This month, the Chung-Ang Herald interviewed Park Seon-Yeong, who has been to Fudan University located in Shanghai, China as an exchange student.
1. Why did you choose to go to China? Is there any special reason you chose Fudan among many universities in China?
I went to a foreign language high school and majored in Chinese, so I originally had much interest in Chinese culture and wanted to continue learning Chinese. My current major isn’t Chinese, so I did not have much opportunity to encounter the language. I chose China to experience the culture firsthand and improve my Chinese skills. Fudan University is located in Shanghai and is a prestigious school ranking after Tsinghua and Peking University. Since many brilliant minds go to Fudan, I thought it would be a good learning environment. Also, I really liked the fact that Fudan provided dorms for us, and this was possible because of Chungang’s partnership with Fudan.
2. How is Fudan’s environment different from Korea’s universities?
China’s universities are very large, so it took me about 20 minutes to walk from the dormitory to the classrooms. A lot of students come to school on their bicycles, but this is very common in China. I took Chinese Listening, Speaking, Writing, Reading (Skimming, Intensive) a total of 5 classes, and each class was filled with students from various countries. The classes are differentiated by the level and freshmen have to take a test when registering. In the case of higher level classes, there were more students from Japan or China rather than Western countries. In case of Speaking or Listening classes, assignments were usually hands-on and we mostly had grammar or vocabulary assignments for the Reading classes.
3. Are there any facilities or programs that help out foreign exchange students?
There was a program called Fudan University Idol, where students from various countries showed off their talents in a contest. The thing I remember the most was the Korean team’s Samulnori (Korean traditional percussion), and my foreign friends were surprised at their excellent skills. Also during the 1st semester there was a program where students were given the opportunity to travel to other regions. I went to Fudan during the 2nd semester so it is regrettable that I was not able to participate.
4. What was the most enjoyable and hardest aspect while studying in China?
The most enjoyable part was that I was able to make friends from various countries. At first, I was not sure how to approach them and was very hesitant, but once I started talking to them I found out that they were not much different from me. I traveled with them and made many good memories. Being busy with my classes, I could not spend a great deal of time with them but we became very close with one another. The hardest part was when I got sick. It was before the semester had started and I used a single room, so I could not rely on anyone, which made me homesick, and I had to get through the situation all by myself.
5. Is there anything special that we should know about the Chinese culture?
Being such a big country, China’s culture is very vast. During my stay in Shanghai, I traveled to Nanjing and Xian. Nanjing was small and it had a simple atmosphere, and Xian had many famous ancient artifacts such as the Terracota Warriors and the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. I could also see that Shanghai was developing at a fast rate, seeing that many new buildings were constantly being built. Every region has its own characteristic and distinct atmosphere, so it is not right to judge China after seeing only one part of it. You will be able to have a deeper understanding of the Chinese culture if you approach it with an open mind.
6. How often do exchange students intermingle with Chinese students?
I met with Chinese students by participating in an event hosted by Fudan University students about once or twice. However, most students want to learn English, so it is not easy to have an opportunity to teach Chinese people any Korean and become friends with them. Also, it was hard for me to meet Chinese students since I was still in the process of learning Chinese and could not take the same classes with them.
7. Do you have any advice for those who want to go to China as an exchange student?
Before going to China, people around me were worried about my safety, and I received advice not to make too many Korean friends and only think about learning Chinese during my stay. However, China was developing at an alarming rate, which caused me to think that Korea should keep a good partnership with China. There were 2 Koreans in my class, and we were able to comfort each other by having conversations about the hardships of being an exchange student, and other things that we could not talk about with our foreign friends. Also, it is important to learn the language if you go to China as an exchange student, but you should also make an effort to travel to various regions. Each region of China has a distinct characteristic, so you will be able to have a memorable experience wherever you go.
Many students may be hesitating whether to go to China or not, because of the country’s safety issues. However, Sun-young Park tells us that she didn’t feel much danger while residing in Shanghai, and says that students will be safe if they are as cautious as they are in Korea.
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