A Semester That I Will Never Forget
In her last letter from Shanghai, Vivi Feng reviews some of her new experiences and hopes to be able to return to Fudan University soon for her second semester there.
Mar 20, 2020
Unfortunately, my first semester at Fudan University did not end as I had expected it to. I had to cancel my planned trip through Asia because of the corona virus. So instead of sunbathing on the beach in Thailand whle eating mangoes and coconuts, I am now spending my free time at home in Germany.
Since the situation in China has still not completely calmed down and we are not supposed to return to Shanghai before the official start of the semester, we have been taught online since the beginning of March. At first I couldn’t quite imagine how this would work, but so far it’s actually going quite well. We use the Chaoxing and Zoom platforms.
Every morning, we discuss the weekly topics with our teachers in a video conference via Zoom, hold discussion groups, and do various assignments. In the afternoon, there is independent learning with the materials made available on the Chaoxing platform. Every week we have different texts, audio files, and videos that were recorded by our teachers. We either submit homework directly on the Chaoxing platform or send it to our teachers as photos or voice messages. Fudan University is really working hard to ensure that we can learn in spite of the epidemic.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to continue studying at Fudan University despite the unfavorable conditions because I have to admit that my Chinese language skills did not improve as much during my first semester as I had expected. Before I flew to Shanghai, I was very motivated and thought to myself: If I just speak Chinese every day, watch Chinese TV shows, and then attend Chinese classes daily, my Chinese skills will improve quickly. I did have Chinese classes every day, but I definitely didn't speak Chinese very much. With my international friends, I spoke a lot of English – or German, because there are a lot of German students in the language program.
I soon realized that I needed to make friends with Chinese students in order to practice the language effectively. However, that was not so easy because the dormitories and classrooms for international students are separate from those for Chinese students. Fortunately, I joined a dance group at the beginning of the semester that consisted mainly of Chinese students. I also met some of them outside of training, but since they all have very busy schedules, we couldn't see each other that often. Thanks to the intensive reading lessons, my reading comprehension has improved: Now, every time I can read a longer text in Chinese without having to look up words, I am especially happy that I learned a lot during the last semester.
My language studies have been a welcome change from the scientific thinking in my biochemistry studies. I found it particularly exciting to meet many students who grew up with the same family background as me. I met people from Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, France, England, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, and also Germany who grew up with Chinese parents in their home countries. It was a lot of fun talking to and making friends with them. We have a lot in common due to the Chinese upbringing, and we had similar problems in childhood, so we could understand each other on a completely different level.
During the past semester I not only made valuable friends, but also had an opportunity to explore in China: Xiamen (厦门), Qiandaohu (千岛湖), Hangzhou (杭州), Nanjing (南京), Dali (大理), Lijiang ( 丽江), and Kunming (昆明). I traveled to all these cities during the semester. It was nice to see other sides of China since on my previous visits, I had only visited my parents' hometowns in the outskirts of Beijing and only a few other cities. I also had many other new experiences: I missed a flight for the first time, rode a horse for the first time, celebrated New Year's Eve in what is probably the most crowded place in Shanghai, and witnessed the spread and consequences of an epidemic.
The last few months in China were an incredibly good time for me, in which I also learned a lot personally. Hopefully, I will be able to return to Shanghai soon to gain more experience. I can highly recommend going abroad to anyone thinking about it: It is really a time that you will never forget.