country forces you to think of new ways to approach social interactions.

Accommodation

There are pros and cons with living either on- or off-campus, as living in the dorms poses many limitations such as curfews and even hot-water shower time limits. Living on campus is a bit cheaper however compared to living off-campus. I chose to live off-campus, which despite of the close distance, still ended up being a battle with the traffic to get to class in the morning. Living off-campus did come with a lot more freedom than on-campus; however, it did come at an expense. As the food in the area around the university is quite expensive, which really added up. Also as most students lived on-campus, it does make you feel a little left out at times.

Budget

Avatar Mountains
Avatar Mountains

During the whole semester, I spent $6000 roughly which was a little higher than expected due to the weak Australian Dollar. This included travelling within China, rents and living expenses. However, as previously mentioned, living off-campus did end up being more expensive than on-campus. This goes to prove again that China is a country with a large variation of prices. Depending on how “western” you wish to live in China, your stay could be very cheap or very costly.

Professional development and employability

Attending another university exposes you to new ways of seeing the world.

Highlight

The most memorable and invaluable gain from the semester abroad is the numerous discussions and conversations with people from around the world.

Top tips

Be prepared for the inevitable frustrations and culture shocks associated with being in another country. But more importantly, don’t let this prevent you from enjoying the exchange experience. Rather, try to understand why the culture shock took place or origins of the culture shock.

Shaun - Tsinghua University