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.
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.
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.
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.
Featured photo credit: Mitch Altman via flickr.com