On the 24th March I met a seven-strong group of Fellow Southamptoners from all backgrounds and Fanjie Meng, a Chinese teacher, at Heathrow, for a last-minute, eight-day trip to China.
Two weeks prior I had received an email about a delegation being sent to Xiamen university, to celebrate the partnership between the two institutions. ‘Southampton Day’ was to take place at Xiamen, to promote exchange and for the changing nature of the agreement (what this change is exactly I’m not sure, but its probably good).
I replied saying I was interested, and within a week I was told, hey – you can go to China! I just had to fill out the visa form, which took me three tries, and send a few documents.
How free it was, I underestimated. We were wined (extremely strong Chinese liqueur, bai jiu) and dined the whole week, and put up in the lovely campus hotel, which had a phenomenal breakfast.
The trip kicked off with the Southampton Day. There was an opening ceremony with dance, music and speeches. Though I confess, I struggled to stay awake because of my epic jet lag. We then had a campus tour of the very large and beautiful Xiamen campus, and a welcome banquet in the evening with the professors involved, who were all merrily tipsy by the end.
For the rest of the week we had a series of activites very kindly organised for us by the Confucious Institute at Xiamen. This included Tai Chi, Chinese calligraphy (so hard), Chinese knot and paper cut (my paper flower was a very sorry, pointy excuse for a decoration) and trips to nearby sites such as Gulangyu Island and Jimei.
We had a great time, especially with our amazing student volunteers, who were English students at Xiamen, who spoke incredible English and were a lot of fun. We out to a Chinese club, danced to Gangnam style and drunk the very deadly cocktails, all of which seemed to be a lot of spirits with some orange juice.
I’m now applying with vigour for a year-long scholarship to study at Xiamen next year. Xiamen is a stunning university, and one of the best in China. The Confucius institute at Southampton has many scholarships, and is keen to promote links to China, so get on the bandwagon – you could be on the next free trip!
China is an incredibly interesting place. You can really see the speed it’s developing, and the insane amount of people there are. Chinese children work so, so hard, with high school starting at 8am and ending at 10pm sometimes, with ten lessons a day. China is so wonderfully different, and it’s really worth exploring what possibilities could exist for you if you get involved with the Chinese department at Southampton. I did so by chance, after a ‘curriculum innovation’ fair last year, deciding to start Mandarin out of curiosity. Now I want to do a year abroad! So, get involved! Here is the website for the Confucius Institute at Southampton (building 58, room 4251), check them out.