Month 1 – Done and Dusted!

Even though I’ve hit my one month mark, I still struggle to believe I’m living in what has got to be one of the world’s most incredible cities. I feel as though my life has been flipped upside down a little, and in the midst of the excitement I’m sadly realizing my time here is going to absolutely fly by. In saying that, my settling-in experience hasn’t been totally flawless, so for those considering jetting-off to Shanghai Jiao Tong, I hope the information contained in this blog update ensures your transition is a little smoother than mine.

 

First point I want to make, all those stories you hear of pollution being terrible here? They’re not exaggerating. Initially, it will almost feel like you’re walking through a physical substance, and participating in any sort of sporting activity will leave you out of breath way faster than normal. The ever-present cigarette smoke doesn’t help much either. Secondly, before arriving I was always told how Shanghai is the Chinese city where East meets West. Traditional Chinese-style houses neighbor with those of a more classical French-style, and it’s just as easy to find a crepe as it is a dumpling. Whilst there is definitely some truth in this, the largest misconception I gained from these tales was that English was pretty commonly spoken across the city. This is definitely NOT the case, so if you’re arriving with little-to-no Mandarin skills, download Duolingo and brush up on those key phrases. You’ll need them. If nothing else, my pro-tip would to be print out your arrival address in Chinese to give to your driver. They will really appreciate it, and it’ll make your life just that bit easier.

 

On the topic of transport, taxi’s here are SUPER cheap, as is the metro. You’ll definitely benefit from a metro card so make that a number one priority when you arrive. The metro system here is also really easy to navigate, so don’t worry about getting lost. However, be warned that trains here, like Brisbane, don’t run all night. So, on those nights when you’re exploring the cities unbelievably amazing nightlife (make Bar Rouge your first stop!), and want to head home before 6am, take a MARKED taxi. Unmarked taxis are a massive scam here so be vigilant. Also, never catch a taxi from directly outside a club or bar. They’re generally about 4 times the price, so it’s worth your while to walk five minutes down the road. Another important note for when you’re out and about, always always always have a copy of your passport/visa on you. Whether it be a photo on your phone, a print out of a scan or the real thing (which I don’t recommend as pickpocketing is an issue here). Police officers here have the right to ask to see a copy at any time and any place. Refusal or inability to give them anything they ask may land you in hot water. To quote our security officer, ‘don’t use things like human rights as an excuse!’. You also need it to do things like travelling domestically, booking a hostel room in addition to orientation or registration at your university.

When you do begin university life, there will be an absolute stack of admin to do. My advice would be to write a list, and get it done as soon as possible. First things first, set up a WeChat account – you honestly can’t live here without it. You use it to pay vendors, shop online, contact tutors, be informed about class info etc. For that last one, WeChat basically takes the place of Blackboard, so it is really important. When you set up your banking, get to the bank early unless you want to spend 3 hours sitting in their lobby (you don’t). Don’t forget your TFN either! When you get a sim card, I recommend China Unicom. You get unlimited data for a very reasonable price, and it’s a reliable network country-wide. If you’re studying/living in the Xuhui campus, there’s a Unicom and BOC branch right outside one the main gates, so it’s pretty convenient. Speaking of, if you’re torn between living on Minhang or Xuhui, I would highly recommend Xuhui. Not only is Minhang really far away from downtown Shanghai, but because it’s so big it has become its own little city. What I’ve heard from people who live there, is that this means you become rather reluctant to leave and explore because everything you want is around you, and you end up missing out on all Shanghai has to offer. There is a shuttle bus that runs between the two, but it’s still a hassle. So, unless the majority of your classes are taught there, I would say book in Xuhui. Side note, if you do book in Xuhui, your options are; Lianxing building and Tao Li Yuan. The former is an older building, and only the rooms on the top level have been renovated. The latter is new, and all the rooms are much more modern. I’m stuck on Lianxing level one which isn’t that nice, but I’m only here for one semester so I’m willing to put up with it. It was also, like everything in this country, so incredibly cheap that it’s not really worth complaining about.

 

Last but not least, if you are here on an X2 visa (one semester), you cannot obtain a Residence Permit visa. This is contrary to what I had been told, so it was a bit of a disappointment. You can add one more entry to your visa if you want, but that’s it. Just a word of warning!

 

Well that wraps up my post for month one! If you have any specific dorm orientated questions don’t hesitate to ask because I found very little information myself when I was looking. Until next time!

Hangzhou – a city of wonder, natural beauty and the perfect place to study and learn!

Jack Ennis

Bachelor of Business – International

Zhejiang University, China (Semester 2, 2018)

Hi! I’m Jack, a third year BS08 Bachelor of Business – International student currently on exchange in Hangzhou, China! After a semester in Qingdao, China, I came to Zhejiang University in Hangzhou to really fine-tune and hone my Mandarin Chinese language and cultural skills. With China, one of the largest markets in the world, being so close to Australia, being well versed in Chinese language and culture provides a competitive advantage in bilateral relations and trade partnerships. These skills help both securing jobs in the Asia-Pacific region, and helping strengthen Sino-Australian dealings.  Although I major in Finance, business opportunities in the Asia Pacific region and China in particular are increasing exponentially across a broad range of disciplines and industries.   Zhejiang University, one of the best universities in China is in the downtown centre of bustling Hangzhou, a melting point of Chinese language, culture, history and business alike.

