What no one told you about studying in China

Most people that come to China to study Mandarin are university students or recent graduates that want to improve their language level, or even maybe start from scratch. And most of them choose to study at a university. There is also the option of going to a language academy, which is cheaper, but going to a university is just easier and they usually can also help with accommodation.

So, once you have successfully completed all the paperwork and arrived to your university in China, what should you expect? Well, in Spain university students are pretty free. If you don’t go to class no one is going to ask where you are, and as long as you pass the exams everything will be alright. But in China, being a university student is more like going back to primary school: attendance is compulsory, you will have to do homework every day and… your teachers will expect you to sing or dance in events organized by the university.

Stage fright is a concept unheard of in China. And, as a foreign student, you will have to accept the fact that you will have to be on the stage for the Christmas party or the End of the semester party. You will have to sing, dance, play an instrument, act in a play (in Chinese, of course)… The kind of things you would never volunteer for in your home country, you will have to do here.

I’ve been there. The first time it felt pretty embarrasing (I’m quite shy) but in the end I was even volunteering. I signed up for a class of Chinese traditional dances taught by a lovely teacher called Chen Laoshi and I participated in so many parties in Beiwai (Beijing Foreign Studies University) that I can’t even remember all of them! I won’t show you the videos because, let’s face it, I’m not a great singer or dancer, but I have some pictures to share:

This was the first time I performed with my classmates from dance class. The dance itself was quite awful and we looked like the typical grandmas dancing in the park!

This was a Xinjiang dance.

In this one I was acting in a short fragment of a popular Chinese opera. It was an important event attended by personalities from the Ministery of Education. One of them even came to me and praised my singing. I didn’t want to disappoint her so I just smiled and didn’t tell her it was playback and I was just moving my lips.

Tibetan dance.

This was not a dance, but a modelling act. We were dressed as Tang Dynasty princesses or something like that.

When you are not a student anymore you can still have your yearly 5 minutes of glory in your company’s new year party. This year I presented a rendition of Teresa Teng’s 甜蜜蜜 and I took home the second price (500 RMB, haha).

I had a great time participating in all those events, I got to know people and I made great friends. So my advice for shy people coming to China is: leave your shyness at home and enjoy your walk to fame!