This is a postcard from China, one of the culturally richest country. So I have started my exchange in China from August 2018 at the Qilu University of Technology in Jinan, the north part of China. This is my second home country and looked forward to this exchange journey!
(This photo was taken a front of the library of QLU, nice fountain!)
Studies weren’t so easy, okay the hardest part was the weather. It was so hot in China when I arrived, almost 30 degrees. And of course, there was no air conditioning, and for some reason, those fans never worked… But fortunately, exchange students had air conditioning in their room, so whenever the lecture finished, I enjoyed my study in my room (or “our” place with my roommate). Besides the heat, for me, everything went well (okay, Chinese professors had a quite strong accent, but you would get to familiar with that).
(Jinan Expo Garden near by the school)
Usually, I hang out with my friends during my spare time. Attending to the local church and had a few travels on the weekend or holidays. Oh, and Business Street was s cool place! Basically, I could find everything from there, like gyms, restaurants, karaoke, pubs, bakeries, stores, hairdressings etc, just everything!
Having a bicultural background was helpful for me to adapt to this country. Surely, there were some difficult times and it was hard to adjust to the local way of acting. But finally, everything went well.
It’s Kati again! As I stated above, I was half-a-year student in China, Jinan. Let me tell you some aspects of my daily life!
Studying in an Asian country is -of course- very study oriented, but the courses are not so difficult. The campus is big (1,5 million squares according to Wikipedia) so the distances between school buildings are very long. You easily got 10,000 steps by just going to classes and canteen. There were many school buildings, about 15 when counting 3 canteens, library and doctor’s together, which was a huge surprise compared to tiny little Tampere University of Applied Sciences. Everyone should be addressed with their surname, like Mr. Wang. There was also a brewery, tea house and other warrants of the school which we visited.
Picture: Me(second from the right) and other transfer student in the tea house of Qilu school.
There were many ways to spend your free time and many Chinese chose to study. I found different ways to stabilize my everyday life by going to jog and to a gym, hang around in bars, playing pool and table tennis, hiking a mountain, travelling to different cities, seeing different tourist attractions, and just walking around the schoolyard. Why I mentioned walking around the school? Well, there were many statues, places to relax and they were usually quiet and empty. There were many opportunities nearby the school, you decide where you want to spend your days!
Picture: City of Jinan
There were also different kind of weather, as there only snowed once during my stay, even I was there on the autumn semester! The snowflakes were tiny and melted away in an instant. Also, the lunchtime were about 2 hours as there were 15,000-25,000 people on the same time who went to lunch. Sometimes we went to the nearby restaurant to have lunch as in the canteens there were very noisy and no seats left. One cool aspect of the school was to see different kind of clubs, as in TAMK there is only (maybe) 2 clubs, which are Paperikerho, a “club” for paper engineers and Ääriraja, a theater “club”. During my free time I saw for example the band club, rollerblading club, hiking club and dancing club. I wish there would be as many clubs in Finland too.
I have spent my exchange period in Shenyang, China. Shenyang is medium sized city in China with about 8 million habitants. The city is located in the northeast of China about 250 kilometres of the North Korean border. The name of my university is Shenyang Jianzhu or SJZU. There are about 19 000 students of which approximately 200 are international students in the university.
Teaching language is English. The way of teaching is similar to Finnish type of teaching where professor takes the lead and students (at least try to) pay attention. There are many project oriented courses too but I’m only studying languages and Chinese culture so I don’t have to take any part in those projects. However, study timetable is different from what I have used to. Morning lessons starts at 8.30am and they last until 11.30am. Afternoon lessons starts at 1.30pm and they can last until 5 or 6pm.
There are many international students in my university, but most of them come here to study whole university degree or master’s degree. At the moment you can find only three students through exchange program, two from Germany and one Finn. Most of the majoring students comes from Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and many African countries, for example Nigeria and Tansania.
Most of the other international students don’t know Finland at all or have very stereotypical knowledge about it (Nokia, cold country, possibility to have a good life and Santa Claus). Somehow many students think that we speak English as our native language in Finland.. Well, sometimes I like to shock other students telling about stories how I enjoy eating reindeers or rolling in the snow while taking a good sauna session.
