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Lifelong Learning Centre

A letter from China

Posted on Wednesday, 20 November 2019 at 11am
by Lifelong Learning Centre Staff.
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This is a guest post by Karolina Glasek, who recently progressed onto a BA History degree at Leeds after having completed the Arts and Humanities Foundation Year with the LLC.

I recently spent four weeks at the 2019 International Summer School at Fudan University. The courses I took were ‘Beginners Chinese’ and ‘Cultural Resources of Cities in China’. The trip was a fantastic experience as I was able to learn new things, not only academically, but also personally and professionally. I met like-minded people who were also keen to spend their summer at another university, while exploring a different part of the world. I am very grateful to the LLC Opportunities Fund, which was a massive help as it covered the cost of my flights to and from China.

Prior to attending the Summer School I had never learned Chinese before. Having arrived in Shanghai I did not understand a word people said, but after a few lessons the language started to sound more familiar. I had the opportunity to learn Chinese from a native speaker, meaning that I could hear the Chinese accent, which made communicating with local people easier. Moreover, I was able to practise the language by using it in everyday life which increased my confidence. I found a calligraphy session particularly exciting, as we got to use ink and brushes. I am proud of myself for learning some Chinese, something that I would probably not have done otherwise.

‘Cultural Resources of Cities in China’ was a very interesting course because it combined history, culture and economics. I gained a basic knowledge of economics and marketing, and was able to apply the theories I had learnt about in a particular setting (Shanghai). By focusing on a case study for the assignment, I was able to learn more about the city and its culture. The Summer School allowed me to continue using and developing my academic skills throughout the summer. Through the group assessment I was able to develop my team-working skills. The course also allowed me to improve my research skills, which will come in useful in my future studies.

As a fussy eater, I was worried about the food in China! However, I was pleasantly surprised as I enjoyed everything I came across. The canteen was a great place to eat because of its ‘pick and mix’ system, which meant I was able to create my own unique lunches.

I also attended a dumpling making session, which was a wonderful experience as everyone talked about their own cultures during the evening. My favourite Chinese speciality turned out to be bubble tea. It was over this drink that I bonded with my new friends, as well as getting to practise speaking Chinese while ordering the drink. I will be excited to relive these memories every time I drink bubble tea on the Leeds campus!

The sheer size of Shanghai meant that I was only able to see a small part of it. The campus at Fudan was a tourist attraction in itself. Resembling a park, it was full of tourists and families with children. It was an interesting to see how parents encourage their children to go to university by making sure they are accustomed to it from a young age. The half hour walks from the accommodation to the classrooms meant that I got to admire its beauty every day.

The Bund, a stretch of historical buildings along the Huangpu River, opposite the Lujiazui financial district, is a real must-see. The buildings give a real insight into the history of Shanghai, from its colonial past to the modern financial power that the city is today. Moreover, the Bund became a case-study for my group’s final assessment, which included a branding video, a presentation and a report. This helped me develop academically as it was a kind of assessment I had never done before, requiring me to develop new skills which I hope to use on my degree in the future.

One of the highlights of my trip was a once in a lifetime experience visiting the Jin Mao Tower. I had the opportunity to walk on the skywalk on the outside of the 88th floor – despite being terrified at first I have now overcome my fear of heights! The Summer School organised a trip to Tongli, known as the ‘Venice of the East’. We visited traditional gardens and houses, which gave us an insight into a more traditional Chinese culture. We also took an evening cruise on the Huangpu River.

One of places where I learnt the most was at the Propaganda Poster Art Centre, which displayed propaganda posters from during the rule of Mao Zedong. I found this museum particularly exciting because I was able to build upon my existing knowledge of the People’s Republic of China from my previous studies at A Level.

I was fortunate enough to make great friends on the first day of the Summer School, from all over the world. They helped me with settling into a new university and adjusting to a different culture. We did a lot of our homework together, including recording videos of basic conversations in Chinese which I found really useful. I am glad to have had the opportunity to spend time with people who taught me about different cultures, which has allowed me to develop personally and become more culturally aware.

Everyone at the Summer School was kind and helpful. The teachers were passionate about their subjects. The teaching assistants were helpful and kind. The people who attended the programme were all friendly and keen to be there. The international cohort allowed me to understand different perspectives. Learning about different parts of the world and the university systems there may also help me in the future, especially if I want to work or study abroad.

I am glad that I can not only say that I visited Shanghai, but that I lived there too.

Categories: Arts and Humanities, Blogging, Foundation Years, Student Experience, Student Voices, Supporting Students, Widening Participation