Harrison - Fudan University

Bachelor of International Studies
Semester 1, 2018
Organised Chaos; China provides the most rewarding experiences for those who can be comfortable being uncomfortable

Academic experience

During my exchange semester at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, I was enrolled in four courses: Politics of Development, International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Appreciation of Euro-American Short Stories, and a compulsory Chinese language course.  Although not too dissimilar to the academic system of UQ, there were some marked differences between these universities. For example, classes are taught in a much more rote-learning style method of teaching with an emphasis on the providing of information. A very helpful practice in China is the use of Wechat (Chinese Facebook), which encourages the use of class wide ‘groups’ that include the teacher as to allow a continuous class wide dialogue. The enrolment process is not too different to UQ’s system. You are provided with student login details and are expected to log on and enrol into your course on a certain date. However, I was not provided with my information so I was not enrolled in any courses upon my arrival at Fudan. Although potentially a disastrous situation, the Fudan staff assisted me in ensuring I was enrolled in all the correct courses before the day was done.

Personal experience

My time in Shanghai awarded me with the most rewarding personal experiences I could have possibly asked for. I made some amazing friends from every major continent as well as ones from around Australia too. I explored a large amount of China from the far north to the southern mountainous regions, from the major cities to rural towns; I really got a grasp of what China is. My mandarin skills naturally improved and I learnt a lot about what it means to live abroad alone; something that really helped me to grow as a person.

Accommodation

During my time in Shanghai I stayed in an off-campus accommodation block known as ‘Tohee International Student Village’. This village consisted of multi-person apartments that were comparatively bigger and better furnished than the on-campus accommodation. This, alongside a few other off-campus accommodation places, was recommended to the incoming international students by the university itself. I would recommend for future students to look for off-campus accommodation as, although slightly more expensive, it is a much more comfortable living experience and compared to Australia, is still not too pricey.

Costs

One trap that travellers to China may fall into is the belief that everything in the country is extremely cheap. While it is true that you can get a meal at the bottom of the Tohee complex for less than $3AUD, that is only for simple foods such as noodle bowls or fried rice. Chinese food has some of the most diverse and flavourful cuisine I have ever tasted and it would be a shame to miss out on the wonderful opportunity presented to you. This is true for travelling as well. Although the general costs are far less than that of Australia, if you are heading to a tourist site or city, especially during peak season, you will be looking at a price not too much less than what you would expect to pay in Australia. Therefore I would highly recommend that one brings more than enough money with them whereever they go so as to not forego opportunities that would have been fantastic had they been budgeted for.

Professional Development

Spending six months in China has provided me with many skills that will contribute to my professional development. Living in China has taught me how to live and function properly in a completely foreign context. Residing in a country with customs that vastly differ from one’s own home country has taught me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being such a turbulent and ever changing city, there is no way to survive unless you learn to let go and just go with the flow. As such, my ability to adapt and thrive in ever changing circumstances is a skill that will serve me well in every possible field of work.

Highlight

Being a Brisbane boy through and through, my experience with snow prior to my trip to China was minimal to say the least.  That was changed entirely by my first stop of my trip to China. At the beginning of February I travelled to the capital city of China’s northernmost province, Harbin. Arriving off the plane in the middle of Australian Summer into -28C chill was insane. Home to one of the largest ice and snow festivals in the world, Harbin proved to be the most awe inspiring place I travelled to throughout my time in China and is a destination I would recommend to anyone looking for a winter wonderland.

Top tips

One of the most important things when staying in China for an extended period is to open a bank account. The most prevalent form of payment uses the QR code system and a phone linked up to a bank card. There were countless times before I had this set up that I sent poor store workers running to other stores to break my notes. In order to really function and keep up top speed in China, this is something I could not recommend more. It really isn’t a difficult process; all major bank branches should have someone who speaks English there. You just have to remember to bring your passport every time you go into a bank branch.