There are many different reasons why life in Shenyang is so different compared to life in Finland. Biggest impact comes with a language. Shenyang is not so international city and that makes communication sometimes very hard with locals. Most of the people can’t understand English language at all and on the other hand my Chinese level is very basic and poor in spelling. In Chinese language same words have a different meaning depending how tones are said. There are four different tones and if you spell word with wrong tone you can say something very bad or locals have no idea what you are trying to say. Sometimes people try to communicate with me by writing some information with Chinese characters but I have no idea how to read them.
At the beginning I found it very hard to communicate with people but now I have learned tricks for it. Communication usually happens with simple phrases, hand signals, gestures and by using translator applications. Luckily I have managed to have few local English speaking friends who I can rely if things get too problematic. I can say that Chinese friends are the most helpful people I know on this Earth.
Other things that affects differently to my life here are huge amount of people, traffic and pollution. In this city is impossible to walk alone in the streets or sometimes even fit on the sidewalk. Don’t even think that you can find a place to sit in subway or bus. Just run inside, jump on people and try to survive! Luckily I took a single room in my dormitory so I have place to hide if things get too hectic for me.
Using public transports is very cheap in Shenyang. Subway ticket costs about 3-5 (0,5€) yuan depending how far you go. Jumping in the bus costs 1-2 (20 cents) yuan and you can drive as far as you want with that price! Driving with taxi about 10 kilometers can cost you about 40 to 50 yuan (about 4 or 5 euros). Usually drivers are honest and put the taximeter on but sometimes they can drive around a same block few times to gain more money from people who don’t know the city so well.
Traffic in Shenyang is very chaotic and makes no logic for me. Many of the taxi drivers are driving very high speeds and they use every path available (sidewalks, alleys, etc). On top of that there is no seat belts available in most of taxis. On the other hand I have to admire the way they race through city without crashing their cars.
Air pollution is a big problem in China and you can feel it also in Shenyang. Air pollution index (US AQI) can vary something about 50-150 (good day) to 200-400 (don’t go outside). Some days you can really see the pollution in the air. You can smell the diesel, coal and exhaust fumes in the air. If you are wild enough you can put your mask on and go for a jog or walk. For comparison, in Finland air pollution index is usually between 5 and 40.
Usually I spend my spare time with local or international friends. Going to city with local friends is always very interesting. They can show and tell you many different things about Chinese culture and different cuisines. I have tasted hundreds of differents foods in China. Some of them are very delicious, some are not. My personal favorite is hot pot for a lunch or dinner.
I have plans to travel and see different places in China. For now I have had time to see Dandong, Shanghai and countryside in Benxi. Getting to Dandong takes about 2 hours with train. It’s very interesting city to me because from there you can see to real North Korea. Shanghai is far more developed and international city than Shenyang. It’s a shame I had only four days to spend there. In the countryside I saw beautiful mountains and nature, cornfields everywhere and very primitive little villages.
As a construction site management student I have found China very interesting. Especially the ways how the things get build in here. Chinese people don’t really waste time when they want to build something. Building a new restaurant in my campus area took only about 3 weeks. The size of the buildings is humongous if compared with buildings in Finland! A block of flats with more than 40 layers is standard in China. They have a lot of knowledge how to build big and monumental structures in this country.
There is one familiar looking building in my campus area that got my attention when I roamed around in the first two weeks. It reminded me of a Finnish wooden house that looked a bit odd somehow. Maybe it was because of the windows? A closer look told me that the house was built in co-operation with TAMK in 2010.
There is a lot of other things I could tell about my staying here in China, but I fear that this blog post is getting too long already. I don’t regret coming here. Somehow I have spent maybe the best time of my life here in spite of the hardness of life sometimes. I’m quite sure I will return to China someday.
Two months have flown by so quickly and my exchange is nearing its end in the grand metropolitan city of Shanghai. In Shanghai there are roughly around 24 million people, which shows in everyday life. There is not a moment where you are alone and the lines in TAMKs cafeteria look very short after living in Shanghai. I had never been in China before coming here and boy oh boy has it been an experience.
I am studying in Shanghai University or SHU or ShangDa as the locals like to call it. Shanghai University is the most popular university among young people in Shanghai because of the good teaching and high-quality research. I have five courses, Chinese language, introduction to the Chinese economy and society, social changes is contemporary China, Chinese culture and foreign trade of China. University life to local students is hard, but not for us foreigners. Mostly our courses have only very long lectures (around 3 and half hours), group presentation and final essay, only in Chinese language we have an actual final exam. When compared to TAMK, the lectures are pretty similar. Communication within school is done mostly in WeChat since the school’s tabula-like environment is only in Chinese, which is a bit of a bummer. All in all, the school is pretty nice, except for the classrooms. They have benches attached to tables and are not built for anyone taller than 165cm.
