As part of my undergraduate degree in Chinese Studies, I spent the last academic year abroad, initially in Beijing at Peking University. The course in Beijing covered a broad range of areas, from newspaper reading and 20th century literature, to more advanced speaking classes and classical Chinese. Upon the outbreak of COVID-19, my UK university instructed Year Abroad students to move to Taipei where we attended Mandarin classes at National Taiwan Normal University. The teaching at both universities was excellent and I am pleased to see that my Mandarin has improved significantly.
However as I’m sure many other language students who have been lucky enough to study abroad would agree, my most significant learning came outside the classroom. Peking University had a wide variety of extracurricular activities to get involved with. I particularly enjoyed attending Sanshou Kungfu and Calligraphy classes. In both Beijing and Taipei I was lucky enough to make lots of Chinese-speaking friends, which not only helped improve my Mandarin, but also helped broaden my understanding of Chinese culture and society.
The highlight of the year was without doubt the opportunity to travel widely around China. Thanks to the support of the John Speak Language Trust, I was able to explore diverse parts of China, ranging from the amazing spectacle of Harbin’s Ice Festival to ultra-modern Shanghai. China is an extremely diverse country with an incredible variety of cultures, landscapes, cuisines and dialects. Travelling provided countless opportunities to interact more with local people, from passengers sharing our cabin on the trains who had never met a foreigner before, to chatty taxi drivers and Chinese tourists. Travelling through China has certainly enriched my appreciation of China and Chinese culture.
I am extremely grateful to the John Speak Language Trust for their generous financial support this year which has allowed me to really make the most of my time abroad. The chance to live and study abroad is an incredible opportunity and it is fantastic that the Trust is helping students to do this.