Changing Expectations

Roisin: Zhejiang University, China: Semester 1, 2016

Whatever expectations or preconceived notions I had about China prior to my exchange, they all went out the window as soon as I arrived on a cold day in February. It is truly unlike any other country I have ever been to. It is a country both rich in history and steeped in tradition, yet moving at a breakneck pace towards the future.

By West Lake in Hangzhou, China (the city I was living in).

By West Lake in Hangzhou, China (the city I was living in).

 

From Hangzhou, the city in which I lived, I travelled to both rural villages, where I watch the workers as they spent hours picking tea leaves in the fields, and to the fast-paced city of Shanghai, where I witnessed hundreds of skyscrapers light up along the river at night-time.

The Chinese language and cultural course taught at Zhejiang University was completely immersive, with classes every day from Monday through to Friday, as well as tests on a weekly basis, which forced us to keep up to speed with the new vocabulary we were learning every day. As a result, I feel like my language levels improved exponentially over the course of the semester.

With Liam (also a QUT Exchange Student) in Shanghai

With Liam (also a QUT Exchange Student) in Shanghai

Additionally, being able to study the language with a cohort of international students from all corners of the globe, such as Morocco, Thailand, Poland, Sudan and Korea, made it a fun and exciting experience and allowed me to make friends with people I would have never otherwise had the chance to.

Find out more about QUT Student Exchange here!

Why I chose China

Roisin: Zhejiang University, China: Semester 1, 2016

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The Great Wall of China

I have returned to Australia this past week after spending 6 months living in Asia. I spent one semester studying Mandarin at one of China’s most prestigious universities, Zhejiang University, and then spent a month working at the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills in Hong Kong. The opportunity to study, work and live in Asia for 6 months was a once in a lifetime experience.

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By the Bund in Shanghai during Australia in China Week

As a law student, I have watched with interest the rapid economic growth of China and the corresponding opportunities that this is creating in the legal market, both domestically and internationally, as well as the increasing expansion of international law firms into the Chinese legal market. This, combined with a longstanding ambition of mine to learn a second language, drove me to embark on an exchange to China to learn Mandarin and immerse myself in Chinese culture.

Click here for more QUT Exchange Information.

Attending Australia Week in China as a New Colombo Plan student delegate

Liam D: Bachelor of Business/Laws – New Colombo Plan mobility student to Zhejiang University, China

I was recently fortunate enough to attend Australia Week in China as a New Colombo Plan student delegate. Australia Week in China, or AWIC in short, constituted Australia’s largest ever trade mission to China, with over 1,000 delegates making the journey, each with the aim of strengthening Australia’s business ties in the Middle Kingdom. Business cards were exchanged, deals were made, and the week’s events put to rest any question of the significance of Sino-Australian business relations.

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Meeting with the Minister for Tourism and International Education, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, at Australia Week in China 2016.

 

Held in the heart of Shanghai’s scintillating Pudong district, AWIC’s proceedings afforded me an invaluable opportunity to network with some of Australia and China’s most influential businesspeople and learn more about the trends shaping today’s international business landscape. As an NCP student delegate, I was able to attend several networking functions, the AustCham Westpac Australia China Business Awards Gala Dinner and participate in a site visit to the cutting edge Zhangjiang Technology Precinct. Through these events, I was given the opportunity to meet professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds, including senior lawyers from top tier international firms, executives from multinational banking institutions, Chinese ecommerce marketers, and representatives of leading educational institutions. Gaining exposure to these professionals afforded me hugely in depth insights into the nature of the opportunities emerging in China and Australia today.liam china2 jpg

In addition to the business networking opportunities the week provided me, being an NCP exchange student in China has allowed me the unique opportunity to develop professionally in a way I am sure would be impossible outside of Asia. Through the program, I have been able to secure employment with National Australia Bank in Hong Kong, and in July I will commence a three month internship with the company’s institutional banking team.

