“My whole semester was just one big highlight”

Gerhard studied abroad at Shanghai University, Shanghai during spring semester of 2017. You can read his interview below.

What’s your name and where do you come from?

Gerhard – I’m from Austria, originally from a small village in the Alps, currently living in Vienna.

Gerhard, Asia Exchange ambassador in Shanghai

Where did you spend your exchange semester?

Shanghai, Spring 2017

Why did you choose to study in Asia, and your destination in particular?

I had already done a lot of traveling in Europe and wanted to take the opportunity to challenge myself and get an insight into a culture different to the European one. My university does not contribute to any plans of studying outside of Europe and going as free-mover can be very nerve-wracking, but I stumbled upon Asia Exchange. As I had already studied a little Chinese in my free time, I thought China/Shanghai would be a perfect fit for me.

Tell us a little more about Shanghai, what was it like to live and study there?

If I had to choose one word it would be “different”. I knew English was spoken way less than in Europe, but the lack of English nearly everywhere was astonishing and encouraged me even more to improve my Chinese. This could also be noticed at the university, where people told me that classes taught in English are really rare. Living in China really opens your eyes if you think that English is a “world language”. Overall, the foreign study program is really interesting, especially if you also pay attention to the different teaching methods, and not that time consuming, which allows you to explore the city and surrounding areas. In general, foreigners are seen in a really positive light in China; people like to take photos with you, which is kind of a unique but also sometimes annoying experience. Food is also totally different, and I really miss it sometimes now that I have left Shanghai.

Gerhard, Asia Exchange ambassador streets in Shanghai

Did the experience meet your expectations?

Dealing with expectations is often difficult. For the most parts, I didn’t really have special expectations, as it was my first semester abroad. In addition, it was going to take place in a completely different environment that I didn’t know much about beforehand. Still, if I think about it, maybe my expectation was that it would be different. Sometimes my expectations were even exceeded by the real conditions. Nearly everything was even more different than what I imagined it to be. But if I must sum it up: YES. It really was an awesome semester.

What were the highlights of your exchange?

My whole semester was just one big highlight, but I will point out some special things here:

  • Traveling around and especially in the city of Shanghai itself. Shanghai has about four times the inhabitants of my whole country! The city is huge and has a lot of awesome places to visit.
  • One of our teachers partnered us with her “Foreign English” class, so everybody who wanted got matched with a local buddy. By having Chinese buddy, I could, once again, really feel differences in culture, but also always had somebody who can explain why something is like it is.
  • So many nice and helpful people were everywhere.

Gerhard, Asia Exchange ambassador in shanghai bund view

How did you get the study place? What was the application procedure like?

The place was assigned to me nearly instantly after the application and the procedure was easy and fast. Also, when changes to the accommodation had to be made because of renovation work, it was communicated to us really fast and other options were offered.

Which were the most interesting topics in your studies?

The language class was great, I really learned a lot there. My biggest surprise was the course “Social changes in contemporary China”, which I chose as a replacement for a canceled course, but turned out to cover really interesting topics about the social parts of Chinese culture. Additionally, I enjoyed the business part of the courses because I originally study computer engineering and these things were often new to me.

What kind of accommodation did you have and how much was the monthly cost?

For the sake of simplicity and convenience, I chose a single room on-campus accommodation provided by the university and Asia Exchange. The monthly cost was intended to be a good 400 euros (about the same I have to pay at my home country for a single room), but due to a construction work, after my semester ended, the fee was lowered to about the half of the original cost, which was quite nice.

What were your normal days like while living in Asia?

During the week, I mostly had one or two 3,5h courses per day. After the courses, we often visited some sights in the city, sometimes went shopping or explored the local way of spending free time. On weekends we mostly traveled.

Gerhard Shanghai ambassador doorway

Did you have a chance to travel during your stay?

Yes. Partly, because I did only 20 ECTS, I had a lot of time for traveling (but also people doing 30 credits still had some time left for that). We used most of the weekends for weekend-trips to surrounding areas and used two longer weekends for trips to Xi’an and Beijing. At the end of the semester, we also managed to visit Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain, which is said to be the most beautiful mountain in China.

What kind of things did you learn about Asia during your stay?

I could literally fill a book listing everything I learned about Asia (and especially China) during my stay:

  • Compared to Chinese people, all people in Europe have a very similar way of living. When comparing China to Europe, the differences are bigger than expected and at the same time differences between different European nationalities start to seem smaller and smaller.
  • Especially the way people spend their free time is totally different.
  • In general, Chinese people really like foreigners.
  • China is a really safe when it comes to violence.
  • I learned a lot about the interesting history of Asia.
  • … and so much more.

