你好! (Ni hao) Hello! My name is Bianca and I am from Argentina. I study International Relationship, and last autumn 2016, I spent an amazing semester abroad at Guangzhou University in China.
When I told my family and friends I was going to study in China, everyone asked: “Why China?”. Well, I decided to study there, because when I was in the last year of school, I hosted an exchange student from Thailand. A year later I went to visit her with my brother, and on the same trip, we went to China.
This quote matches my first impression of China:
“Everyone who visits China is impressed by the atmosphere of social harmony, although it is very conditional, very organized, by the feeling that all people work at the same time for everyone. In addition, we can check a kind of social energy that is very different, clearly, from the atmosphere subtractive of energy that happens often in Western society. […] The country has implemented an art of living in community. “
When I arrived in China for the first time, I completely fell in love with the culture, but especially with the society. That was the reason why I decided to come back and study there. I think China, and Asia in general, are very interesting places and a totally different world from what we know.
Asia Exchange offers two possibilities to study in China, one is in Shanghai and the other one is in Guangzhou. As I had already been in Shanghai, I looked into Guangzhou, and I took this option because it is a very dynamic and developed city in the south of China, close to other amazing cities.
Guangzhou is the third most important city in China, after Shanghai and Beijing, and is better known as “Canton”. It has 13 million inhabitants, and it forms a part of one of the most populous metropolitan agglomerations on earth.
The city combines modern and contemporary buildings with traditional and ancient neighborhoods. There are many activities to do and many interesting places to visit. The city has amazing attractions to see during the day, and also the nightlife is awesome. There are many clubs and bars to enjoy at night.
Guangzhou University is located in Panyu district, about 40 minutes from the city center by bus or metro. The university is on an island, surrounded by the Pearl River, where there are 13 other universities.
Guangzhou University comprises 26 schools, and they have over 30.000 students and 300 international students from different parts of the world, but especially from Asia.
There were ten exchange students and and we studied 8 subjects:
1. Chinese Foreign Trade
2. Law of the People’s Republic of China
3. Chinese Culture
4. Chinese Martial Arts
5. Chinese Language: A. Listening; B. Oral Chinese; C. Intensive Reading and D. Chinese Characters
The course was very useful to me, because I learnt many important aspects of the Chinese culture and what are the relationships 关系(Guānxì) in China, which are indispensable in order to do business and to establish connections with the country.
For me, the most interesting subject was “Law of the People’s Republic of China”, because it was more connected to my studies (International Relationship). But I was also surprised, because I learnt a lot of Chinese language, especially Chinese characters and how to read and write them. Also, Kung Fu was one of the most amusing classes!
As my home university does not have a “credit system” (like in Europe), I did this program for myself, and I know it will be very important for my curriculum, because of the importance China has in the world nowadays. However, I did a project supported by my home university about “The economic relationship between Argentina and China”, and I did interviews and participated in the activities organized by the Argentinian Consulate in Guangzhou.
I did not receive any financial support from my home university or any sponsorship, but when the program finished, Guangzhou University gave us a scholarship of ¥3.000
My life in Guangzhou
The university has an incredible campus with dorms and many services to offer to the students. There is a building specially for the international students, where everyone has a private room with a bed, a TV, a desk, an electric kettle, an air conditioner, and in some rooms there is a wardrobe. The internet connection is not so good, but in China, in general, the connection is bad. But we had the option to go to an internet cafe or to the library to use the Wi-Fi.
I shared a bathroom with just one person, and in my case, it was with a Japanese student who was very lovely, so we did not have any problems. The dorms have hot water from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., but at the beginning of the semester, I did not need it, because the weather was too hot to take a hot shower. The dorms also have a laundry room where we could hang our clothes or keep our luggage. There are two washing machines on each floor where we could wash our clothes for just ¥3.
The dorms also have sheets, which we could change every 10 days, and we did not have to pay anything. They do not provide towels, but you can buy them there.
The reception is open 24 hours, but the students “cannot go out or in” from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. But after some weeks, we discovered that it was not so strict.
The rent is ¥30 per day, so about ¥900 per month. I had to pay a deposit of ¥500, but they gave it back when I checked out.
You can also rent a room or an apartment near or in the city, but for just four months I think it is too much effort. And the location of the dorm is very convenient, because it is just a 5-minute walk from the university.
I had classes from Monday to Friday every morning and some afternoons. The classes start every day at 8:30 a.m. and finish at 12 p.m., and we had a break in the middle. After that, we went to have lunch, and on the days we had classes in the afternoon, we started at 2 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. on some days.
The classes are very free, because the professors are very open to listen to our opinions, so we could participate and tell about our experiences or point of views in every class. The classroom was very well equipped and we did some extra activities outside the university, like visit companies and factories with the trade class and go to the Canton Fair with the law class.
We used books just in the language classes, and in the rest, the professors prepared power points that we could copy. In the culture class, we did many art things, and in martial arts we learnt Kung Fu and Tai Chi.
In the dorm, we did not have the possibility to cook, so on the campus, there were two options for eating. One was in the canteen: the university has three canteens, one on each three floors, where you can eat different dishes with rice (of course) and the prices are about ¥3 to ¥12. Or you can also eat at the food court, which is at the mall on the same campus, where the food is better and the prices are from ¥8 to ¥20.
