Ten reasons why you should study in China
1) Learn Mandarin
This is definitely the number one reason why you should come study in China for some time. Learning mandarin is an exciting endeavor, but a very challenging one also. As the first months aren’t as rewarding as one might think, many foreigners quickly give up on learning. I remember the firsts 10 characters I had to learn, it took me a whole afternoon to be able to (painfully) re-write the first 5. Another drawback of the first months is that people can barely understand what you are trying to say, and you have absolutely no idea what they are saying.
But if one goes through this first difficult period, they are in for an amazing adventure. After a couple months, the learning experience becomes very fulfilling, and Chinese people finally understand what you are trying to say. For someone who has been using a 26-letter alphabet since birth, it is quite overwhelming to realize that in order to read a newspaper, one has to learn more or less 3000 characters, but if you have the patience to learn them, a new world will open up for you.Learning Mandarin will boost your memory, and enable you to speak to one fifth of the world’s population. Although most Chinese often speak in dialects (such as Shanghainese), majority of them understand and can speak Mandarin, and if you leave the big cities, they will be quite amazed by the foreigners who took the time to learn their language.
2) Witness China’s development from the first row
China’s development during the last 35 years is unprecedented in World’s history. Witnessing it from inside the country is fascinating and eye-opening. Most people don’t realize how much China has developed, and still see China as a very rural country. However, by the end of 2012, for the first time, the number of Chinese living in urban areas amounted to 712 million, representing 52.6% of the population. In 1990, this percentage only amounted to about 25%.This fast development has been supported by clusters of cities, creating giant urban areas. The most famous ones are: The Pearl River Delta, regrouping the cities of Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhaoqing, Hong-Kong, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Macau, Dongguan and Jiangmen and accumulating a population of about 120 million inhabitants (more or less the population of Mexico) and the Yangtze River Delta, regrouping the cities of Shanghai, Wuxi, Changzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Nanjing, Suzhou, home of a combined population of about 85 million (roughly the population of Germany).
These facts can easily be found on the Internet, but being able to witness the speed of development from within is astonishing. Roads are being built and skyscrapers rise from the ground; every day, the city is being remodeled in front our eyes. More and more people are accessing the middle class, and filling the numerous shopping malls that appear on the corner of every street. Of course, China still has a rural side that is less developed than this urban life picture I am depicting, but overall the country has been investing in most regions to develop roads, railways, and transportation systems. For someone coming from a developed country, it is partly fascination and partly scary. Fascinating to see a country develop so fast in front of one’s eyes and scary to see that on many aspects they are doing things bigger, better and faster than developed countries. I would advise anyone to come and witness it for themselves.
3) Confront yourself to a millennia-old culture
Chinese culture hasa 5000-year history and is one of the richest in the world. Although the country is modernizing at a fast pace, many traditional aspects still remain very visible in the everyday life. An interesting is to go for a walk in park during the weekend. Many people regroup there, starting in the early morning, to practice a wide array of activities. Two of the most popular and highly representative of China are Taichi and Calligraphy. Taichi is one of the most well-known martial arts around the world. It is often practice early in the morning in the parks and is believed to have many health benefits, such as improving balance and general psychological health. Calligraphy is a very important and appreciated art in China. It is basically the design and execution of Chinese characters, usually with a brush on some paper, but some people also practice it in parks with water on stoned floors.
4) Discover Chinese cuisine
Chinese cuisine is one of the most varied in the world. Each region has its own principal taste and specialties. This is something that stroked me when I arrived, the diversity of the food. Back home, Chinese restaurant are all the same and all propose roughly the same dishes (Hello Sweet and Sour Pork). However, in China, each restaurant proposes the food from one province. And the differences between all of them are huge. One of the most easily recognizable is the spicy food from Sichuan province, but it’s just one of many. One of the tastiest (and cheapest) food comes from Lanzhou, in Gansu province. The La Mian shops daily produce fresh noodles, which you can either eat in a soup or sautéed. This is only a short overview, but if you are a foodie, China definitely is the place for you!
