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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 August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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