During the last few years, China has ranked third in foreign students’ preferences when seeking higher education abroad and it is also considered the most popular country in Asia for foreign students to attend college or university in. China is a large country with a variety of traditional customs that vary among the over 1 billion people and 56 ethnic minority groups. If you are an international student studying in China you should make sure to learn the language as well as take into consideration a variety of factors in order to familiarize yourself with the Chinese system so that you can increase your chances of excelling in your studies and experiencing this beautiful country.
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1. The University System
China has over 2000 universities and colleges that offer Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees with an open door policy to foreign students. Their higher education system is constantly experiencing new growth and development which is beneficial to the six million students that are currently enrolled in their colleges and universities. The top four universities in China are listed below.
- Peking University – Located in Beijing, was ranked #39 in Best Global Universities ranking and has a 65.7 global score.
- Tsinghua University – Located in Beijing, was ranked # 67 in Best Global Universities ranking and has a 60.3 global score.
- Fudan University – Located in Shanghai, was ranked #108 in Best Global Universities ranking and has a 55.8 global score.
- Zhejiang University – Located in Hangzhou Zhejiang, was ranked #128 in Best Global Universities and has a 52.9 global score.
2. Assessing the Cost of Living
When trying to excel as a student in China, it is important that you properly assess the cost of living in the country. If you were an expat coming to China with the promise of a rewarding salary package, you could afford to keep up with your “Western lifestyle.” However, as a student, you will find that the cost of living in China is high. It is vital that you assess your budget first and make wise decisions with regard to the type of lifestyle that you can afford as a student. Local brands are less expensive than Western brands, therefore it might be a good idea to use some of these products in order to save money. If you are accustomed to buying dairy products and wine, those will be more expensive since they are not typical Chinese products. You can be assured that any type of fresh produce and local foods, as well as clothing, entertainment and electronic products manufactured in China will be less expensive. Housing in urban areas is more expensive than in the smaller rural villages. For example, living in Beijing and Shanghai costs more or less the same as living in any major European cities. Unless you have 10,000 RMB a month (excluding petrol) for a mid-size vehicle, you should consider driving a scooter or using the more affordable public transportation system.
3. Learning a New Language
If you want to excel as a student in China, it is important to try to learn the language of the land. China has seven main dialects of the Chinese language and each of those groupings has even more variations. Approximately 71% of the country speaks the Mandarin dialect. Beijing is the capital of China and the national language is Putonghua which is a Mandarin dialect. However, as an international student, you can rest assured that a majority of Chinese people are fluent in the English language.
4. Becoming Accustomed to Chinese Cuisine
It is also important to become accustomed to the various types of Chinese cuisine. The main style of cooking in China is Cantonese which is basically a variety of stir-fried dishes. The Szechuan style “relies heavily on the use of peanuts, sesame paste and ginger,” and it is also well-known for its spicy dishes. One of the main staples of the Chinese diet is rice, which also helped to develop their society to what it is today through its exportation. Additionally, Chinese people are known to eat scallions, cabbage and bean sprouts as other staples to their main diet. Most Chinese people consume tofu as a major source of protein, rather than meat. However, they do eat some pork and chicken.
5. Acclimate to the Climate
Another way to excel as a student in China is to acclimate to the varying climate in the country. The actual land mass of China is extremely large so that it creates a diverse climate. China is located in the northern hemisphere so if you are from Europe and the US, you will not have to acclimate to a vastly different climate in China. In the northeast part of the country, the summers are very hot and dry and the winters are extremely cold and bitter. However, the north of China and the central region experience a nearly continual rainfall, along with hot summers and cold winters. The southern portion of the country also receives a steady rainfall, with tropical summers and cool winters. Be aware that China has been known to experience earthquakes.
6. Enjoy Local Pastimes and Sports Activities
You can continue to grow and develop as a student in China, by embracing some of the local pastimes and sports activities. It will give you the chance to connect with other students, meet new local people and engage in interactive activities. A great experience you can look forward to having in China is to ride a horse and shoot game. This pastime has been taken from the Mongolians, Tibetans and Kazaks; people living in the natural grasslands who were natural horseman. The individuals who reside in the more agricultural lands have relied heavily on hunting as a source of food and sustenance. These people have excelled in wrestling, jumping, shooting and climbing. Consider some of the following other sports and pastimes that you could participate in.
- Ancient Football
- Crossbow Firing
- Bamboo Pole Dancing
- Lion Dancing
- Martial Arts
- Aerial Sports
- Dragon Boat Racing
7. Visit some Landmarks in the Country
Visiting some of the landmarks in China is another way to excel as an international student in the country. It will give you the chance to expand your perspective on the country, experience more of their local culture and customs as you travel to various locations and give you a new appreciation for the beauty of the people and their land. Take a look at some of the following landmarks that you should visit while studying in China.
- Great Wall of China – is a major attraction and symbol of the country. If you are going to visit the Wall, one of the best sections to see is Mutianyu which has been fully restored with “elegant scenery” and there are usually less crowds and better walking conditions.
- The Forbidden City – which is also known as the Palace Museum is a sought tourist attraction in China. This location was the imperial palace of both the Ming and Qing Dynasties where 24 different emperors resided during 1368 – 1644 and 1644 – 1911. It is now a museum that houses a variety of historical relics.
- Bifengxia Giant Panda Base – this is a landmark that is located in a wildlife preserve which has been a major tourist attraction for people who want to see China’s giant pandas. They also have a volunteer program where people can work in close contact with the pandas. The giant panda has become an endangered species because of heavy hunting and deforestation in the 1950’s.
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Exceling as a student in China can become a fun and enjoyable experience as you take the time to acclimate to the country’s culture by first learning the language and becoming accustomed to their seven main dialects. Learning about their specific diet and food types is another way to get to know the local people and understand more about their daily lives. Participating in some of the local pastimes and sports can be a viable way for you to immerse yourself in the culture and connect with other new people. Valuing the people that you meet, fully embracing their culture, participating in their daily lives and touring their majestic landscape will help you to excel as a student and succeed in your international endeavor.
Have you ever attended university in China? How did you international educational experience go?