As I handed in my final exam paper, I realised that this was it - not only had my studies in China come to an end, but my five years of studying as an undergraduate student had been finally completed. I know it is about time for me to step into the ‘real world’, but the thought of leaving university already is a little too overwhelming.

Given it would be my last few weeks at university, I used my time wisely. Other than my final exam revision, these are some of the things that I have been doing over the past weeks.

First, I wrapped up my responsibilities as a member of the Keyboard Society and bid farewell to the members that I became so close to over the semester. During our final meeting, everyone performed a piece and was given encouragement awards.

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On New Year’s Eve, I was fortunate enough to attend the concert of world-renowned Chinese pianist, Li Yundi – a musician whom I admired since high school. Afterwards, I accompanied my Tsinghua friend to attend the NYE countdown!

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There are two must-see places during winter season in China – and these two places are very contrasting in nature. The first place is Hainan Island (one of the few places that the Chinese can escape into warmth), and the other is Harbin, a place where you can experience what it feels to be in like -30 degrees temperature. With a few friends that I met on exchange, we decided to go to Harbin. Other than the incredibly freezing temperature, the annual Ice Festival this place holds was absolutely stunning! Once you enter the festival, everything you see is made with snow and ice. This includes beautiful artworks, snow rides, statues and even a pub!

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My exchange experience has been very rewarding. Not only has my Mandarin improved to a greater level, but I also have acquired various soft skills that I probably would not have been able to develop by just staying within my comfort zone in Sydney. I thank the Sydney University Business school and the International Office for providing me with the chance to go on exchange as well as giving me generous financial support. I also am very grateful to the Chinese Government for providing me with a full scholarship to study here in Tsinghua.

My past exchange experiences in China (this year) and Korea (last year) have definitely broadened the way I view the world. These experiences have also allowed me to attain an international standpoint to both my academic and personal development. I strongly encourage everyone to go on exchange. You don’t want to miss out on it!

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The past couple of weeks at Tsinghua University have been keeping me extremely busy. At the same time, it has been a rewarding and worthwhile experience. My schedule was packed from morning to night everyday and only just managed to find some time to update my blog today. In light of this, I have a few substantive things to write about.

Preparing for the mid-semester exams was quite challenging. With the three years of learning Chinese at Sydney, I enrolled in advanced listening, reading, writing and speaking courses here in Tsinghua. Some subjects are easier than others, but the one where I was on the border of passing or failing was listening. And so, realising my inadequate skills, I knew I had to put in extra effort to just pass. Fortunately, in the end, I didn’t fail any of my subjects. What is more rewarding for me though was to know that I have built a lot more confidence with the language since coming here. I am beginning to appreciate why so many language students are encouraged to go on exchange.

In addition, the past few weeks have allowed me to immerse myself deeper into the Tsinghua student culture as well as have more opportunities to build better friendships with the students. As I said in my previous blog entry, the student culture at Tsinghua is extremely vibrant, given that all of the students live on-campus. There are a lot more chances for students to interact outside the classroom. Day in and day out, I see students exercising in the school athletics field, going together to eat or shop for groceries, various societies rehearsing for their next drama, traditional dance, chorus or orchestra production and so on.

Fortunately, I was given the rare opportunity to also be part of the semester-held performance (my one run by the Keyboard Society), and it was by far, the most interesting encounter yet at Tsinghua. Practicing for the concert and rehearsing pretty much occupied my schedule during the night, but it was an extremely rewarding experience. The constant interaction with the students in preparation for the concert was a great way for me to build good friendships with them.

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The language and culture is still a barrier for me. There are times where I perceive some aspects as perhaps a little unfitting – mainly those things that would not happen in Australia. But the more we interact, the more these cultural misunderstandings gradually diminish. Being the only foreigner in the student society indeed has a lot of advantages as I am being fully exposed to the Chinese student culture. These are aspects that I will never be able to experience in Sydney.

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The next few weeks will again be another long ride. I have enrolled to take an external Chinese language examination, which is to be held in two weeks. Alongside that, I am determined to make the most out of my remaining weeks at Tsinghua. Time flies way too fast when you are having fun.

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Hi everyone, please forgive me for not having updated my blog! Life has been busy in Boston!

I am well and truly settled into my classes, and with mid-terms around the corner! I am taking three classes in the School of Management and one in the Metropolitan College. Two classes are Marketing (one of my Commerce majors) - Consumer Behavior and Advertising and Promotional Strategy. I'm also taking a Business Strategy course and a Negotiations course. While I like all of my classes, Advertising is my favorite - we are working for a real-life client, Bananagrams (a fun word-game like Scrabble) and are creating an integrated communications program for them. Intense, a LOT of work, but really fun and a great way to get hands-on experience.

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Boston is a great city but the weather is getting chilly already - I feel like time is flying by! I am getting to know fun places to visit in the city and have become well-acquainted with the Prudential Center and Newbury St (two great shopping areas). I have also travelled by bus to New York City twice and gone to Cape Cod and Nantucket over the Columbus Day weekend, and to Niagara Falls - amazing experiences! Because Halloween is just around the corner, I am planning a trip with some exchange friends to visit the town of Salem, an hour out of Boston for the day - can't wait!

Love Sarah

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My unforgettable journey to a place far away from Beijing

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9 Oct

In order to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day of China, we were given a one-week long break from university. To make the most out of this break, I decided to be different by joining a local tour group travelling all the way to the coast of China - Dalian.
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The challenge was that I was the only foreigner in the group. Any important points made by the tour guide that I may miss or not understand with my three years of Chinese learning at university could result into something unpleasant happening in a place that I was absolutely not familiar with. But here I was on exchange during my last semester ever at university… why not take on the challenge and seek an adventure?