Not yet even two months into my exchange, I can say confidently that the opportunities I have had made available to me will account for some of the most transformative, inspirational and exciting moments of my university experience to date.liam china

Business study in Beijing

My plane lines up for it’s approach into Peking Airport and as I peer through the window, I get my first impression of this historic and traditional city. I’m confronted with clear blue skies and the temperature is registering in the negatives. It’s far from the smog covering and pollution that I have been promised by the media. The day is beautiful. Not many bottles of fresh air will be sold here today I suspect.

I’m told that a few enterprising entrepreneurs have made their millions by bottling and selling cans of fresh air to citizens of this city. I’m in Beijing, the capital of China. China is the most populated country in the world and has the fastest growing economy. Could there be a more challenging or interesting place than this to spend a semester abroad?

A brilliant lookout of Beijing's Forbidden City

Beijing’s Forbidden City

Over the next six months I will be attending Renmin University, which ranks as one of the best in the capital. During my time in the orient, I hope to learn some of the language, history and culture of this vast country.

Australia has a strong economic reliance on Chinese growth and demand for natural resources. As a result of our strong economic ties, the Australian Federal Government offers a significant amount of funding for Australian undergraduates to study in China under the New Colombo Plan. As part of this program, I strongly encourage anyone interested in undertaking a semester abroad in China to look into the grants available under this program.

If you are interested in following my experiences in the Far East, I will be making further posts over the next six months.

Until next time,

Chris

 

 

First Impressions in China

Liam D: Bachelor of Business/Laws – New Colombo Plan mobility student to Zhejiang University, China

Around ten months ago while at having dinner a sushi restaurant, I made the decision on a whim to go on exchange to China. Not knowing what this impulse decision held in store for me, I was elated to be putting a plan in motion to spend time in China after aspiring to visit for so long. Nearly a year later, I’ve touched down in the renowned city of Hangzhou and have commenced my studies at Zhejiang University.

Acclimatising to China’s vastly different culture and settling into my new home can thus far only be described as a fantastic learning experience. Exhilarating, exciting, demanding, stressful and awe-inspiring are all adjectives which aptly describe how my experience of moving to China has felt so far.liam8

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Arriving in the dead of night at Hangzhou Airport, I had ¥200 in my pocket, bank cards that weren’t cooperating with the local ATMs, a phone incapable of contacting anyone without Wi-Fi, and a meagre vocabulary at my disposal. liam1After a lengthy cab ride into town spent anxiously glancing at the ever rising fare meter, I arrived at my hostel with ¥25 to spare, only to find the ’24-hour check in desk’ seemingly closed up shop for the night. Just when I had resigned myself to sleeping on a stone bench by some pot plants outside the establishment, I was rescued by my girlfriend who had woken the innkeeper and in turn let me in. Following this bumpy entry, I had to wonder whether the remainder of my time in China would be so turbulent.

 

Fortunately, the mishaps of my first night in China haven’t followed me past this disastrous arrival, and I’ve since had the opportunity to make some early reflections. Being in China as a Westerner, one feels a long way from everything familiar. The people are different, the customs alien to outside eyes. The pace of life is accelerated, reflective of a country in motion with aspirations to reach the pinnacle of the international order. But to generalise or make broad statements about China is to err grievously; under each unturned stone lies something new to learn, a new insight into a society rich in history yet transforming more rapidly with each passing day.

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Living in one of China’s vast metropolises, one is immersed in a constant cacophony of noise, embedded within a kaleidoscope of over 1.37 billion people, each with a different story to tell. Sirens and car horns blare endlessly, and every street corner has its merchant vying for the attention of all passing by. Visit tourist streets in Hangzhou and you’ll be beckoned to purchase a handful of the city’s famed Dragon Well Tea. In Shanghai, street merchants peddle counterfeit watches and designer bags. Here, the nights come alive in a blaze of neon lights accompanied by a chorus of cuisines sizzling in woks and frying over grills. The air becomes thick with the heady smells of mutton charring on the flame, egg noodles colliding with spring onion and spice, and ears ring with the sound of voices shouting, laughing, and bartering.