To me, China and Shanghai have shown its beauty in a very spectacular way, the old and the new. I have admired the city’s old architecture in Yu garden while distancing myself from the never sleeping megacity. I also have admired the futuristic area of Pudong, named to be the “Wall street of Asia”, during nighttime and been to the worlds’ second tallest building. I have enjoyed my coffee in the biggest Starbucks in the world and also sipped my tea in the oldest teahouse in Shanghai. During my spare time I like to visit different districts of Shanghai and get to know the local life. Unlike many think, Shanghai and China is very western and not that cheap, except for food. Food is cheap, it’s delicious and there’s a lot of it. You can find any type of cuisine from around the world in Shanghai, because of its history of being a port city. Sadly, the true Shanghainese food is a bit too sweet for my taste and I have to admit that I still prefer Cantonese cuisine over Shanghainese.
In general, if you are up for an experience and willing to step far away from your comfort zone, I can recommend Shanghai and China. Just last week we experienced one of the biggest “unrestricted internet” blockades on the year, which was hilarious and annoying at the same time. Luckily, it only lasted a week and now everyone is back at finding good academic sources from google for their final essays. It has been nice to experience a completely different culture and get to understand China, but I am still more than fond of Finnish culture. I appreciate the quietness I have not experienced here in the past two months and the Finnish cuisine of not adding sugar and fat to every dish imaginable.
I chose four courses which are Foreign Trade of China, Chinese Language, Chinese Culture and China and Globalization. Every subject is held once a week except Chinese language is twice a week. The culture and language courses really help in this big city since it is really hard to find someone who speaks English. Learning about the Chinese culture is interesting because the cultural differences are so noticeable in some cases.
There are so much to see in Shanghai so whenever we have spare time we try to use it wisely, such as exploring the city and places. Shanghai exchange is really short which does not leave that much spare time so you must plan ahead what you would like to do. We have made plans for traveling and sightseeing. So far we have been to famous tourist attractions such as Yu Garden, Shanghai Zoo, Shanghai Museum and The Bund.
Studies – Finland vs. China
The classes in the school are longer, they last about 3,5 hours. Lectures are really similar to Finland. When it comes to the differences between Finland and China, there are not that many. Teachers don’t give assignments here and the projects are bigger and require more effort in Finland which was surprising.
My time in Shanghai has absolutely flown past, including visits to Xian and Tokyo, and the more time I spend in this crazy country the more I fall in love with it.
Exploring this city of 25 million people has been incredible, and every day there’s something new to see. China and the Chinese people are so very different from the western cultures I’ve previously seen and got to experience, and although sometimes it causes misunderstandings and frustration, I find myself being constantly impressed by the Chinese, and their attitudes towards things. Everyone has been so kind and friendly, and it definitely pays to look western and lost; if I’ve ever stood somewhere long enough looking a bit confused there has always been a local to offer a helping hand, even with no common language.
As Shanghai is the world’s biggest city there is definitely a crazy amount of things to do and places to see, and being able to only spend 3 months in China means a lot of sightseeing on our days off.
Although the Chinese language is extremely hard and takes up a lot of time outside the classes, fortunately the other classes in the university were relatively simple leaving time to go outside and explore. The other courses I chose in addition to Chinese were Social Changes in Contemporary China which was great – the teacher was the absolute loveliest and would often engage in discussions outside the class topic to properly answer any questions we might have. She also took us on field trips including a breakfast at the local KFC to see just how the western influences are adopted into China – meaning old Chinese men and women coming to the fast food restaurant to read newspapers and hang out like it was their living room!
Both ”China and Globalisation” and ”Intercultural business communication” left me with next to no new knowledge on either subject, and researching for the final essays written for both courses probably taught me more than sitting in class listening (or trying to listen) the teachers.
All in all, China is a country of so much culture – both the kind that leaves you speechless in awe and the kind that sort of leaves you scratching your head in pure confusion and frustration. Still, at the end of the day there is no place in the world I´d rather be!
I was doing my study exchange in Shanghai, China between September and December 2016.
