Thomas - Fudan University

Bachelor of International Studies
Semester 1, 2018
Challenges are learning opportunities; never before had I encountered a challenge of such remarkable beauty and intrigue as that posed by my time spent studying and travelling in China.

Academic experience

During my time abroad I studied four courses: Intermediate Chinese Language, Conflict Resolution and International Negotiation, Politics of Development, and Appreciation of Classic Euro-American Short Stories. These courses were all enjoyable (my favourites being the latter two - if Politics of Development is still taught by the same Professor, I would highly recommend any students interested in that area to take it - you will find it very interesting). Studying at a new institution, however, was not without its challenges. Specifically, I (and many other students I know) struggled initially with the difference in assessment detail. At Fudan University a lot less information is provided to students about the nature of their assessment - no criteria sheets, no assessment task sheets. As I discovered, a lot more responsibility is put on the student to interpret the lecturer's explanation of assessment expectations provided in class, and to complete their work without the same rigid guidelines provided at UQ. Although initially disconcerting (I often felt that I did not know whether what I was submitting for assessment was what the marker was expecting), I quickly learnt to embrace a new sense of independence and creative freedom in terms of the direction I took my assessment items. I found that this approach did not at all lower my consistent results. Enrolment and registration was, for me, all conducted online through the direction of the host university after I had been put in contact with them through UQ Abroad. It was all relatively simple (if suffering a little from the same lack of detail described with assessment items).

Personal experience

What I gained most from my time studying abroad was the most intensive learning experience of my life. The courses I took at Fudan University were just the tip of the ice berg - in just a few short months I developed a deeper understanding of different cultures, places, people and myself than I had in the previous 18 years of my life. I did all of this whilst exploring various cities and rural areas of China, making many life long friends (with other international students and local Chinese people alike), developing my Chinese language skills (especially my listening comprehension and speaking) to a level I am proud of, and constantly stepping out of my comfort zone. I gained an experience which I shall never forget, one which I know has been formative in shaping my view of the world and my life so far.

Accommodation

I lived just off campus in an international student village called Tohee (about 15 minutes’ walk from class and about 5 minutes bike ride). This village was recommended to me by the host university. My living arrangements were satisfactory in that they were comfortable and safe. The apartment I stayed in had three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, dining area and bathroom (a good size for me to share with my friend who I was travelling with). More than just a dorm, it became my home for half a year - a place I could share time and experiences with my friends. Do not expect, however, the same standards of living as found in Australia re. cleanliness, age of appliances, etc. Rest assured, however, that the conditions are indeed liveable. Whilst living at Tohee, I enjoyed most the proximity with other students also on exchange (with whom I made some of the closest friends of my life). I met people from all different walks of life (different countries, cultures, ages, life experiences, etc.) and learnt so much from interactions with them. There is also accommodation available on campus. These rooms, however, were single dorms and from my understanding the conditions were less desirable or suitable for me (although they were quite a lot cheaper). I would advise students wishing to study at Fudan to assess all their options for accommodation before making the choice that is right for them. I am not sure if Tohee is still in business, but I know that another place just off campus called Unijia was also good.

Costs

Generally speaking, living costs in China are quite low. In my experience, one can live comfortably (enjoying delicious food, going out and experiencing night life, and travelling often) on a budget. This is due to the relative disparity between cost of living in Australia and China. Food, travel (train, bus, metro tickets), and leisure costs in China are all roughly half (or less than) the same in Australia. As with all places, there are expensive restaurants where you will pay exorbitant amounts, there is first class travel which is costly - but these prices are not necessary to enjoy the full experience. The only cost which I paid at a similar price to back home in Australia was my living/rental allowance. I paid roughly 150 AUD/week for my apartment in the international student village. However, there is cheaper accommodation available - it is possible to tailor this cost to suit your budget and needs. Overall I would recommend budgeting anywhere between 7-10 thousand AUD (this would definitely cover living, travel, eating out, leisure, and even quite a lot of shopping thrown in!).

Professional Development

During my time abroad I was constantly put into situations which pulled me out of my comfort zone. These times required me to be decisive under stress. I soon found myself, instead of shying away or shirking responsibility, stepping up to the challenge and consistently proving any self-doubt wrong. My time abroad has developed and honed my independence and confidence, attributes which I am sure will prove invaluable in future professional endeavours.

Highlight

Although I saw just about all the major 'sight seeing' tourist locations China has to offer, I would say that I found my exchange's highlight in a little known town in the far North East of China called Dandong. This town is nestled against a river which serves as the border between China and North Korea. A short bus trip from Dandong can take you to the Eastern-most point of the Great Wall of China, which terminates in an awe inspiring fortress called Hushan (Tiger Mountain, in English). I was in Dandong during the Winter months before semester began, travelling with a friend. The morning we decided to climb the wall was bitterly cold. It had snowed the night before, but that morning the skies were crisp and clear, and the sun was sparkling on the snow around us. After an arduous trek up the uneven stairs, we were rewarded with a breathtaking view: a vista of black trees and stone, contrasted starkly with the pure white of fresh snow, stretched out in front of us towards the mountainous horizon. Not far from us we could see the North Korean farmers tending to their fields preparing the land for the upcoming Spring. No footprints disturbed the snow around us; no sound, save for the bird song, disturbed the silence - we were all alone. I can comfortably say that that morning atop the Eastern-most point of the Great Wall of China, shared with a close friend, was the highlight of my trip, and a memory I won't ever forget.

Top tips

I would recommend to students planning to study in China to bring a varied wardrobe - I made the mistake of believing that China was cold all year round. Shanghai's Summer taught me a lesson (temperatures are similar or higher than Brisbane's Summer). I had to buy warm weather clothes to supplement my Winter wardrobe. In addition, I would recommend to set up a Chinese bank account at one of the local branches early on. This way, you can link your phone up with one of the phone pay apps that are becoming more and more integrated (and even necessary, in some places) in the everyday life of living in China. You will save yourself a lot of time and money.