What kind of things did you learn about yourself?

I must admit, I strongly underestimated Asia. It feels like Narnia: first, you open the door and get a glimpse of this strange, foreign world, but by the time you see how huge this culture is and you start diving into it, you really learn to love it. Additionally, I learned a lot about how we (Europeans) think, as Asians tend to see totally different sides that I would have never thought about.

In your opinion, why should people go to study in Asia?

Why especially Asia? Because the culture is really different compared to most of the cultures you may know. They do most things differently and it will open your eyes to new ways to achieve things you would have otherwise never thought of. Another important part: I think Chinese really know how to make good food. Again, it’s different, but really delicious. Also, most of the cultures in Asia are amongst the oldest in the world, which helps you to have insight into the Asian history. Additionally, over half of all people in the world are living in Asia, which makes knowledge about Asia really important in the globalized world.

Gerhard Asia Exchange ambassador in Shanghai street food

Would you recommend this study program to other students?

Yes, of course! Especially if your university does not really support exchange semesters, doing it with Asia Exchange saves you from a lot of hassle and will reward you with a great time and unique experiences for an affordable semester fee.

What are your greetings to Asia Exchange?

Hi AE team! I’ll start with a big thanks, without you I would have definitely missed this opportunity of getting a glimpse of the Chinese way of life. You make things so much easier for people without much support from their home universities for exchange semesters outside of Europe. Additionally, it really is affordable for one semester. During my time in China, I learned so many new things, got to know so many nice people and improved my Chinese a lot. If I would just have more time for my studies, I’d do another semester, maybe in Korea or Japan.

A free word for any student considering going abroad

Just do it! Really, pick the right country for you and just go. Studying is the perfect opportunity to learn how things are done in different parts of the world. You will learn so many great things and meet so many nice people. And keep in mind: there is no wrong, just different. The way people will do something may seem wrong to you, but actually, you just have to look a little closer to understand that this way is just different. To sum it up, go with an open mind and an open heart.

Of course, not everything will be nice all the time. But this encourages you to cope with problems and helps you to increase your comfort zone. And often there are lots of nice people around you eager to help you if you just ask.

At home, I’m studying computer engineering. Unfortunately, the course selection at Shanghai University didn’t match with courses I was supposed to take for my home university. Still, I was able to learn a lot: language, culture, history and international economics. It encouraged me to think out of the box and really contributed to my personal growth. Most of my foreign classmates were studying economics, but I would strongly recommend this type of exchange programs to people doing different studies as well.

Find out more about studying in Shanghai

Latest in our blog


Kuala Lumpur – Attractions You Definitely Need to Explore!

Get the best out of your stay in Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur is the lively capital of Malaysia. The name ‘Kuala Lumpur’ literally means ‘muddy…

→ Read more


New Zealand – Breathtaking Places You Cannot Miss!

New Zealand is a great study abroad destination as it has endless beautiful spots to see. To make sure you will get the most out of your exchange semester, we have compiled our Top 5 beautiful places that are definitely worth the visit….

→ Read more


5 Best Things To Do In New Zealand

Kia Ora, greetings in Māori, the second official language of New Zealand. When preparing your semester abroad in New Zealand, it’s important to know what are the must do things and experiences  during your stay in…

→ Read more


5 Must Do Things in Bangkok, The Gate to Asia

Bangkok, also known as the gate to Asia, offers everything a traveler´s heart can wish for. The capital of Thailand, the land of smiles, is…

→ Read more


5 Must Visit Places in Seoul Part I

Korea´s capital, Seoul, isn’t really known as a must place to visit for most tourists and backpackers. Why? We don´t know, but it´s for sure…

→ Read more


10 Must Have Free Apps for Exchange Students!

Today nearly everyone has a smartphone, but not everyone has the right Apps he needs. This article will provide you with tips of 10 Apps…

→ Read more


5 Must Do Things in Shanghai

There is no such thing as the most beautiful city in this world, but Shanghai is pretty close to it. Shanghai undoubtedly has one of…

→ Read more


How to Choose a Study Abroad Destination in Asia

There is no such thing as the “perfect” destination – it’s what you make of it that counts! How do you find the perfect study…

→ Read more

Never miss an application deadline or an interesting story

Sign up for email updates

What do you want to receive?

Asia Exchange, Vuorikatu 3 L 3 33100 Tampere, Finland
Email: info@asiaexchange.org
Tel: +358 45 322 1230, Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm (GMT +2)
Privacy Policy

Site by Atomi