I had 4 courses: Chinese language, social changes in contemporary China, China and globalization and intercultural business communication. When it comes to the courses the best one was the language course; you really HAD to learn Chinese there. The teacher was quite strict and demanding. Social changes course was also fine because it had a lot of cultural stuff on it, but the remaining two courses were boring and quite frankly there was hardly any useful content.
I spent my spare time in the gym, exploring the city, experiencing the culture, enjoying the food and sightseeing. Shanghai is an enormous city. My exchange lasted only for 3 months, and it was nowhere near enough time to really get to know the city. You always end up taking the metro and just getting up somewhere without any clue how the different parts of the city are connected to each other.
There are a lot of interesting and beautiful sights to be seen in Shanghai. It’s also hard to get tired of Chinese food in just a few months – it’s too good. I also did a bit of travelling in China, but not as much as I would have wanted to. I visited Xi’an and Beijing. There’s so many places in China worth visiting, and if you are ever going there I highly recommend not just staying in one place.
The studying culture differs quite a bit from studying in Finland. There are more strict guidelines when it comes to absences, however, that is understandable for exchange students – no one would attend the classes if it wasn’t mandatory. Other thing which was different was the lack of exams. I had one (small) exam for Chinese language, but the rest of the courses were only group projects and essays.
All in all, I would highly recommend China and Shanghai as an exchange destination if you have any interest in Asia and experiencing a totally different culture. It really widens your cultural understanding and you are guaranteed to learn a lot. Just have an open mind and a positive attitude!
Graduate nursing studies in Shanghai has gone well as far now. I came here to do some practical training and studying and that is what I have done – of course a lot of other things too 🙂
But something about studies… There are five nursing student from TAMK and Centria. There are also other exchange nursing students from different countries in our campus. Here I and other finnish nursing students have been in different kind of hospital departments like childrens heart unit, gynecology oncology, ICU and pediatric.
Beside that we have been studing in campus, TCM (traditional chinese medicine), chinese language etc. In the beginning of our exchange studies here, we were also studying with chinese students some nursing theory things like mental helath sciences, pediatric and chemistry.
..But we also have been in orphanage which has been very pedagogical and educational experience. Maybe the best part of studies 🙂
Our campus is good, rooms are nice and possibility to do some sports is very good. There are near everything you need and the rest you can find in the centre of Pudong by bus or in the downtown by the subway.
City itself is big. It is always moving, there are always something new and something that you never find. This is paradise to people who wants to shop but there are also much more. In here you can find a lot of nice corners, areas and yeah, always something new and different.
Beat of this city is fast but time in here is flowing. It is a little bit funny
More than 5 weeks have passed by really fast. During that time I have done some practical training in the hospital and went to some lectures in our campus. Of course part of my life is enjoying free days, travelling around and getting known some Chinese habits and lifestyle.
Internship have been mostly interesting. First I was 4 weeks in Children’s medical center and last week I started to work in Renji hospital. Chinese way of nursing is mostly the same than in Finland, but of course there is things what they do differently.
Here in China you don’t need to be alone, ever. Sometimes it’s too much, specially in the morning when you need to push yourself into a subway. Fortunately rush hours last only couple of hours, so I don’t need to change my special morning rutin.
Food culture here is really interesting and I have tried to experience that quite a lot. Maybe in the future frog, special Chinese eggs and stuff are part of my diet.
I have enjoyed my weeks here a lot and maybe I’ll miss China at some point after home coming. But for a now, I don’t need to worry about that stuff because I still have some weeks left. So what’s next? Summer days, Beijing, party, studies and of course a lot of smiling.
My exchange studies here in Jinan, China is almost coming to it’s end. Even though I’m really happy to return back to my oh-so-dear home country Finland, there are some things I’m going to miss when I leave.
The nature and weather here is definitely very different from Finland’s. Parks are full of most bizzare looking plants and flowers and the temperatures are much higher than in Finland. That still doesn’t mean there can not be cold. In the winter we had snow couple of times!
Food is amazing and there is always lots of it. Chinese food is different from what you can get from the restaurants back in home. Here the food is more spiced and more simple. One of the things I need to try when I get back home is cook some real kung po chicken.
During this academic year we had many holidays and great chances to do some traveling. I have seen the Great Wall of China in Beijing, big skyscrapers of Shanghai and shores of Qingdao. In the winter holiday, which is almost 2 months here, I even went to out of the country to Philippines and South Korea and also visited Hong Kong.
The thing I will definitely miss most are my new friends.