Study in Beijing
As the world becomes ever more interconnected and studying internationally for higher education finds itself as an increasingly popular option, shorter study trips abroad for a year, a term or even a summer also appear to be on the rise as a choice for students who want to experience education away from their native country.
One destination that is seeing a rapid growth in international interest from students and academics alike, is China. The country itself, housing over one sixth of the world’s population, and its capital Beijing (which boasts a population just under a third of the UK’s at around 20 million people) is where I attended Renmin University of China’s International Summer School.
Anybody arriving in China who has never been before will be sure to undergo some form of culture shock one way or another. The incredible number of people and the grandiose city like Beijing can really provide a stimulating start to a study abroad adventure. Tackling language barriers and currency differences can, at first, prove to be a daunting prospect, but will soon change to be a customary part of everyday life and is not something that should deter people with doubts in mind. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the low cost of living (compared to western countries) and the accommodating nature of most Chinese people. With an easy to use and incredibly efficient public transport system, and an abundance of shops and supermarkets scattered throughout the city, adjusting for a long term stay in China is easy to do.
For the most part, university life in China draws large parallels to university life in the UK. Campus sports and societies are popular and take place around academic study time. Renmin itself boasted a strong community spirit in this regard and I even came across 'English Corner' in which native English speakers gathered nightly to help Chinese (and other international students) practise their English language skills. However, with similarities in mind, there are also easily noticeable differences. Classes tend to start much earlier, from 7.30am onwards, and last much longer. At around three hours, the classes take the form of a short lecture followed by a seminar like group session to discuss the topic at hand and any outside work completed for the class. The advantage of taking part in an international summer school was that I got the opportunity to discuss topics with a variety of people from a wide range of countries across the world. The differing perspectives and approaches to academic study gave me for interesting insights and an experience that I may not have got studying at home.
In addition to time spent in the time spent outside of it immersing into Chinese culture can be just as enriching. It took no time at all to become adept at eating every meal with chopsticks and having the chance to try world famous authentic Chinese dishes such as Peking Duck really added to the overall appeal of China. It is no secret that China is home to some of the world's most interesting sights and experiences. Beijing itself has the Badaling section of the Great Wall which provided an unforgettable experience after climbing and marvelling at the views surrounding it. More relaxed tourist sights included the Summer Palace, which had a vast collection of beautiful gardens and lakes once belonging to a Qing dyansty Emperor, and the Forbidden City which once acted as an imperial palace. For me, like many others who had visited with, the most awe-inspiring place was Tiananmen Square and Mao Zedong's exceptionally large portrait hanging there. For the amazing locations and history alone, studying in Beijing or elsewhere in China can provide a venture like no other.
Attending an International Summer School is definitely an experience I'd recommend. It provides enough time to get an insight into study in a different country as well as giving chance to soak up surroundings. China, in my case, was excellent and has only expanded my interested in it even more. At times such acute changes in studying and living conditions might seem overwhelming but without doubt it is worth the reward. Studying in China may not be for everybody, but is certainly something everyone should think about.
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