Alexandra - Peking University

Bachelor of International Studies
Semester 1, 2018
My exchange experience was like climbing the Great Wall of China. A life-changing challenge that has given me memories for life.

Academic experience

Whilst at Peking University I studied 3 Chinese language courses - speaking/listening, reading/writing and Audiovisual Chinese. I enjoyed how I had class everyday (except weekends) so I got to practise my mandarin all the time. Additionally, I found the constant quizzes/tests (7 a week or so) a little difficult to begin with, however over time I came to realise the benefit of them. The enrolment/registration takes place almost entirely on one day where you do your visa/choose course/have an orientation tour/etc. The rest of the week there is a sign on for your elective courses (as you must do at least 18hours of contact time/week) and a face to face interview in Chinese with your potential chinese teacher to determine if you are in the right level.

Personal experience

The biggest skill I developed in Beijing was my Chinese language skills. I learnt so much and had so much practice. I think that what I achieved in 6months in China would have taken over 2 years in Australia. I also learnt to be resilient in the face of challenges and understanding of other cultures.

Accommodation

I lived essentially on campus (in reality it was across the road and outside campus gates). This is because PKU essentially separates all of its international students into the same accommodation complex. I shared my bathroom with one other student and found the accommodation very clean. secure and comfortable. There are limited cooking facilities however so if you prefer to prepare your own meals you would do better to find your own place. I also would definitely recommend home-stays as such an opportunity would help to improve your Chinese.

Costs

In most respects China is very cheap. Your biggest costs will be your accomodation and your plane flights to/from China (or to other cities in China). Public transport is very cheap with the average cost of a bus or metro being 40cents to $1). Meals at the campus are also very cheap ($1-3), however if you prefer to eat Western meals or eat at restaurants expect to pay $10-20 on average). Entertainment is cheap because there is always so much to do! The uni has a lot of great free events that they offer to students. I participated in something called a bubble run which basically involved a pit of foam and being given a free iphone portable charger. Keep an eye out for these events and cultural festivals as they are great fun.

Professional Development

I developed a lot of helpful communication skills whilst at PKU. Chinese values and norms in interaction are different to Australian ones so I have taken some on board to use in my future.

Highlight

I had a lot of highlights but probably my favourites would be when my mum and friend came to visit me and I got to show them around my favourite places in Beijing.

Top tips

I would advise you to be really open and friendly. Just give everything a try. Whether that means being told that you won't be able to get into your accommodation or that your course is maybe too difficult or being invited to an event you know nothing about, just give it a go!