Zhejiang University – Zi Jin Gang Campus

With my classes only just beginning, we have had a perfect opportunity to explore this fascinating city, and all it has to offer. On every side, Zhejiang University Yuquan campus is surrounded by fascinating things to see and do. Just south of the university is QingZhiWu road, an area full of great restaurants, peaceful cafes and a myriad of small hotels and hostels. Its clean, modern layout, mixed with a traditional Chinese design make it an interesting place to visit. This area is right next to the Hangzhou Botanical Garden, a great place to exercise, stroll or study alike.

QingZhiWu

Further south of the campus is the beautifully tranquil West Lake. It has been recorded by countless Chinese poets and authors throughout history. With its beautiful scenery, fresh air, and the home of a recent ecommerce festival held by Alibaba, it is the perfect eclectic mix of old and new, the epitome of Chinese culture in the modern world.

West Lake

At first glance, Hangzhou is a city of wonder and natural beauty. When you look closer however, it is the perfect place to study and learn. Whether you’re a student in business, science and engineering, creative industries, law, or anything at all, Hangzhou is the perfect place to immerse yourself in true Chinese culture and equip yourself with the skills necessary to take a proactive stance in Australian-Chinese relations and trade. I look forward to fine-tuning my Chinese from some of the best teachers in the country, while exploring the surroundings, talking to locals and learning more about the history of the city. Zhejiang University, with a history of over 120 years, provides a perfect opportunity to do this on exchange.

Zhejiang University – Yuquan Campus

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan

5 Reasons Why Shanghai is a Decision You Won’t Regret!

Natalie Malins, Bachelor of Business – International

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Semester 1 2018

My BS08 degree entails a compulsory year abroad for which I chose to go to Shanghai and Paris. For my first semester abroad, I was lucky enough to receive the New Colombo Plan (NCP) mobility grant from the Australian government. I had many reasons as to why I chose to study in Shanghai, however, it mainly came down to the fact that I wanted to improve my Mandarin while learning more about the exponential growth of the Chinese economy.

The first few weeks were admittedly a bit of a rollercoaster (as they usually are with every exchange I suppose). Settling in and getting accustomed to the Chinese way of life proved to be a bit challenging at times, especially with the admin and visa side of things. Nonetheless, after getting myself sorted, I was able to relax and take in all that Shanghai had to offer. Four months later, I can happily say that I fell in love with the city. I could ramble on about it for ages if you let me, so here are the five main reasons why:

  1. University life

Shanghai Jiao Tong University is a very reputable and prestigious university in China. There are two campuses, one in Xuhui (the city), and one in Minhang (about an hour drive out of Shanghai). I attended orientation day at Minhang and was surprised at the large amount of exchange students. People always asked me, “aren’t you scared to go over there by yourself?”. The answer was of course! But I soon realised that everyone was in the same boat as me and there was nothing to be worried about.

I had classes from Tuesday to Friday, each class being around 2-3 hours. Classes were usually in a small classroom consisting of 15-25 students. Both campuses were nothing short of extraordinary and I was surprised at how well-kept everything was. I was at the Xuhui campus most of the time which had a canteen, restaurants, tennis courts, athletic track and not to mention, beautiful tree-lined streets.

  1. Culture

China’s culture is one of the world’s oldest cultures and if you ask me, one of the most intriguing. Shanghai is a bustling city with plenty of things to do from The Bund, to the French Concession, to the Umbrella Markets. What I found to be interesting was the mix of the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ Shanghai. I lived in Xintiandi, which is a tourist attraction covered with fancy restaurants and expensive boutiques. However, walk 5 minutes away from it and you find yourself in what I would’ve imagined Shanghai to look like a century ago; butcher stalls with meat hanging from the ceilings, old men playing chess on the streets in their pyjamas, street sweepers weaving their own brooms, old couples dancing in the park. With Shanghai growing into a modern city at such a rapid rate, I love that it still maintains its own unique character and charm.

As for the food…I think you can guess how amazing (and cheap) it is.

  1. People

I discovered the locals to be extremely friendly and helpful. The locals who lived in my residence were very chatty and pleasant, even when they couldn’t speak English. Additionally, the expat community is massive in Shanghai. I met people from all over the world and have stayed in close contact with many. You’ll find an international city like Shanghai to be quite transient, which is why people are more open to the idea of meeting new people.

  1. Nightlife

If you’re looking for a place with a CRAZY nightlife scene, Shanghai is your place. Many nightclubs have promoters, who give you free entry and free drinks all night. This is literally a city that never sleeps, and you can find something fun to do even on a Monday night.

