Having never been outside of Europe when I first came to university, being given the opportunity to study in Shanghai for 3 weeks with the government-funded ‘Study China’ Programme was an exciting, but scary, prospect.
After a hasty application last minute, I was surprised to receive an acceptance email a few weeks later.
So, I began to prepare; booked my flights, got my travel insurance and researched a bit about China online.
After checking out the FCO Travel Advice on China and the NHS Fit for Travel website, I was scared at the prospect of travel injections (having a very big needle phobia), but managed to get through them okay.
Soon after I was boarding my flight at Heathrow and after many, many hours that included an extremely dull stopover at Moscow airport, I arrived in Shanghai.
My most memorable experiences in China
- Food poisoning – pretty sure it was from some dubious dumplings that I had made myself – luckily I didn’t need to go to hospital but my advice would be to take out comprehensive insurance, just in case.
- Crazy drunken taxi driver – taxis in Shanghai were very different to in the UK. I first realised this when I had just started a quick journey across the city when the driver started drinking beer, screaming out the window and speeding. After freaking out a little bit when we realised he was taking us on an extremely long route, we eventually arrived at our destination unharmed. I ensured I always ordered a licensed cab after that incident.
- Language experience – the programme consisted of 60 hours of Mandarin tuition, however, I was still barely understood by anyone throughout my time in China. Communicating on a day to day basis was very difficult – I had to copy the Chinese symbol for ‘toilet roll’ (卫生纸) and give it to the maid for her to understand, as the food poisoning had left me needing more than she had left. Even if your course includes language tuition, it’s worth preparing & learning a few key phrases that will help you practically day-to-day.
- Cultural experience – visiting a Chinese family was one of the highlights of my experience (and luckily they spoke more English than everyone else I had met). They gave me an insight into what it is really like in China and the experience that I gained on the trip has sparked my interest in Chinese culture: I will definitely be visiting again.
Don’t forget! If you’re visiting China (or any other country), make sure you’re up to date on the FCO official travel advice!
Written by Fern Davidson-Averill