5) Develop a global mindset
Coming to China is a great way to become a world citizen. When I first arrived in Shanghai, I thought that I would learn about Chinese culture, and I did, but I also learned about so many different cultures. I had the chance to meet people from all around the world and share with them dinners, birthdays, Christmas Eves, moments of life that I will always remember. As one of my teachers putted it during one class “Shanghai might be the only place in the world, where someone from Colombia and someone from Germany can have a chat in Mandarin. Take advantage of it”. It might be true for all big cities, but I believe this is especially true here, far away from your home. Living in China makes you realize that you are part of a bigger picture, and that the connections you can make throughout the world will be infinitely important in the future as our world becomes increasingly interconnected.
6) Take advantage of the endless travel opportunities
If you enjoy travelling, then living in China is great idea. First of all, because it is close to many other countries in Asia. From Shanghai, you can reach Hong-Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul and Hanoi in about 2-3 hours by plane. But most importantly, the travel possibilities in China are infinite. From the Ice Sculpture Festival in the northern province of Heilongjiang to the sunny beaches of Hainan Island, China has something for every taste. My personal favorites are the province of Yunnan and Inner Mongolia. Yunnan is situated at the south-western extremity of the country. In the south of the province, bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, the famous rice terraces of Yuanyang (see picture at the top of the page) will amaze you every bit. In the North, close from Tibet, the high mountains will take your breath away, whether while walking through the tiger leaping gorges, or spending a couple days in Zhongdian, also known as Shangri La.
7) Every day is an adventure
Not one day will pass without you having to experiment something new. Adventures must be taken in large sense here. The first kind of adventure is related to all the administrative or everyday life issues you might face. For example, buying new light bulbs or booking a restaurant, two quite easy and straightforward tasks back home, will become much more complicated. Without the language, the simplest tasks can become headaches, but solving them also is very fulfilling. The other kind of adventures you will encounter is when trying new things. Your motto should be “Try something new every day” and believe me, you will not have enough time to try everything. A couple ideas to give you a head start: Eating chicken feet, Try cupping and acupuncture, enjoy a grilled scorpion while in Beijing, take a taichi class…
8) Acquire useful skills
The first skill that living abroad will teach you is being autonomous. When living so far away from your home and family, you will have to take care of things by yourself. From paying rent to shopping, cooking and doing your own laundry, you will master all those daily tasks to perfection. As nobody will be here to help you when you need to go to see the doctor or if electricity breaks in your apartment, you will also improve a lot your problem solving skills. Last but not least, China will teach you to be patient. It’s interesting to see how some things are much easier in China, but for certain administrative aspects of life, you will be amazed at how slow China can be. If you plan on going to the bank to exchange money, take a deep breath, and be ready to wait. A lot.
9) Increase your professional marketability – international experience is a must.
An experience abroad is one of the most important assets a fresh graduate can have. Most companies will favor applicants who have had an international exposure during their studies. In our increasingly globalized world, it is essential to think about the world as a whole, and to confront ourselves against its different cultures. Moreover, learning Mandarin also proves to be a rather interesting skill on a resume. As China keeps developing, Mandarin will become a very important language. Chinese companies and people already invest a lot in our markets, and the Chinese market is a top destination for our goods. No matter how much you will be able to use it in your professional life, learning Mandarin shows dedication and perseverance toward an objective. It also shows your ability to confront yourself with the unknown, and to learn from it.
10) Challenge yourself
The last reason for coming to study abroad, in China or elsewhere, is to challenge yourself. There are no benefits to playing it small, as your life starts once you get out of your comfort zone. A great quote from Mark Twain goes like this: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”. You won’t make these experiences when you are 40 or 50, now is the time to have the courage to confront yourself to something new, something different. The benefits you will gain from it will follow you for the rest of your life.