What is it like to study in China?
“Why did you choose to study in China? Why not Australia, UK or the US? Do you like China? Have you regretted going to China?”
I have been asked with these questions over and over again, even during job interviews. Therefore, I felt the necessity to write this article to explain and answer the questions above.
For most Malaysians, or at least the Malays who decided to study here in China or again were rather chosen by the government *Hunger games background music* to study here in China, majors in Chinese language as a second language. While I on the other hand, were also fortunate enough to be blessed with a full scholarship to study in China. However, my major is in Economics so I somewhat share different perspective on studying in China.
Not a lot of people are aware of the fact that Malaysians do come to China to study. Although statistically speaking the numbers are rather low comparing to the USA or UK or Australia or basically any western countries but we do exist! *NOTICE ME SENPAI*. But does not matter where you study, local or international, we all know university isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Well, that is basically life anyway.
So, why China?
Beside the fact that China is conquering the world and having to learn Mandarin is advantageous. You can literally go to 50ft in the ocean and you will find someone who can speak Chinese. Hah, okay a bit of exaggeration but you know what I mean. I were offered with a scholarship with a job security on top of it. With the economic instability that we are facing currently or even five years ago, graduating college and having a job served to you with cherries on top looks appetizing, no?
I wish I was this wise back then hah. Technically I chose to come was because of the fact I was keen to learn mandarin. (fun fact: I used to speak mandarin because I went to a Chinese kindergarten, then it all went into the ocean, because I didn’t have anyone to speak with when I got in primary school, sobs)
Why not other western countries?
To be honest, I don’t know. I was even offered to go to France to do engineering. That was a great offer too. Comparing between the two, I thought China was a better option due to the fact that I can go straight there without any preparation!
So basically my program is five years long. With one year of foundation in mandarin and four years of bachelor in Economics(fully mandarin FYI).
During my one year foundation program, Alhamdulillah everything went smoothly. My Chinese was getting better. I was even thrilled to have conversations with taxi drivers, grandmas in the market, and I was kind of like annoying orange, except I’m brown.
Then my bachelor years came *strikes of lightning*
By this time, I thought my Chinese was spot on. I’m literally Chinese, or so I thought. I came in to the university with confidence but that soon when into the drain. Because I literally couldn’t understand a word, a word the teacher said. I was clueless. I went into class with zero knowledge, I came out of the class with a brain damage. and I was alone too.
To make it worst, there were two suicidal cases in my university in my first year alone. So I was in a depressed state (Depression is an understatement). So depressed I was ready to quit and it was not a total surprise for me to barely even pass exams in the first semester because I did not understand anything. Also here we do not have study week. You study and prepare your exams in class literally.
We were not prepared in our foundation year with maths or at least the basics or starter pack for economics. It was as if you were to skydive without a parachute.
Per semester we would have to take a minimum of ten subjects if we want to graduate on time. I had to understand ten different subjects with my very minimum Chinese. the Chinese I thought that was already great was literally basic communication Chinese.
The one child policy took its toll
I mentioned earlier, there were suicidal cases. This is considered very normal in China because imagined you are the only child of your family, you are the hope of the family, and with the vast Chinese population, the competition is crazy fierce! I remembered a Chinese girl crying because she got 89 for an exam. Due to the fact she would get 3.7 instead of 4.0. While I’m standing here wishing I could just get a 60 to pass the freaking exam.
I was very critical of this situation before but soon afterwards I understood why. Because it somehow makes a big difference although I don’t really care about GPA but they do, they have to care. It means the world to them because that’s the only ticket to get a decent job in China. Which is also very unfortunate because you can showcase so much of your talent but you let it go to waste due to the need of having perfect marks on paper.
The light at the end of the tunnel.
But of course, not all my experiences here were dark and gloomy and depressing. I’ve had a fair share of great fun moments.
Thanks to my traveling and drastic economic changes that has happened around me throughout these years. I felt as if I’ve grown along with China. (Dramatic gila ayat but yes I do feel this way, so let me be)
PS: To read articles for traveling in China, click here!
But also not just due to these factors, even in university, I’ve learned so much. It is pretty hard to convey through words because it is more personal to me. It was more of a “self-discovery journey”. Therefore, you would have to come and experience it yourself.
I may have exaggerated to a certain extent in this article, but this is all based on my own experiences. Experiences may vary depending on your course and your university as well 🙂
But to answer the question, do you regret coming to China?
I would not say it was the best decision I made in my life, but I would not trade it in with anything else.