In just over a month, I’ve visited the glass waters of Hangzhou’s West Lake and witnessed the monolithic spires of Shanghai’s Pudong district. I’ve travelled to tea villages in valleys underneath mountains ensconced in thick forestry and shrouded in mist, and climbed the winding stairs of ancient pagodas and temples. Despite this, it’s easy to feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this dynamic country has to offer. With close to five months remaining in my stay, the clock is ticking, and the dilemma I face is deciding how best to make use of the time I have left. Regardless, I can take comfort in the knowledge that however I choose to devote my time, every day will bring with it a new opportunity to learn and discover more about this eclectic and fascinating country.

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Info Sheet: Macau – Uni of Macau

University of Macau:

Eligibility: UG & PG / All Faculties

Location: The university’s campus is in Taipa; the smaller of the two islands in the Chinese special administrative region of Macao (formerly a Portuguese colony), 2.5 km from Macau Peninsula and east of the Lesser Hengqin Island of Zhuhai, Guangdong Province.  Taipa Island has expanded dramatically in recent years as a result of the region’s rapid economic development and Macau’s 1999 return to China.

The University of Macau (UM) overlooks the Pearl River’s estuary, and commands a panoramic view of Macao Peninsula, mainland China, and the South China Sea.

Discipline Area of Interest for Business Students:

  • Accounting
  • Information Management
  • Finance
  • Business Economics
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Hospitality and Gaming Management

 

Faculties:

  • Business Administration
  • Education
  • Law
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Sciences and Humanities
  • Health Sciences
  • Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences
  • Honours College

About:

  • University of Macau was the first and currently the largest university in Macau, a former Portuguese colony
  • The university offers Doctoral, Master’s and Bachelor’s degree programs. English is the main medium of instruction, although certain programs are taught in Chinese, Portuguese and Japanese.
  • The Faculty of Business Administration is the largest faculty in the university enrolling about one-third of the undergraduate.

Useful Links:

University of Macau Wesbite: http://www.umac.mo/index.html

 

Info Sheet: China – GDUFS

Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS):

Eligibility: UG & PG / All Faculties

Location: South of China, Guangdong Province; situated in Guangzhou, a city with a long history and rich cultural legacy and the economic hub in South China.

Discipline areas of Interest:

  • Literature
  • Economics
  • Management
  • Law
  • Engineering
  • Science
  • Education

About GDUFS:

  • GDUFS was established in June 1995 through the merger of Guangzhou Institute of Foreign Languages and Guangzhou Institute of Foreign Trade.

Unique facts about Guangdon:

  • Guangdong officially became the most populous province with a population of more than 110 million!  The massive influx of migrants from other provinces is due to Guangdong’s booming economy and high demand for labour.
  • Guangdong is also the ancestral home of large numbers of overseas Chinese.  Most of the railroad labourers in Canada, Western United States and Panama in the 19th century came from Guangdong.   Many people from the region also travelled to the US / California during the gold rush of 1849, and also to Australia during its gold rush a decade or so later.
  • Guangdong has a highly unbalanced gender ratio that is among the highest of all provinces in China.  According to a 2009 study published in the British Medical Journal, in the 1-4 age groups, there are over 130 boys for every 100 girls.

 

Info Sheet: China – BFSU

Beijing Foreign Studies University

Eligibility: UG & PG / All Faculties

Location: Haidian District in Beijing

Discipline Areas of Interest:

  • International Economy and Trade
  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • E-commerce
  • Information Management and Information System
  • International Relations and Diplomacy

About:

  • Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) is under the direct management of the State Ministry of Education.
  • The first foreign language university that offers most language programs in the country.
  • Among 7,000 registered students at the BFSU, 5,000 are full-time undergraduates, 1,000 are graduate students, and 1,000 are overseas students.

