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7 Things Only US Students Who Study In China Would Understand

7 Things Only US Students Who Study In China Would Understand

Moving from the US to China to gain higher education is a very serious step. You enter a completely different culture with its own rules, laws, food, art and view on things. You get to know totally different people who see things not as you do.

Nevertheless, thousands of US students are brave enough to take this huge step and change their usual way of life for this new adventure. If you’ve already experienced this kind of adventure, you can totally relate to the following things. If you are only thinking of taking up this challenge, see what things you should be prepared for.

Here are the things US students in China usually go through.

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They suffer a lot at the beginning if they don’t know Chinese

US students who go to China and plan to study the language there, feel like they have come to another planet at first. Chinese and English are such different languages that you probably won’t hear any familiar word besides, may be, Pepsi, iPhone and other universal brand names. The weird thing is that in China, not so many people speak English comparing to European countries, for instance. So, if you only plan to go study there, take some basic classes first.

They get a lot of stares and pointing

US Students studying in China get a lot of attention. If you are tall or chubby, you will probably get lots of stares and pointing. They especially love blond people with blue eyes. If you are one, you will feel like a star in China. Be prepared for Chinese people wanting to take a picture with you, it is absolutely normal. With all that, don’t think that they consider you a freak or something. On the contrary, they admire you and may even make way for you on the streets. In big cities with lots of tourists, Chinese people react more calmly to other nationalities now. But if you go to some provinces or villages, get ready to feel like a superstar.

They become very creative in their studying

When US students study in Chinese universities, they have to become creative. Imagine if you had to write a thousand words essay in Chinese on the topic of, let’s say, Chinese literature. Sounds quite intimidating, doesn’t it? Well, but they actually manage to do it and to get good grades. So, creativity is something that you will definitely acquire as a student in China.

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They feel all the kindness and friendliness of Chinese people

If you ask for help, you will most likely get it. Even if you don’t know much Chinese and try to explain your problem in English or even with the help of gestures – they will do what they can to help. The most important thing is to be friendly. Sometimes a smile can do more than a thousand words. The most important thing, though, is to avoid familiarity and some gestures that are common for us but can be offensive for Chinese people. Remember that they do not like to be touched. Patting somebody’s back, hugging and other forms of physical contact will probably not be appreciated at all.

They get overwhelmed with the loudness

Chinese people speak loudly! When you first witness their conversations, you may think they are fighting. Moreover, they spit and burp a lot. That is another thing that shocks many foreigners. However, you get used to loudness quite a lot. In a month you won’t even notice it.

They eat things they didn’t even know were edible

The Chinese food you eat in restaurants in the US has nothing to do with what you’ll see (and maybe eat) in China. First of all, food is spicy, very spicy! You will eat and cry at first. Second of all, food in many restaurants and cafes looks terrible. Well, it looks normal for Chinese people, but for us it looks like some odd slush. And finally, you will see so many things that seem absolutely inedible: heads of ducks or rodents, fried scorpions, cockroaches, bugs, grubs, turtles, snails, etc.

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They have to go through seven hells before they find out how to access Facebook or Youtube

Censorship on the Internet in China is very strict. There is no Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and some other resources and social networks for you, my friend. So, students who enjoy online social life, feel quite disappointed trying to access their Facebook page in China for the first time. Many different websites and Google services may also be forbidden there, so be ready.

Don’t get desperate, though. There are some ways to go around the system. Foreign students have come up with several ways of accessing forbidden sites. One of the most popular one is setting up VPN. So, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Hopefully, this list didn’t scare you off. China actually is a very beautiful country and Chinese people are very nice. You just have to go through the cultural shock and you will fall in love with this country forever.

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Featured photo credit: Mitch Altman via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes effectively.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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1. Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

2. Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

3. Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

4. Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

5. Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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6. Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

7. Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

8. Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More Note-Taking Tips

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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