The St Andrews Ball

It’s odd to think that we’ve all already been here for three months, some days it feels like we have only just gotten off the plane and on others it’s difficult to imagine a time when we weren’t living here. Three months in and it is amazing how all of the Chinese that we have been learning is really starting to click in our minds. Now we can actually use it to communicate in our daily lives. The point at which our skills in spoken Chinese goes from single word responses to full coherent sentences is has been such a nice change. (Even if some of us are still hopeless with tones!)

November was a particularly exciting month as we had the St Andrews ball to look forward to, and I can say that it definitely didn’t disappoint. We travelled to Beijing in groups of two to four – over here just travelling is quite an adventure! The train stations in China all seem to be huge and beautifully designed. Tianjin station is really amazing, even more so because it sits right next to the river and so is surrounded by historic, spectacularly designed bridges. The bullet train means that the journey between Tianjin and Beijing only takes about 35 minutes, but still lets you appreciate the amazing Chinese scenery that you are passing through. Once you’re in Beijing it’s really easy to find a taxi (or the subway if you are particularly adventurous/skint). After spreading out to our various hotels scattered across the city we got all dolled up and then met up in the Beijing World Centre Hotel. Despite it only being November the hotel had already broken out the Christmas decorations so the whole event seemed very festive. We had an amazing meal. After stuffing ourselves full of delicious food the ceilidh band started up and we all got to practice our traditional Scottish dancing, with varying levels of expertise. We all danced until late at night, or should I say early in the morning? Some of us even made it to the survivor’s breakfast. It really was an amazing opportunity and became a night that I’m sure all of us will remember for a long time to come. A truly great way to wrap up our 3rd month in China!

Katy Lumsden

 

3 months in Tianjin

Living in China has been a fantastic experience so far and will be in the future, though not even half way through our experience, we have all made fantastic progress in our Mandarin skill and as people. Though currently we do not feel our Mandarin is very good, when looking back over the 3 months, the progress is exponential.

During November most of the scholars travelled to Beijing to attend the St. Andrew’s Ball, sadly I was unable to attend, though still had a fantastic time in Tianjin. Apart from the St. Andrew’s Ball November has been a quiet month. By this time in our scholarship we are all confident enough going to the College and getting by in everyday life. All the scholars have arranged plans for the New Year holidays in January and February, so from now till then will be devoted to studying for our exams.

Since travelling to China last year as part of the Summer Bridge Camp, I have adored China, specifically Tianjin. I made a very life changing decision last year and decided to devote my time to returning to Tianjin, not only for studying, but for living. The scholarship offered by Strathclyde was the obvious next step in my dream of moving permanently to Tianjin, at the beginning of this scholarship I was worried that my experiences here may sway my decision, but after staying for 3 months I can say that my wish to move here has increased ten-fold. A plan is now in the works and I hope to return next year to study here for 4 years, this next step will hopefully open even more doors, allowing me to finally reach my goal of Chinese citizenship.

This is a great experience and I am extremely grateful to Strathclyde University. I wish everyone could have the chance to experience this country and specifically Tianjin. Good luck to everyone applying for next year’s and hope that I can be here to greet them.

Struan Laing

I can speak for us all now in that we have definitely all settled down into our amazing ‘China life ‘. It’s so crazy how even a little Chinese here goes a long way and demonstrates that the Chinese people will help us with whatever we need. For me, I love getting the express train to different suburbs of Tianjin/Beijing in order to meet up with the many amazing international friends I have met-confidence is key. It’s only November and we already all wish it was only our first day all over again. We may be at the other side of the world but we don’t even notice anymore thanks to this amazing country China that we all currently call home.

Ben Lomako

Learning to live in Tianjin

We’re a month in and now Tianjin is really starting to feel like a home away from home. We’ve had such a warm welcome here, and arriving just in time for mid autumn festival made it especially sentimental, as we were told this was a time for families to come together, and that how we are coming together in Tianjin as a family, which I thought was really sweet.

Living in the university is such an amazing experience; we are all already making lots of new friends from all over the globe, and for the most part, settling into our new home has been pretty easygoing. However, there have been a few things for us to get used to i.e. washing our clothes, cooking for ourselves and living life as independent adults in general. Luckily there are some really great places on / around campus (for example a lady down the street that sells burgers who has been given the title “burger lady” ???) and the staff here are always happy to help us if we ever need it.

We have all managed to get into a routine for school which is the main priority, setting our alarms for 6 in the morning and getting ready to catch the bus – surprisingly easy so far, but I don’t want to speak too soon. Speaking of buses, the traffic here is rather different to say the least; bikes, cars, buses, vans, people, from every angle, everywhere. I’m 99% certain that there is no known system for how the traffic here works, but there hasn’t seemed to be any accidents so far, so I’m just going to roll with it. Some scholars have been very brave and even purchased bikes (which are the equivalent to around £40, so quite the bargain) so if you think catching a bus at 7am is difficult, imagine cycling!

Getting up so early is definitely worth it though. Our school is so much fun and we are so lucky to have such patient and kind teachers. I am so happy in my class, and learning Chinese as well as taking part in cultural activities such as Chinese music and Kung Fu is so enjoyable; the long days are worth it, they fly by since we’re all having such a good time. I’d say even though my level of Mandarin isn’t particularly high at the moment, I’ve already managed to learn so much in the short time we’ve been here and my confidence is certainly growing.

Using the language in every day situations and being completely immersed in it is making things a lot easier. It can be frustrating at times, but it makes me even more determined to work harder. I can say it hasn’t been all work though; there have been several opportunities since arriving for us to explore and truly live like locals, from trying some pretty interesting street food and making our way around via public transport, to hanging out with friends old and new, and this is only the beginning. I really can’t wait to discover what more Tianjin has to offer us in the months ahead.