 

Why Asia is Baller

I’ve been reading Andrew’s blog on costs, and have decided to do a similar blog. However, apart from being highly derivative I thought I would advocate Asia as the best exchange destination.

I, like many, have dreams of living in Europe; a white Christmas, partying in Ibiza, sunbathing in the Greek islands, falling in love in Paris and generally being Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. The ability to travel through 44+ countries is an tempting opportunity. But my heart is in Asia. It offers the same deep cultural experience with an exciting twist – constant challenges and surprises – at a much lower cost (and better weather!!)

This was a $3 30min ferry away.

Four Reasons Why Asia is Baller.

1. Costs

There’s no doubt about it, Asia is way cheaper as a destination; its both closer and day-to-day expenses are well below those of Europe or America.

To give an idea, I’ve constructed a list of usual costs I’ve experienced in Hong Kong, one of the more expensive cities. Many are much cheaper (Bangkok, Mumbai, Mainland China) while many, like Japan are very expensive.

*In (approximate) Australian dollars.*

Meals

Home Cooked Meal – $5.00
Home Cooked Chinese Meal – $2.00
Breakfast at a local diner – $3.00
Lunch/Dinner at a local diner – $6.00
Dinner with few friends and beers – $10.00
Expensive Lunch/Dinner at a western café/restaurant – $30.00-$40.00
Expensive Lunch/Dinner at a Chinese café/restaurant – $20.00-$30.00
All you can eat restaurant – $20.00
McDonalds Burger Meal (the universal cost measure!) – $4.00

Living Costs

Accommodation (whole) semester – $1000.00
Laundry – 0.70c
Two weeks worth of phone credit (assuming you’re moderate user) – $8.00

Shopping

Basic Tshirt at H&M/Cotton On/ Similar – $10 -$15
Tshirt local designer – less than $20
Branded tshirt – $50-100
Decent guys shoes (branded) – $100.00ish
Paperback Book – $20.00
Going to movies – $10.00
Bottle of water – $1.00
Can of coke – $1.00
Coffee – $3.00
Cake – $7.00

Getting Around

MTR to central – $1.60
MTR (student discount) – 0.80c
Taxi from night out – 15.00 (split between 5 people, $3)
Bus to and from airport – $3.50
Ferry to islands – $3.50

Drinking/Going Out

Bottle of Beer at Supermarket – $2.00
Bottle of Beer at 7/11 – $2.50
Bottle of Beer at bar – $10.00
Spirit at bar – $12.00
Entry to the races – $3.00
Entry to average bar/club – Free – $15.00
Entry to top nightclub – $50.00 (not a typo!)
Night at karaoke – $12.00
Entry to all you can drink bar (guys) – $30.00
Entry to all you can drink bar (girls) – Free

Travel

Return Flights to Bne – Hong Kong $1000.00
Return flight to nearby Philippines $200-300
Return train to Shanghai – $200.00
5 day trip to Vietnam – $600.00
Weekend in Macau – $200.00

To give perspective, I live in a very wealthy suburb (recent houses went for around AUD$500million which means really expensive shops and supermarkets) and have lived a fairly spendthrift lifestyle at times – but have spent no more than $7000-8000 total (including flights). Other friends have spent closer to $9-10k, and have done a little more travel.

As you can see, it’s so much cheaper to live; but if you want something western, you’ll have to pay for it. I know the local students are probably living on closer to AUD$10-$15.00 a day. I think its fine if you’re feeling homesick or want to relax with something from home to spend a bit more. For example, I love my coffee, like to eat really well and try to be out and about when I’m not at uni. So you might want to budget $20-30ish per day for safety.

The trick is to avoid living like western tourist and to learn to live like a local.

2. The Future

You only have to flick through a Time magazine to conclude that China, India and the ASEAN (South-East-Asia-Nations) are going to be the absolute future of the world. There is not doubt that your ability to navigate Asian customs and business will be a powerful tool for your career success. As is your ability to find common ground, rapport and friendship with someone who won’t share the same values, language and interests as you.