At the mall, there are also some restaurants and fast food places. And I recommend you also visit the restaurants in the close neighborhoods, where the food is more traditional.
The best food experience for me was the night food market on our campus. Almost every night around 11 or 12 a.m. the food carts came, and all the students went to buy “street food” (There is nothing like a Chinese hamburger).
Activities in the campus
Usually on the days I did not have classes in the afternoon, I went to the city to visit different places. But on the days we had classes in the afternoon, I stayed on the campus and did activities there.
The island is very big so I could walk or rent a bike to go around. There are tourist bikes to rent from ¥5 per hour or the public bikes you can rent from ¥0,50, but you need an app on your phone to pay (you can also ask the Chinese students). I usually went jogging on the promenade close to the river, and at the beginning, when it was hot, I went to the swimming pool (it is just ¥8).
There are many sports to do. For example, I often played volleyball with some Chinese friends, and my classmates formed a football team with the international students and the Chinese students. The sports are free, and you can use the sports fields whenever you want.
During the day, the Chinese students always do different activities, and on the main street of the campus, they usually have stands where they offer many clubs for students to join. In my case, I was in a “table game club” where I played chess, but you can also learn some typical Chinese games. There are clubs for everything: martial arts, photography, dance, painting, cheerleading, sports, music instruments, singing, cooking, cocktails, etc., and you just need to talk with the students to join them.
At night, the students are still very active. Usually, they go to the main street where they form circles and play the guitar, sing or play cards or games; also they share some snacks and drinks. That is a very good moment to make friends, get to know people and “take pictures” (one of the most important activities in China). Sometimes they organize shows at the theater where they dance or act, and you can see some typical Chinese dances.
Guangzhou is a place where it is impossible to get bored, because there are many things to do. In winter, for example, when it was a little bit cold (because in Guangzhou it is almost always hot), I usually went to the mall where you can play billiard or video games. At night, they project public movies in the hall, as well, but there is a cinema in the Science Center, where you can watch movies in English and in Chinese for just ¥40.
The Science Center is also a museum about science and technology, and it is really amazing. There are many halls to visit, and also some interactive activities to do. I recommend going there in the morning because it is very big and you need a lot of time to visit it. Likewise, the Art University, which is close to Guangzhou University, has an Art Museum which is also very interesting, and it is just ¥5.
Extra activities and trips
Besides all the activities we did on the campus, we had excursions organized by the university with all the other international students. The activities were free and optional, and they were really cool. We went on a cruise along the Pearl River in the evening, where we could enjoy the lights of the city. Then we went to “Lignan Impression Park”, which is like an ancient city that conserves typical houses from the South of China. We also visited the Canton Tower and we could go to the top. In December, the university organized a Christmas Party for us, too.
We organized other trips and activities, as well, to get to know the city. We visited many tourist and other interesting attractions in Guangzhou by metro and bus, because the public transportation in China is very convenient and cheap. I had the opportunity to visit other close cities, like Shezhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Shantou and Chaozhou, and I also went to Shanghai. And if you want, you can visit Hong Kong and Macao, and in the International Office, they will help you obtain a second entry visa.
Guangzhou is also a very good place to go shopping. The city offers many places with different prices and quality where you can find almost anything.
In Guangzhou, there are many clubs and bars to enjoy at night. Usually, the clubs are very international and the music is international, too. I often went to Party Pier, a complex where the clubs are concentrated in, and they are free, so you do not have to pay for the entry and you can go everywhere whenever you want. Another typical bar I used to go was Perry’s, but my favorite club was Duo, a Latin club located in Taojin.
If you do not want to go to the city, on the campus, there is also a little club and a KTV Karaoke, one of the favorite activities of the Chinese students. At the mall, there are cocktail bars or if the night is nice, we usually bought some beers to drink in the street, and then we went to the rooftop of our faculty to see the sky, the river and the lights of the city.
This experience for me was really amazing and, of course, it was more than what I expected. I discovered a totally different world on the opposite part of the earth. I could learn a lot about Chinese culture, and also about many different cultures, because Guangzhou is a very dynamic city where there are people from many different countries. I could also make friends with whom I know I will stay in contact forever, and these kind of opportunities are also good for learning about yourself and for seeing what you like and what you want for your own future.
If I had to describe China in just one word, I would say: “Contradictory”. China is a country, which is totally contradictory, and where you can find modernity and antiquity, tumultuous places and peaceful places, madness and harmony. As the Chinese proverb says: “上山容易, 下山难” (Climbing the mountain is easier than lowering it). In China things that are logical, do not necessarily make sense in Western countries; and everything that is so clear to us, in China might not be so rational. That is why in China all the senses get to play and you can experience the world upside down.
.The best things about this experience were the people I met, both local and international people; and the highlight was that every day was different and I did not have any day identical to the rest. It was four months full of adrenaline with many different activities every day.
I really recommend going to study in Asia, because it is a world completely different from our preconception, and you will learn that in other parts of the world there are people who live, think and feel differently. China is a country with 5.000 years of extraordinary culture to learn about, and Asia is the future. We need to learn how to establish a relationship with that culture to create a better world in the future.
Thank you so much for the inspiring and thorough description of student life in Guangzhou Bianca! Learn more about how you too can study abroad in Guangzhou, China.