Introduction to Modern China

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1 Introduction to Modern China - Summer Course 2012, Fudan University in Shanghai Class photo with teachers and course participants. Travel report by: Kristin Wahnström The Psychology programme, KI 0

2 Index 1. Introduction 2 2. Before departure 2 3. Arrival 3 4. Economy 4 5. Studies 4 6. Leisure time 6 7. Cultural differences 7 8. A few useful tips 8 9. Final words 8 Skyscrapers in Pudong area, Shanghai 1

3 1. Introduction China has gone through and is still in the process of an enormous transformation. Being home to the second largest economy in the world (think of everything which is Made in China ) and to more than one seventh of the world s population, China s changes involves us all. The summer course Introduction to Modern China gives an insight to the political and economic system of the nation, a crash course not only on the country of China but also on the modern world of today. 2. Before departure Initiating contact with the Nordic Centre Shortly after nomination from the Karolinska Institute, the Nordic Centre at Fudan University mailed out information to all course participants including all necessary contact details. All participants were also invited to join a group on Facebook. Thereafter all of my questions were answered very quickly, either by the course coordinator or by discussions with other students in the Facebook group. Early on, the Nordic Centre also provided information on a recommended accommodation. You are free to choose another location for your stay, but more or less everyone on the course chose to stay at the place suggested by the Nordic Centre (for more information on accommodation, see headline on page 3). Flights To keep costs down book flight as early as possible after nomination from the Karolinska Institute. Flight prices starts between 5000 and 6000 SEK. Visit Skyscanner (www.scyscanner.com) for help on finding cheap flights. Flights to Beijing are often cheaper and from the capital there are fast trains as well as inbound flights to Shanghai, an option worth checking up especially if you re planning a visit to Beijing during your stay in China. Visa application Visa for China is issued by the Chinese Visa Application Service Center (www.visaforchina.org). They have one of their Swedish offices in Stockholm at Karlavägen 108. The application can be sent in by post, but the cheapest and fastest way to do your application is through a visit. An appointment time is not needed; though make sure you bring all required documents in order to be able to pick up your Visa at the service center four working days later. I ordered a single visa entry for a total cost of 595 SEK (includes actual Visa cost for single entry: 220 as well as service fee: 375). A double or a multiple visa entry will cost 2

4 more, but is needed if you re planning on visits to other countries as well as to Hongkong. 3. Arrival Getting to the university Make sure you have the address of the university written in Chinese with you. Whether you take a taxi, bus or the metro from the airport this will most likely be necessary since most drivers don t speak English. The course coordinator will provide this information for you, but do remember to bring it. Registration and introduction Due to personal circumstances I arrived on the very same morning as course start. Since the first day was a pure introduction day this was alright. Though, it is recommended to arrive a few days before course start. Most of the other students did so and it will give you some time to overcome jetlag as well as meet the other course participants, get familiar with surroundings etc. As mentioned, first day of the course is an introduction day where registration will take place. The day gave all necessary information on the course as well as tips on how to get by in Shanghai. The day was wrapped up with a welcoming dinner, enabling students and teacher to get to know each other. Accommodation More or less all the students at the course chose the accommodation recommended and organised by the Nordic Centre, called the Tohee International Student Village. The cost was around 180 SEK/night for a single room and half the price if you were willing to share your room with another student at the course. The rooms were parts of threebedroom apartments, including kitchen, bathroom and common room. The other rooms were occupied either by students from the same course or by international students taking part in other summer courses. The standards varied slightly between different apartments. Most students were satisfied with the standard of the apartments, except some complaints on filthy bathrooms and bedrooms. Even though the prices at Tohee International Student Village are relatively high, regarding its standard and location (20-30 minutes with taxi from city centre), I strongly recommend it. It s very convenient to stay close to the university and it gives you a chance to get to know the other students. 3

5 4. Economy Living costs Shanghai is full of contrasts - this also goes for the costs; prices vary from very cheap to very expensive. Therefore your spending during the course is very much up to you. You can definitely find perfectly fine meals for around 20 SEK, while dinners at finer restaurants in nicer areas can cost around 100 SEK and onwards. Transportation in Shanghai is cheap, taking the metro to town will cost around 5 SEK and taxi to the same destination around 50 SEK (dividing this between a few of you, means taxi is really cheap!). Though, you will be on holiday and so will your course mates all in all you will probably spend a bit of money on tourist attractions, night life and shopping. Saving tips One tip on saving money is to a least sometimes eat on smaller, local restaurants. Eating more locally is also an interesting experience. Street food is very cheap (and good!), but for hygienic reasons one should be a bit careful. Further, don t get carried away on cheap taxi prices, taking taxi everywhere will count up. Public transport, such as the metro system, is not only very well working but also gives you an insight on Chinese daily life. Study allowance The course entitles you to study allowance from CSN. 5. Studies Basics of the course Lectures on the course were given from the 9 th of July until the 27 th of July, i.e. three weeks, and a compulsory thesis was handed afterwards. Two different orientations on the course were given: economy and politics tracks respectively. Though, about half of the lectures are held together between the two tracks involving lectures on the basics of Chinese society. The classes were held between 10 am and 4 pm on weekdays. In general the lectures were interesting. Though sometimes they contained a lot of the same information, the basics of China were for instances repeated by several professors. I really appreciated the flexibility regarding choice of thesis topics. There was a great opportunity on choosing a subject related to you regular studies. I, for instance, chose to write about mental illness among migrants workers in China. You should remember that there will be a thesis to complete after coming home from the course. Therefore a tip is to leave some time for the writing of it. 4

