China is one of the most popular destinations for foreign exchange students. Due to its vibrant culture and fascinating history coupled with top-grade academic programs, China has risen to the very top of international student destinations.
According to the information provided by the Chinese government, almost half a million students flocked to China for studying in 2018. While we’re still waiting on the stats from 2019, it’s a safe bet that the number will increase even more.
If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of students who have chosen China as their new academic destination, we’ve prepared this guide for you! We focused on the most essential information and bits of advice to prepare for the trip of your lifetime.
1. Get a Head Start on the Language
Regardless of your scheduled departure date, it’s never too early to start learning Mandarin. For each day you spend practicing and working on your grammar and vocabulary, your future exchange student-self will be incredibly grateful.
Mandarin is quite hard for native speakers of Indo-European languages (English, German, French, Spanish, and others). That’s why it’s essential to start learning way before you arrive in the country.
Having a handle on even the most basic phrases can make your daily life significantly easier. Of course, you will start learning at a much faster pace once you’re there, so you don’t have to worry about your progress at home. One great tip would be to spend as much time as possible outside and engage with local people. You will soon notice that after a period when you have listened to people speaking the language the entire day, you will find it easier to express yourself and understand what the others are saying.
2. Educate Yourself about the Culture
If you have chosen China as your study exchange destination, you are probably very well-versed in the intricacies of Chinese culture, and you’re likely fascinated by it.
Here are some of the most essential facts about Chinese culture you should be aware of before your travels:
- Family values – Chinese place a lot of importance in marriage, children, and family
- Confucianism– even thousands of years after its origin, Confucianism is a national philosophy that’s deeply rooted in the country’s culture; placing the highest respect towards family, rules, and home
- PingPong – table tennis (ping pong) is the most popular amateur sport there, with over 300 million recreational players
- Tea– get ready to drink lots and lots of tea while you’re in China! It’s the country’s national drink and is used as a welcome drink for guests
- Festivals – during your time in China, you will probably witness some of their national festivals. Some of the most important ones are the Lantern Festival, the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Dragon Boat Festival.
3. Have a Travel Plan Ready
Traveling around China is reasonably easy, but the country is so big that you will have to prioritize some destinations. Even if you’re there for an entire year, you won’t have the chance to see all the major attractions of this breathtaking country.
Depending on your interests and preferences, compose a traveling plan before you start your journey and try to stick to it. Here are some destinations you don’t want to miss:
China’s capital is an absolute must-visit while you’re there. With a population of over 21 million, it’s officially the third biggest city in China and the third most populated in the world. Its vibrant city life bubbling with youth and energy will leave you in awe. If you are going to Beijing, then you shouldn’t miss the Great Wall. It is very convenient to see both locations on the same journey and check them from your bucket list.
Another mega-city pearl of the East, Shanghai has over 24 million inhabitants, making it the second most populated city worldwide. It’s full of street markets, shopping spots, promenades, gardens, and other beautiful tourist spots.
- Hong Kong
Hong Kong does a great job when it comes to entertaining visitors. For example, you should enjoy your free time as a student and visit the Temple Street Night Market to enjoy traditional snacks or buy souvenirs for your relatives at home. Hong Kong Disneyland is another excellent destination if you want to feel like a child again.
4. Reach out to Local Students
You’re moving to China to study – of course, it’s going to be a real adventure – but it’s also going to be scary. To fight the fear of the unknown and prepare for life in China in advance, you can reach out to local students who speak your language or English.
Learning about the real, everyday experience of actual local students will tell you a lot about what it’s like to study there. The information that you receive in your information packages and university brochures is usually dry, but a local student can tell you the real deal.
It’s also beneficial to have a local buddy once you get there. They can help you find your way around and land on your feet, especially if you don’t speak the language that well yet. Besides, social life in China is excellent. Cities like Beijing or Shanghai are considered some of the most vibrant cities where you can enjoy a lively atmosphere and vibration. The modern facilities are comparable to other metropolitan cities in the world like New York or London. So, getting in touch with local students will help you get used to the city’s social life and make your transition easier.“Most universities around the world have a peer program for foreign exchange students coming from other countries. For anyone that’s going away to study, especially somewhere where they don’t speak the language, having local support can be a real lifesaver”, says Marie Fincher, a writer at TrustMyPaper.
5. Plan a Budget
When you’re abroad, it’s straightforward to lose control over your budget, which can bring additional stress into your challenging adaptation period.
That’s why you should research in advance and get a clear picture of how much everything costs before you get there. When you get this information, you can create a budget outline, so you’ll know how much money you will need during your time there. In general, China is an affordable country for a student. Even though it is the world’s second-largest economy, it is still a developing country. For example, you can enjoy traditional dishes with just a few dollars. Also, there are many places where you can negotiate your meals. In comparison to many Western countries, studying in China is relatively cheap.
Moving abroad to study is one of the bravest and most exciting things you will ever do. And if you chose China – congratulations! You will have a chance to study in a fascinating country with top-tier academic programs.
Don’t let the language and culture gap make you frustrated. After just a couple of weeks of cultural shock, you will quickly adapt and start enjoying your experience to the maximum.
Guest article by Diana Nadim
Diana Nadim is a writer and editor who has a Master degree in Marketing. She combines her passion for writing with her interest in research and creates thought-provoking content in various fields. Besides working as a contributor writer for GrabMyEssay, Diana also runs her own blog. What inspires her the most in her writing is traveling and meeting new people. Follow her on Twitter.