Bachelor of Science/Arts
Bachelor of Science/Arts

For anyone looking to complete an exchange overseas and hoping to receive the most rewarding experience possible, I can only tell you this: you’ll only get what you put in. I spent my 2nd year in the Bachelor of Science/Arts program studying Chinese language in Fudan. Upon first arriving in Shanghai and asking for directions to the campus, I was confused why someone was congratulating me for being a Fudan student. As anyone familiar with the university will tell you, Fudan is an incredibly prestigious institution and you should take the opportunity to make the most of it!

Since I lived in the foreign student dorms, and all my classmates were also international students, it’s incredibly tempting to lapse into English. I still have to continuously remind myself to practice my Chinese! Finding a language partner is one good way to practice your conversational skills. Travelling is perhaps, even better. Shanghai is a pretty international city so there are heaps of people who can understand English, but in other cities you won’t have such an easy time. I honestly can learn more from a week travelling and meeting people in youth hostels than learning from a book. Both in combination would be a pretty healthy choice.

In front of Chinese building

The teaching at Fudan is very… Chinese, so don’t be surprised when you receive checked homework and compulsory attendance. I think it’s 66% or more, otherwise you can’t sit the final exams. Certain classes are very rote-learning orientated, or repetitive, but look at the continuous listening exercises and reading passages as practice. Some people find the repetitive nature very difficult to remain engaged with though. The main class with the vocab and understanding the texts is pretty much identical to the format set up at UQ, and I had a good teacher, so it was fairly enjoyable.

It isn’t hard to get by on a small budget when it comes to China. Shanghai in general is a little more expensive than other parts in the country, but you can easily get 3 meals a day at the uni canteen for under $5AUD a day. I think taxis aren’t really necessary before 10-11pm, but certain subway lines close earlier than you might expect. So you might get landed with a large taxi bill if you’re a far way off and arrive after the subways close.

Let me offer a couple of tips both exclusive to Fudan, and China in general: (Some of the information for living on campus is difficult to come by. I learnt mostly from word of mouth.)

1. There are washing machines in every kitchen, two kitchens on either end of each floor of the main building. Some are coin operated, others require prepaid cards. It took me ages to realise this, but you can buy the prepaid cards from supplementary building 4’s basement. It’s more convenient if the closest washing machine requires the cards, but if you don’t mind climbing stairs the coin ones work fine.

With friends, mountains in background

2. The main building offers both single and shared rooms. But if you instead choose to live in the supplementary building, it’s pretty much the same distance from all the classrooms. So don’t worry, you’re not missing out any. Electricity is prepaid, and so is the hot water in the supplementary building. The supplementary buildings are actually more apartment-style with a kitchen and dining room, and I think about 4 separate bedrooms to each apartment so you still get your own privacy. Sometimes no one else is occupying the other rooms, so someone I know ended up having the entire place to herself. (And it’s cheaper than a single room. I was jealous!) But I’ve met a lot of people who share a dorm room in the main building and are the best of friends now. It’s really up to your own preference.

3. Fudan thankfully walks you through the visa/resident permit things during the orientation week. If you’re on a student visa, they require you to apply at for a residents permit before a month is up. Make sure to keep track of the dates. They take your passport for a week or so, so plan your travelling around it.

4. If you’re spending semester 2 (the fall/autumn semester for those in the northern hemisphere) in China, people will warn you to travel during the Golden week-long holiday because of the massive crowds of domestic tourists. I’m going to go against the common consensus, and advise to take the long holiday away! Other public holidays (new years, mid-autumn festival etc), you’ll usually have to make them up in classes during the weekend anyway. I spent mine in the capital Beijing, during the national holiday, and it honestly wasn’t as terrible as I was told. But I had climbed the Great Wall of China at a relatively steep and less tourist-y area, so I managed to avoid the great crowds of people.

5. Bring your “xueshengzheng” / 学生证, student ID that every university gives you when travelling. It’s not your student cards, but a little red passport-like book. Most tourist attractions will give you half-price tickets.

6. Small letters will be delivered to your university mailbox in the southern lobby. Others might require a passport at the post office across the road from the student dorms. I recommend online shopping on Taobao for your cheap and convenient shopping needs. You can buy TB credit at a post office – just ask for a “wanghui-E”/网汇E.You’ll find a lot of parcels are delivered on the street right outside the university. If you order something online, you’ll probably find it there. When it arrives you’ll receive a text or a phone call from the shipping company, indicating a certain date and time to pick it up. So don’t go ignoring all your miscellaneous Chinese texts or hanging up on any Chinese person expecting it’s a telemarketer.

7. Shanghai Railway Station / People’s Square subway station is a hotspot for thieves. It’s common sense to be mindful of your belongings, but be especially vigilant at these places. My phone got stolen out of my pockets in 2 minutes. Learn from my loss!

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