I was lucky enough to travel to Shanghai, China and study at Fudan University in the second year of my Commerce/Arts degree. My experiences of studying in China were nothing short of eye opening, interesting, strange, hilarious, fun and humbling. My experiences of the Chinese education system starkly contrasted to that of studying in Australia. Fudan University has bells to signify class times, strict teachers who check all homework, a compulsory attendance level of 66% and about 1 million bicycles to ensure everybody arrives at class on time. Did I mention that class begins at 8am, four mornings per week? Studying Chinese in China is certainly content heavy, and the exams are often back to back, beginning the day after the last lesson is taught. However I can honestly say that I liked this kind of learning environment on my exchange, because it is in keeping with the way in which the local students are taught.

Experiencing the Chinese culture was a priority for me during my exchange. In many ways, China is very embracing and it is easy to experience Chinese life by eating at local restaurants tri-daily, developing friendships with language partners, shopping at the fake market and enjoying a Chinese foot massage. Despite this, learning Chinese in China was not as easy as I thought. Often, my language partners would turn the conversation back to English, and I did not have the confidence in Chinese to continuously steer it back. Having conversations with strangers can also be trying as you can easily become frustrated with your own abilities. Persistence is the key, and I am still trying to grasp this!

In terms of expense, the travel and experiences I was able to afford were far greater than what I would have considered possible on an exchange to Europe or America. In China I was comfortably able to afford my flights (international and domestic), own en-suite room, extensive travel, too much shopping ;), travel costs (insurance, immunisations, new passport), 3 meals a day at the local restaurants and any other activities I wanted to participate in with around $7000. You could easily spend more, and if you were planning to be a little more frugal, I think $5000 would suffice, but travelling would have to be reduced substantially as domestic flights are expensive in China, and necessary to maintain your sanity! (48 hours on a train in summer is a nightmare!)

I am so happy to have travelled to Shanghai. I have been so fortunate to make many friends from all around the world, and feel grateful to have experienced China in 2012.

My Five Top Tips:

  • Don’t expect English anywhere.
  • Take warm clothes if travelling to China in winter. The temperatures are deceptively cold!
  • Get the single room in the main building, or a single room in the affiliated building at the Fudan International Students Dorm. The heating in the double rooms is not as effective.
  • Make as many language partners as possible!
  • Travel extensively in China, there is so much to see!

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