Tom Moffat

 

Settling in

So it’s almost been two weeks since we arrived in China and it almost feels like home is a distant memory. After a few tears at the airport, loosing then finding a passport in Amsterdam and a long flight we finally arrived in Tianjin safe and sound. It was a bit of a shock to our systems at first doing basic ‘parent jobs’ like feeding ourselves, tidying our room and doing shopping but as a team we manage really well.

Our first event was the ‘University of Strathclyde’s Alumni Event’ hosted in the Kerry Hotel in Beijing. Travelling to Beijing was an experience in itself as we had to figure out taxis, the bullet train and the general rush of Beijing. Afterwards we spent a night in a nice hostel and travelled back to our now home, Tianjin.

Although we were all extremely homesick at first, now having the routine of college and learning Chinese means we only have time to be excited and immerse in the culture. The highlights of Tianjin definitely have to be the kind people, our international friends and the nightlife. The only low is sometimes it is frustrating not being able to communicate in Chinese and be understood, however this only makes us all the more determined to study hard.

In summary, so far we all love Tianjin, enjoy the rich culture and can’t wait for what the next year has in store for us all.

Ben Lomako

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Packing my bags for China

With less than two weeks to go Scholar Alasdair sent us his thoughts for the blog.

Wow, the time has flown since the interview process to now only having less than two weeks to go!  The whole experience has slowly built up into a ball of excitement and optimism to see what the Mandarin course has for the other students and me.  I’ve been packing my bags, trying to work out what to take but still to leave clothes for me to wear for my time left in Scotland – apart from that everything else has fallen into place.

Over the past couple of weeks, the realisation has set in, that excitement has grown and it’s finally set in with what is going on with the move to China for a freaking ten months, ten whole months!  The longest I’ve been away from home was for three weeks on a rugby tour in Canada – compared to China, their culture is completely different and this will be a new experience even though I have been to China twice last year (once with Strathclyde University Courses on the Immersion course and the other time on a school trip to Beijing/Xian and Shanghai) this has only wetted my appetite for more Chinese culture.

Finally the experience is being talked about amongst friends who are looking forward to hearing about what I’ll be up to when I’m away and my last big get-together with them before I leave plus two more rugby matches then China.

Alasdair Nisbet

Tianjin Scholar 2016-17

3 weeks and counting…

The next cohort of Tianjin Scholars are getting ready to leave for their year in China. Scholar Vishal wrote about how he was feeling for the blog.

It’s roughly 3 weeks until we depart for China, but it still hasn’t really sunk in yet. We’ll be living and studying Mandarin there for almost a whole year. I feel both excited and nervous. Excited, as I will be able to fully experience and embrace the Chinese culture. Nervous, as I will be away from my friends and family in Scotland for so long.

I feel that it will take me a while to fully adapt to the Chinese culture, as unlike the majority of the other scholars who completed the China Bridge camp last year, I completed it 3 years ago. So it has been a really long time since I have been exposed to this remarkably different culture. Overall, I’m really excited about actually being able to live and study in China for almost an entire year, especially because I know this is a very unique and valuable experience, one which I will be able to use for the rest of my life.

Vishal Dhanda

Tianjin Scholar 2016-17

Looking back on China

We’ve come to the end of a truly amazing year. So much has happened that it would be impossible to comment on it all right here. We’ve all gone through so much, good and bad, that has made us all new people.

It all started 10 months ago in September 2015 at Edinburgh airport. The 16 of us meeting there, along with our parents and friends, about to head on an extraordinary journey even though we barely knew each other. We all made friends very quickly however, helping each other with this strange new language and exploring the city of Tianjin together. It was all so strange and slightly overwhelming at the start with so many new things to experience!

About a month into the year I feel like we’d all settled down into our new routines and were really enjoying being in China, having just started to get a good grip on the basics of the language. Every day still brought new challenges to overcome, whether it was getting on the wrong bus and finding your way home or trying to buy food at a restaurant with no pictures on the menu, but we could now start to work our way through them smoothly instead of struggling with gestures.

In January and February came, arguably, our biggest challenge of the year, travelling around East Asia on our own. In little groups we headed off to so many different places, helping to bring a little bit of Scotland to Asia. Those two months were incredible! There have been scholars in Japan, Thailand, South Korea and all over China. I’d always wanted to try backpacking and, even though it is exhausting, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. It is a real test of your language and organisational skills though. One thing I would tell next year’s scholars is to study hard before travelling and to book things well in advance!

The first semester and the two months travelling all felt like one really big holiday with us experiencing so many new and exciting things, but the mood was different coming back to Tianjin for the second semester. We knew the place now, we were familiar with things, and it started to feel like a second home. A few of us bought bikes and started cycling to college and around the rest of the city too, which made us feel even more like locals. All of a sudden we weren’t the newest and most clueless students living on campus anymore and it was a nice feeling.

Our language has improved drastically between the first semester and the second. Now we can have good conversations with people and understand at least the gist of what is being said. It’s crazy how far we’ve all come in just 10 months. Just last week the scholars that sat HSK 4 on a computer were told that we’d all passed! The other Scots did the written version and won’t know for another couple of weeks.

Now we’re all heading back to Scotland via different routes. Some of us are starting university, others college or work. Gregor and Grace are only coming back for a couple of months before they head back out to continue studying in China for another 4 years! I wish them the best! It’s sad that we’re all going our separate ways. Obviously we can meet up in Scotland but it won’t be the same as having all your friends just metres from you all the time.

Thank you to everyone that helped give us this opportunity. I only hope that we can repay you in the future by helping build stronger ties between China and Scotland.

Stephen Roberts

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