The Study China Programme is open to all full time UK students and is partly funded by government sponsors. If you want to visit China in 2013, then read on to find out how.

This time last year I was completing my application form for the Study China Easter Programme. Four months later, at the beginning of my trip, I stood on the Great Wall of China surrounded by craggy mountains, watching the clouds dance around me. The wall itself represents Chinese history and power; but it was here that I began to understand just how much I could learn about China and its culture.

Image by Bronwen Rees

The Study China Programme is organised by the University of Manchester and is partly funded by government sponsors. All full time UK students, regardless of degree subject or level of study, are eligible to apply. The Easter Programme which I was selected for was based in Jinan at Shandong University and there were about 100 successful applicants from all over the country, studying a wide range of subjects and from different backgrounds.

All full time UK students, regardless of degree subject or level of study, are eligible to apply

As the programme began a week into my Easter holidays I decided to take the opportunity to visit Beijing for a few days before travelling to Jinan. I organised to meet some other girls on the trip, at a hostel in Beijing but flew by myself. I landed in Beijing airport, possibly the biggest airport I have ever seen, then tried to navigate myself to another terminal to meet another friend, before getting to the taxi rank. I’d printed the name of the hostel in Mandarin so I gave this to my taxi driver; he attempted to speak to me but I could not understand anything. It was a scary experience, but we arrived at the hostel safely.

We’d chosen to stay at the Happy Dragon Hostel, which I would definitely recommend to anyone visiting Beijing. In the next three days we crammed in as much as possible and visited the Forbidden Palace (twice, because the first time we couldn’t find the way in), the Summer Palace, the Pearl and Silk Markets, the Giant Pandas at Beijing Zoo and made a day trip to the Great Wall of China.

The study programme itself consisted of two and a half weeks of Mandarin classes at Shandong University. There was a coach to Jinan organised from Beijing airport and the journey was around 9 hours. Our accommodation consisted of shared rooms at the University’s Hotel and this was paid for. I had never studied Mandarin before so this presented quite a challenge; fortunately  there were a lot of us in the same boat. It was interesting to see just how different Mandarin is to English or other Western languages.

It is only when you start to learn a completely different language and immerse yourself in a different culture that you begin to understand the potential problems for international students in the UK. We spent the whole of the first week learning how to pronounce the four different tones in Mandarin but eventually progressed onto characters.

It is only when you start to learn a completely different language and immerse yourself in a different culture that you begin to understand the potential problems for international students in the UK.

During our stay at the university we had two excursions planned and paid for; to the Confucius Temple, Mountain Tai and a performance of the Peking Opera.  There were also lectures and workshops in Confucianism, Sino-European relations, Calligraphy and Chinese Music and a chance to attend a lecture with a Chinese student. We were also paired up with a buddy from the university who took us into Jinan in the evenings and on days off to show us more. They proved to be invaluable and we made some great friendships. There was also an afternoon set apart for us to spend with a Chinese family.

Jinan Centre. Image by Bronwen Rees

We were given every opportunity to learn about China and Chinese culture and create long lasting friendships with everyone we met, from both the UK and China. The fact that this trip has been the biggest topic of conversation for me over the past few months proves just how much of an impact it has had.

Applications for the Easter Programme 2013 are now open until Monday, February 11 2013, the final dates of the programme are: Arrive, Sunday 24th March 2013
Depart, Saturday 13th April 2013 and you could go to a partner university in Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, or Shangdong. Visit www.studychina.org.uk/pages.php?id=1 to find out more and get your application in.

Top Tips

  • Don’t go to the markets to shop whilst still jetlagged, because you will need your wits about you.
  • If you have a smart phone, download a Mandarin app before you go so you can practise and familiarise yourself with some language.
  • Stay at the Happy Dragon Hostel if you visit Beijing.
  • Take enough money to make the most of all the opportunities, such as a toboggan ride down the mountain at the Great Wall of China.
  • Print off or pick up the business card of the place you are staying before going on a night out so you can give it to the taxi driver on the way home.
  • Be aware of the tea scam; groups of Chinese people who can speak English might try to make friends with you and take you to a tea shop where you will have to spend a fortune on tea.
  • Visit a Night Market and try some unusual food, usually cooked on open barbeques on skewers.
  • Try to get as much work done for your course as possible before you go, as deadlines creep up fast when you get back.

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