6 Before the morning lecture. Requirements Requirements for passing the course are 80 percent attendance on the lectures as well as an approved thesis. Depending on the length of the thesis, 3000 or 5000 word, 6 or 7, 5 ETCS credits can be obtain. Teachers The two tracks on the course had one Nordic course instructor respectively, who is responsible for such as wrapping up sessions during the course as well as tutoring of the thesis. Besides the Nordic instructors there was also a few Chinese staff, helping out with all practical issues around the course. All teachers were very forthcoming on for examples discussion on thesis topics as well as suggestions on changes of the course. Language All lectures are held in English and the thesis was written in the same language. Previous years students have sometimes had complaints on the English level of the Chinese lecturers. Though, I didn t find this to be a big problem. The lecturers have all been chosen so in order to have a good level of English and experience on teaching foreign students. Study visits Besides lectures the course also gave a few opportunities study visits, for example the Shanghai Museum, Consulate General of Sweden in Shanghai, Zhujiajiao Water Town as well as a Tai Chi lesson with among others the year s national champion of China! 5

7 Tai Chi lesson with Chinese professionals. 6. Leisure time Social activities A few social activities, such as welcoming and farewell dinner as well as a meet-up with Chinese students were organised by the Nordic Centre. Other than that there were endless opportunities on keeping you entertained in Shanghai - big shopping malls are everywhere, tourist attractions, museums, city strolls, yoga classes, restaurants as well as a never ending night life will definitely keep you busy. With so many course participants (we were around 75) you will find friends to join you on activities. Sports The campus offers possibility on badminton, though you need your own racket. There are also swimming pools as well as gyms in the nearby area. Weekends The weekends are free and some students chose to stay in the city while others went outside of Shanghai. Several smaller cities, for example Nanjing, Suzhou and Huangshan, are reachable by train and/or buses from Shanghai and perfect visits for day trips. 6

8 Tourists night view of Shanghai 7. Culture Differences There are many cultural differences and this also what makes the stay in Shanghai exciting. The more obvious ones are the spitting on the street, the love for food and karaoke and the crowdedness. Also the so called culture of face can be obvious and annoying, meaning Chinese people will always try and give you an answer even though they don t know the right one. The less obvious cultural differences are for example the life of Chinese students, what an enormous pressure they face to find a partner, a job and support their family. Even though there are obvious differences, Shanghai is relatively easy to get used to. Compare to other parts of China it s a very westernized and except for the traffic, it s a relatively safe city. Further Chinese people are in general very polite and serviceminded. Therefore, cultural differences are more interesting than annoying. 7

9 8. A few useful tips It couldn t be stressed enough how important it is to always keep a paper and/or photo with your address written in Chinese. This is important upon your arrival to the Shanghai, but also during your stay - always keeping the address with you, will enable you to always get a taxi ride home. To get a Chinese phone number for your mobile phone costs around SEK (usually includes a bit of talking time). The prepaid Chinese cell-phone cards are sold in many small shops around the university. Cash machines in Shanghai are several, so it won t be a problem to withdraw Chinese money. Though bring some cash for the trip from the airport to the University (taxis are the most expensive and cost around 170 RMB for a ride from Pudong International airport to Fudan Univeristy). One big warning: especially when walking around in the city centre on your own, you might be approached and invited to join for a so called tea houses. This is a common way of taking money from tourists in Shanghai as well as in Beijing, There have been plenty of cases when tourists have been tricked to tea houses, offered a bit of tea and thereafter forced to pay huge amounts of money. So, always refuse to come if someone invites you to a tea house! 9. Final words All the staff at the Nordic Centre was extremely helpful, it really felt as if they went out of their way to give us all a great experience of Shanghai and of China. Not having to care about much more than enjoying oneself, it was easy to have fun in Shanghai. Further, we were a big group of students which meant that there were always friends for activities during weekends and evenings. The only real problem during the course was that there were too little time to experience Shanghai and China. So, if you have the opportunity make sure you leave some time for traveling in China before or after your studies. The course will give you memorable insights of a very interesting country and leave you with many questions as well as an urge to learn more. 8

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