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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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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