April 14, 2014, by Guest blog

I feel a lot more at home here in Shanghai

Having been in Shanghai for six weeks now, I feel I have made lots of friendships and connections. It is already far more social than Spain ever was, the reason for which I will explain here, and I feel much more settled and ‘at home’ here in Shanghai, an amazing city where I am truly having the time of my life!

Here in Shanghai I am studying Chinese at Fudan University, one of the city’s main universities, on a programme designed – obviously – for foreigners. There are hundreds of international students doing the Chinese language course, and many more study other subjects such as law or business. The majority of the international students live in a purpose-built, 23-storey building which houses well over one thousand people, so there’s really no shortage of people to meet!

So far, I’m particularly good friends with two groups of people: one American group, and another from the UK, all of whom do the same combination of Chinese and a European language at university just like me. But the great thing about Fudan is that everyone is friends with pretty much everyone, so even if you have your particular group, there are lots of people you can socialise with, or even a fleeting conversation in the lift while you’re on your way to classes.

I’ve just returned from a one-week trip to a city in inner China called Guilin with about fifty other international students. This was another opportunity to get to know other people outside my class who I’d not really spoken to before. The journey there was a twenty-hour train ride, so we all got to know each other pretty quickly, especially given that each carriage had about ten cabins of two triple-bed bunk beds!

Linguistically speaking, it is a lot harder making connections with local residents. Chinese is a very hard language to learn, and for me spoken Chinese is the most difficult part, so talking to Chinese people is a bit of a challenge. I’m now confident enough to order things in a restaurant or at a shop, but still get a bit nervous when directing a taxi driver – mainly because they are all so impatient!

I’ve started a ‘job’ teaching English to a Chinese girl – she came up to me in the centre of Shanghai and just asked if I could help her with her English, and needing the money I said yes. Obviously we mainly speak English with each other, but sometimes I get to practise my Chinese, especially when I need to explain some English grammar point.

Hopefully as the weeks go by I’ll pick up more and more Chinese and at least become proficient in the language before my return to Nottingham.

Posted in Making connections