This blog post was written for my news and multimedia reporting course in Tsinghua University. Enjoy!
Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity, but it is also a challenge. Especially when you go to a country that is more than 7000 kilometers away and that has a completely different culture from what you’re used to.
That’s what Karianne Larsen did – she came from Norway to study in Tsinghua University in Beijing for a year and to be honest, it hasn’t all been easy. There are times when all you want to do is kick your head against the wall or take a glass of wine to calm your nerves, but there are also times when everything is so great that you praise yourself for taking this opportunity.
But living in a different culture also means that you see a lot of things that you would never expect to see. You read things before coming here, but when you finally get here you discover that things are really not the way you thought they’d be. That’s why I asked Karianne about the situations where her expectations and the reality didn’t really match up.
1. Screaming and angry Chinese people
„ "I remember my first bus ride. I was sitting in the bus and there was this Chinese woman sitting behind me and screaming something in Chinese. I turned at her and tried to figure out what’s the matter, but she just kept yelling. It’s pretty frustrating that you really try to understand what they’re saying but can never actually get it and they often sound really angry.“
2. Cheap Clothes, maybe not?
„ "Everyone has this idea in their heads that everything in China is super cheap and well it is the case with food, but when you go to clothing shops you will definitely be surprised at the prices.“
So if anyone wants to come to China to get cheap clothes, you might want to reconsider your destination.
3. The amount of bureaucracy
Studying abroad means filling out countless applications and papers and during the first weeks most of your time will be spent on going from one building to another one and filling out papers. „But then when you get used to doing all the paperwork and going from one place to another you suddenly have to do one thing online,“ says Karianne implying to the course registration which all the students in Tsinghua have to do online and which can often cause a lot of stress.
4. Take-away food in plastic bags
„ "I had seen pictures online before about Chinese take-away food before, but it was still weird to have my first take-away meal from a random plastic bag.“
5. People really don’t speak English
„ Some people are really good and really try a lot, but when you get into a taxi where there is again this angry-sounding driver who speaks in a language you don’t understand, this might become an issue. Also when you get lost in the campus on your first day and no-one can understand your cry of help in English.“
But that's the thing about coming to live in a different culture - you never know what to expect and that's what makes it exciting. And even though there are times when you sit at the side of the road thinking about how difficult everything is there are also times when you jump out of happiness and do splits at the Great Wall.