September 21, 2012, by MinYoung You

3 Genuine Tips For New Starters

My first year at UNNC has flown by, and now I’m back for round 2! The past year has been great but when I think back, there are things that I wish I’d known beforehand. For many new starters, especially those who are exchange or study abroad students, one or two semesters is way too short to make mistakes since time literally flies. So I came up with a few must-know pre-arrival tips that will hopefully help to settle you in to your new life quickly!

1. Make your goals for this year as clear as possible.

Why are you in China? Some of you are here to learn mandarin because the whole world says China is the way to go right now. Some of you are here because your course requires this exchange program in order to graduate. They are all good reasons, but one thing you must to do before it’s too late is visualizing your goals. What level of mandarin are you expecting to speak by May? What kind of connection do you want to make while you are here? After setting the goals, come up with your own game plan to make it actually happen! It seems like an obvious statement but speaking from experience, it is extremely easy to stay in your comfort zone without having the bigger picture.

2. Make good Chinese friends.

I’m talking about the sort of friends that you can just call up and do stuff with, without being awkward, not the friends from seminars who you just say ‘hi’ to! Really try to learn the culture and the language. Stop saying, “I don’t speak Chinese” but put some effort into learning about them and make conversation happen. If all else fails, smile and use body language! It’s not fully about knowing all the characters in the Chinese language but more about your attitude towards learning a different culture that counts. I’ve made a big decision myself this year…I’ve moved into a Chinese dorm! It’s been great so far; getting to know the girls on my floor and meeting their parents. Also, I’m pretty sure that I’ve spoken more mandarin in the last two weeks than I spoke in an entire month last year!

3. Enjoy exploring the unknowns (places, food, people).

As I was travelling, I found that the cultural difference within China is significant. Ningbo is a commercial city so it can be limiting to what you see in the city. This difference is the same with food. Some food might make you feel uncomfortable because it’s so different, but hey welcome to China! You might as well try things once. Also if some social situations make you a tad nervous or awkward, then it’s probably good for you!

Don’t fall into easy habits; just befriending the people from your home country, only speaking your native tongue and going to the same bars week after week. Stick at the strange and new cultures and when you travel home in the holidays and reflect, you’ll be shocked at how far you’ve come.

Live fully,


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