3. The culture

I won’t go over already covered ground, but the ability to explore cultures and experiences that, in some cases have existed continuously for thousands of years is an amazing prospect. You could look at Roman ruins, or you could go to a hindu temple that has been used every day since the fall of the Roman Empire. Fight tourists in the French Rivera or be the only person on a tropical island. Eat pizza in Florence or Ostrich, fish skin and abalone in Shanghai. Give it a go!

ps. Ostrich tastes kind of gamey.  More like venison, rather than chicken.

4. The weather

It’s winter in HK. Its 20 degrees outside, not a cloud in the sky.

Risks of Asia

1. Feeling Lost

No doubt that the unfamiliar will frustrate you. Big cities can make you feel lonely and isolated. Big changes in language and processes can leave you wondering what the hell is going on. Food may be unappetizing and badly cooked. Inflexible bureaucracy and hierarchy can make you angry. You’ll find your resilience being stretched. These will be common wherever you go, but if you’re the type of person who doesn’t adapt to ambiguity and change, Asia might not be for you.

2. Health

A constant onslaught of bad food, smog, crowds of people, bad sleep and sometimes-unsanitary conditions are going to assault your immune system. You’re going to get sick. Really sick. Factor it in. Come to peace with it.

Feel free to ask me more questions, I’d be happy to offer help.

My friend Lorencio has put together a fantastic site which really helped me adapt to Hong Kong and has expanded costings – http://www.newtohongkong.info/

Hope that helps with sharing my feelings and experiences. No doubt, with one chance to go on exchange, you want to make the most of it. So wherever your heart is set; don’t hold back in going for it.

Dim Sum Yum

It would be impossible to cram everything about Hong Kong into a single day – it’s a diverse city, crammed with culture, lights sounds and experiences. But I finally found the time to explore some of the more tourist sights with my girlfriend Bek.

It’s a tough, fast paced city, no time to stop.

We packed in a whirlwind mission to explore some of the culture sites of Hong Kong fueled on a diet of delicious dim sum.

For those wondering chicken feet are delicious – its like extra fatty marinated chicken wings.

Once you get over the fact you’re sucking on a chicken toe.

Here we go!

I can’t say enough how delicious dim sum is. I want some right now! Its a raucous dinner with dumplings and tea flowing everywhere.  Even with a booking, you have to fight for a seat! A little tip I was told (not sure if I have the guts to do it.) – look for people who look like they are nearly done and hover over their table until they get uncomfortable and leave! I told you it was a tough city.

Ten Thousand Buddhas - number 167

One of the monks on the way to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. Before you ask, there really is Ten Thousand of them. They don’t all look like this though. We made the mistake of climbing the hill the wrong way and walked into what we thought was the temple. It was infact a columbarium  for peoples ashes and paying respect to ancestors. Easy mistake to make, but those paying respect must have been wondering why we were sight seeing through a funeral home!

Fish, freshly wacked.

Hong Kong-ers have a close connection with their food. While westerners are bizarrely squemish about knowing where our food comes from – locals have no qualms with watching tonights fish be beaten to death in the super market. Oh, and the cage the bottom is full of ‘edible frogs’ – tea anyone?

Nunnery

Bring me... a nunnery

Feeling very gwelio (foreigner) in Sheung Wan

Watching over

The connection to religion and spirituality continues to run through the city. It provides welcome relief from the stress of daily life. The thing I enjoy most is leaving the rampant commercial life and getting lost in a totally foreign atmosphere

The World Below

View from the Peak

You can’t help but finish the day with a stunning sight. The Peak remains home to the rich and famous (actually with HK real estate you need more than fame, you need Incan treasure) and one of the worlds greatest views. Its surreal being so far above the buildings and seeing the world run below you.

My friends

Ps. This is one of my favourite photos – two local characters – a 70 year old drag queen, and a man with a Pomeranian on his head – dancing to 60s Cantopop. Brilliant.