April 4, 2014, by Guest blog

Stepping out of my comfort zone

Since arriving in China I’ve made a big effort to make friends with different people here at the university. My class is very international, there are students from Norway, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and then there’s me! It’s been a blessing in disguise not being in a class with English speakers. Even though some people in my class speak excellent English, others don’t have such a good level but our Mandarin levels are all similar. At break times we chat in Chinese and some of my classmates have become very good friends of mine here in Qingdao. We go for dinner together (my favourite is Korean BBQ), hang out and go to bars too.

Making Chinese friends has been a bit more difficult as the exchange students are quite isolated from local students. We have a separate canteen, halls and teaching building. I think as the local students don’t tend to come to our area of the campus, it’s easy for them to forget that there are international students on campus. Through a Chinese guy I met, I joined two English corners which have been a really brilliant tool for making friends. As a real life foreigner, all the Chinese students seem to flock around me and want to practice their oral English. They have many questions about my life and I also ask them about China. They also encourage me to speak Chinese and they are really willing to help me with all aspects of Chinese. After each session I normally leave with a few more contacts on Wechat who I can later message to practice my Chinese or ask to go out and explore the city.

I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many nice Chinese people. They are very caring and so hospitable it makes me feel embarrassed. When I’ve gone to meet a Chinese person for an afternoon out or a study session, they’ve often brought me gifts to eat, for example, a bag of strawberries, cake, biscuits and even a yoghurt one time. Even though they are very busy studying for exams, if I ask them for help or advice they’ll always be willing to spend 15 minutes helping me.

I came to Qingdao University with fifteen other students from Nottingham and from the beginning I knew I didn’t want to be with them all the time. It may sound unsociable however I really want to make the most out of my time here and understand more about Asian culture as it is quite different to Europe. When I’m with Thais, Koreans or Chinese I can practice my Mandarin and learn more about other people’s lifestyles. It may be beneficial to me in the future if I’m ever in Thailand or China and need the help of a local or want to catch up.

When I’ve made new connections, I’ve always stepping out of some type of comfort zone. Whether leaving my country, joining a new society or deciding to pursue my ideas/dreams rather than those of other people. It’s refreshing to experience something new and meet people who later may be a big part of your life. Being brave and stepping away from my circle has allowed me to enter and create new friendship circles that I’m very fond of, I’m sure our friendships will flourish with time.

Posted in Making connections