Study & Learn
Testimonials from British scholars of Chinese
BA Chinese 2015-19
Year Abroad: Beijing Normal University (BNU)
I consider myself a linguist, and a language lover, and an adventurer; Mandarin Chinese has thus far proved one of the greatest adventures I have ever embarked on. I began studying Chinese at school, so the decision to study it for a further four years at SOAS was made with an understanding of what would be required of me. My first trip to China was at the age of 16 with 12 classmates, and was the most hilarious, entertaining and utterly bonkers trip I have ever been on. One minute we were found sneaking out of our hotel for late night karaoke followed by sunrise tai chi with the elderly, and the next we were playing truth or dare with young Chinese professionals on our sleeper train. I knew I had to experience everything China had to offer, and my year living in Beijing proved to me that everyday could be an adventure if you wanted it to be.
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BA Spanish & Chinese 2014-18
Year Abroad: Tsinghua University
Chinese is nothing like European languages – I really struggled with not grasping stuff as quickly and it definitely knocked my confidence a bit. But equally, it made it so rewarding when it finally started to click! I absolutely loved my time in China studying on exchange at Tsinghua University in Beijing. I loved my independence and anonymity and the daily thrill of living somewhere so far away from everything I was used to. It was a challenge, but nothing will ever be as memorable as cycling through the hutongs at sunset in Mat towards a wine bar on a roof terrace . To someone considering studying Chinese at university I would say think long and hard about whether it's the right language for you. I feel very lucky to have been able to make a life there, and while it came with its ups and downs, I wouldn't change it for the world.
BA Modern Languages 2014-18
University of Birmingham
Semester Abroad: Fudan University
When people say that Mandarin is one of the hardest languages to learn, they aren’t lying. Being so different from European languages, it can be frustrating and time-consuming to learn. However, good things don’t come easily… Learning every character is worth the effort, not just because it is a language in demand, but because Mandarin can expose you to the whole new world of China. Speaking Mandarin allows you to communicate with locals to learn about their mindset, to travel to beautiful places with (slightly more) ease, to learn about the history, and to not just be able to see things in China but to actually understand the meaning behind them. For me, that has always been the beauty of language learning. Mandarin is accompanied by such a rich history and culture, and I feel that that has impacted upon my own opinions and ambitions.
BA French & Chinese 2014-18
University of Manchester
Year Abroad: Nanjing University
I didn’t have any expectations when I started learning Chinese - that's my preferred way of going into new challenges because I believe it protects you in case things don't work out. I learnt heaps about the far east: filial piety, tradition and most importantly the language. Living in China was the hardest but most rewarding thing I have ever done! Living in a country where many have never seen a foreigner was a shock and at times felt intimidating, however it taught me how small home is and how narrow minded we become living in the bubble that is the UK. I considered doing a masters in Chinese politics at SOAS but got offered a job last minute – I still love talking about my experience in China and take any chance I can to eavesdrop into conversations with Chinese people (probably a bit weird coming to think of it...)
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BA History & IR with Chinese 2014-18
Year Abroad: Peking University
When it comes to China, you can never quite know enough. It was this concept that sparked my initial interest and kept me motivated to learn the language throughout university. Cementing this with study experiences in Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing, I felt like I had unlocked a new world of adventure. From the foothills of the Himalayas, the deserts of Inner Mongolia, to standing on the Great Wall - I am endlessly shocked by the variety of places to explore. Living here provides for an unparalleled opportunity to practice Mandarin and conceptualise politics as it unfolds before us. At times it’s difficult but these challenges make day-to-day life exciting! The spitting, the squat toilets, the wholesome couples dancing in public parks, the families wearing entirely matching outfits, the dumplings served in plastic bags and the 50p beers … this is China. And this is the China which keeps drawing me back.
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BA French, Spanish, Chinese 2012-16
University of Birmingham
Semester Abroad: Fudan University
It seems like I just plucked the decision to study Chinese out from thin air … just wanting to add another language to my degree and go for something different. I’ve never regretted it and it’s been an adventure, leading me into world I never knew I wanted to be part of. I spent a term in Shanghai on my year abroad, and then went back for more, studying for another year in Beijing after graduation. It was undoubtedly the most fun I’ve ever had. China is an assault to the senses when you first arrive; everything is simultaneously new, wild, fun and delicious. I’ve travelled all over, snacked on late-night dumplings in secret restaurants, camped overnight on the Great Wall with a BBQ and been in weird situations where my friends and I were unexpectedly given a live fish by a man swimming … you never know what’s going to happen next and it’s amazing.