I was surrounded by very hospitable Chinese people, which made my travel experience a whole lot pleasant. During the long twelve-hour train ride, they bombarded me with so many questions. Where are you from? If you are Australian, how come you look Chinese? (I hence told them I was originally born in Korea). What is it like in Australia? What made you study Chinese? Can you see kangaroos in Sydney? Can I have your contact details? I never attracted so much attention in my life. However, I was absolutely grateful for their inclusiveness despite not being from a Chinese heritage.

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Dalian itself was awesome. The place is famous for its rich history (being controlled by Russia and Japan in the past) and museums (you can see intricate details of real body parts belonging to animals and humans). You can also spoil yourself with delicious fresh seafood (killed and cooked right on the spot) and enjoy the many different scenic spots Dalian has got to offer. I have attached several pictures to illustrate.

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Time flies. Class starts again tomorrow. I’ve got a Chinese speech to prepare for, recounting what I did during the break. Should be interesting.

Daniel

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Hello everyone! My name is Daniel. I am a fifth year student studying a Bachelor of Commerce/Arts degree at the University of Sydney. After completing my two majors in Commerce (Accounting and Finance), I have arrived in Beijing to complete my major in Arts (Chinese Studies). I feel very privileged to go on exchange for the second time. The wide range of personal and academic experiences I acquired last year at Yonsei University in South Korea made me want to apply again – this time to China. It is certainly an advantage going to a university that has so many exchange partners worldwide. As a full-time language student, I believe that this exchange opportunity will be a great way to not only enrich my language studies but also discover areas of China that cannot be acquired just in the Sydney classroom.

My semester at Tsinghua University has finally started. My weekdays are jam-packed with so many classroom and extracurricular activities. Fortunately I’ve got no classes on Monday, which will spare me more time in the weekends to do some travelling. Pursuing extracurricular activities is important here because everyone lives at university. Therefore, student life here is huge! As a music enthusiast, I was fortunate enough to join the Keyboard Society. We just had our first meeting last week. Being surrounded by so many Chinese students, conducting everything in Chinese was a completely bizarre experience.

There are so many areas that are different here in China. Unlike Sydney, everyone lives on campus. This means the university needs to accommodate for everything students will need to survive. The campus is like a village on its own – it has many different canteens (serving thousands of students everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner), supermarkets, small stores, shopping arcade, bank, sports field, police office, hospital, recreation rooms – pretty much all the facilities that you need to basically… survive. For the students here, I don’t think there really is any need to go outside the campus. Another thing to mention is that the university is so huge that the bicycle is absolutely essential for everything, even just to go and eat. You can see strikingly more students riding a bike than people just walking! Even a bicycle parking spot is provided for pretty much every location.

National holiday is coming up! This means that we will have a one-week long break. I am planning to travel to a different city (Dalian) during that time. For now, I can say that I am absolutely enjoying Tsinghua University!


Daniel

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So whilst Sydney Uni kids are now well into semester after the all too brief respite of the mid-sem break, for me several thousand kilometres away in a French city named Lyon, classes are just beginning. My classes are a rather interesting bunch, ranging from the Ottoman Empire, to French-English translation and the history of diplomacy, and are all somewhat terrifyingly taught in French. In a rather French twist, my classes also happen to take place in a building that was once a tobacco factory, and was converted into a university just a few decades ago. So far, I haven’t found the process of settling into a new university too difficult, as there is a kind of universality to the university experience. Regardless of where you study, you still have lectures, tutorials, exam weeks, stationery shopping, timetables, reading lists, coffee worship, frantic exam cramming, and a little too much alcohol. There is something comforting about all that. Although I have discovered that such things including being given a timetable before class starts, a simple online enrollment procedure, and faculty handbooks are a luxury in the university world. Let’s just say that if French university administrators went on sabbatical to an Australian university, much would be learnt, and much exchange student confusion could be spared.

On the non-university front, I have also mostly settled in to living by myself. With great pride I have now added (basic) cooking, cleaning , bill paying and clothes washing, and just generally being a grown up to my arsenal of things I can actually do. Also, living alone is quite nice, there is something quite soothing about it. Plus I now have a rather lovely circle of exchange friends from around the world to go on adventures with.

And of course, being in Europe, all academic duties pale into what feels like the number one goal, or indeed raison d’être of any European exchange student: to see as much of Europe as physically possible in six months, with the photographic evidence and endless anecdotes to prove it. So far I’ve only seen a great deal of Lyon and a nearby small picturesque town of sandstone, cobblestones and perfectly restored old-world French charm named Pérouges, so that’s my next great adventure.

Until next time,
Alexandra
xox

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Hi everyone, welcome to my first blog entry! My name is Sarah, and I'm a fifth year Arts/Commerce student at Sydney, doing a quadruple major in Government and International Relations, History, International Business and Marketing. I'll be studying at Boston University in the USA this semester, and I'm excited to share my exchange experiences with you through this blog.

I arrived in Boston last night after spending three weeks travelling from California to New York. I had an amazing time visiting major tourist attractions (Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, New Orleans, Washington DC) and some places maybe a little off the beaten track (Nashville, Santa Fe, Monument Valley). Now, with classes starting on Tuesday after the Labor Day long weekend, I'm trying to get settled into my new adopted city until January. Despite a housing mix-up which has rendered me temporarily homeless, the registration process has been quite smooth - I am enrolled for classes and am searching for an internship with the School of Management (BU's equivalent of Sydney Business School).

I promise to update this blog when the semester officially kicks off, but for now I'm heading out to explore Boston - I may hit the Freedom Trail, the Charles River, or Newbury Street later today! I'm always happy to try to answer any questions you might have about the exchange application process and the USA exchange experience.

Sarah :)

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