  1. Travel

One of the definite bonuses of studying in China is its accessibility to the rest of Asia. I managed to travel to Thailand, Hong Kong, Beijing, Suzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Zhangjiajie (aka the Avatar Mountains). There are so many interesting and beautiful places in China alone that you don’t even need to leave the country. There are multiple airports and train stations in Shanghai which make it very easy to get around. Trains are reliable, affordable and super efficient. My highlights were definitely the Great Wall Festival (yes, a techno music festival on the Great Wall), and also Zhangjiajie National Park, where the movie Avatar was inspired.

These are the reasons why I believe that choosing Shanghai is a decision you definitely will not regret. I had many moments of doubt at the start, but at the end of it all I can happily say that it was one of the best decisions of my life. However, none of it would be possible without the support of the Australian Government and the QUT Study Abroad team.

If any of you have any questions about exchange or studying in China, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan

Off to Shanghai!

Hi everyone!

My name is Jemma, and I’m a travel-bug-bitten 2ndyear business (and mandarin language) student. After many months in the making, tomorrow morning is the morning when my alarm will sound at the lovely time of 3:30am, and I will board a flight bound for one of China’s most exciting cities, Shanghai! Armed only with my limited mandarin and one incredibly heavy suitcase, the excitement and nerves have definitely started to kick in.

Before I even started university, I always knew I wanted to do a semester overseas. I’m a person who loves change, finding nothing more exhilarating than touching down in a foreign city. Honestly, the bigger the culture shock, the better! This is all much to my parents dismay of course, who would love nothing more than if I were to move out one street over and live in Bris-Vegas for the rest of my days. However much I love this river city though, that simply won’t be happening (sorry dad!).

This will be the first time I’ve ever set foot in the city of Shanghai, or even mainland China. Aside from the fact that the local street vendors serve up the tastiest xiaolongbao known to man, there’s really not a lot I know about this ever-changing place. They celebrate holidays I’ve never heard of, eat foods I’ve never tried and speak a language I’m still struggling to grasp. I really wouldn’t want it any other way, however I can admit I’m a little sad about having to celebrate my first Christmas away from home. Oh well, small sacrifice.

For those of you also contemplating spending a semester in this exciting country, allow me to give you a quick run-down of some key pre-departure info. Firstly, my advice would be to make a list of what you need to do, and DON’T leave it to the last minute. There will be mountains of forms you will need to fill out, and all will have a deadline. Trust me when I say the last thing you want to do is wake up and realise you’ve missed something important, like the date to book your dorm room. Not speaking from personal experience, but I do know someone who had to endure the last-minute struggle finding off-campus accommodation, and it isn’t fun. Secondly, when you apply for your visa, you will have to leave your passport with the consulate for a couple of days. This in itself was a little nerve-wracking, heightened by the fact the man next to me was being informed by frantic staff his passport may or may not have been misplaced. Luck was on my side however, and I received mine without drama. Just a heads up. Lastly, check out youtube to find some videos that cover student life in the city you want to travel too. They’re full of handy hints, from budgeting to local transport.

That’s all I have for you so far. So, until I hit the dorms of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 再见!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan.

Honkers Part 2

So we are now a little over two months in… and I am realising more and more that I love being a little fish in this big, big, crazy sea. I thoroughly enjoy spending time on my own and Hong Kong gives you endless opportunities to take yourself out on dates where you never really feel alone amongst the chaos.
In the most densely populated suburb in the world – Mongkok – you can found countless little Chinese or Taiwanese restaurants on the tenth floor of a 20 storey building crammed in between 2 other equally busy restaurants that will serve you up the most delicious broth at an amazing price… Honestly I could do six blogs just about the food and I am really giving myself a pat on the back as I’m becoming a true wiz at Chopsticks.  There is something exciting about picking your meal from the menu pictures and never really knowing what you’re going to get – just praying its not intestines or something like that!
Among other things, what I love about the young Hong Kongers is that they love to treat themselves. They love having the best – I thought I would follow the trend and wait 2 hours for ‘Hong Kong’s Best Bubble Tea’. Coming from uncrowded Brisbane this was crazy to me – I mean don’t get me wrong it was delicious but these people do this on a daily basis. Don’t let me put you off though – despite the huge crowds Hong Kong is a hub of efficiency. Everything in Hong Kong is how do we get as many people in the restaurant as possible and how do we get them straight back out again. So although you might see a huge line up for a little restaurant rest assured you will be served within 20 minutes! Although you better be ready to put your change away quickly and get out of the way!
What really has changed my life though has been the hot lemon tea. I am ADDICTED! This is basically a staple with every meal and if you have ever been to Hong Kong you know that you must preface every drink with ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ as everything is offered in both.
Another plus of living here, aside from the hot lemon tea, is Hong Kong’s central location.  It is close to most of Asia and there are so many airlines flying through Hong Kong that every week you will find flights that are cheap as chips to anywhere in Asia you wish to go. So far I have been to Cambodia and Taiwan and next stop – TOKYO.
Of course its not all jetting around here. I am starting to truly understand what living on a student budget looks like. But Hong Kong is perfect for youif you have plenty of money or no money at all, because you can pick the type of lifestyle you wish to lead! Extravagant, top of the range down to $15 AUD a day – note this is still eating delicious food if you know where to go!
Hopefully my next blog is less centred around food but it is unlikely. Until next time…

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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