Cory Prestion, Summer 2013 at Renmin University of China, Beijing

What do you study at King’s?
Philosophy BA

Where did your Global Summer Experience take place?
Renmin University of China (RUC), Beijing, China

How did you apply?
The initial application process was not particularly long, it involved filling in an application form, writing a short personal statement (500 words) and obtaining an academic reference. This was so that the study abroad office could narrow down who would be funded for a place at RUC. The study abroad office were available to answer questions.

Once this process was over, and the office had chosen 6 students to submit as applicants to the university we then filled in the RUC online application form. This was followed by a request for a hard copy of the form and photocopies of passport and (if applicable) previous visa application successes to China.

The process was fairly straight-forward and the forms were self-explanatory. Any questions were addressed to the study abroad office or directly to a representative at RUC. The process began in the beginning of March and everything, including visas and flights were finalised by mid June. The placement began in the beginning of July.

What was the biggest challenge that you faced on your Global Summer Experience?  How did you overcome it?
Although I had been learning Mandarin for a year before I studied in the summer the language barrier was still a bit of a challenge. Although many young people in China can speak English to a high standard the people that you will deal with on a more frequent basis, to order food, buy train tickets etc, cannot.

This only became a problem if you were more keen to explore alone and go off the beaten track a bit – which is by no means necessary, it is very easy to survive and enjoy yourself by seldom leaving the campus.

I was able to overcome any language barriers by contacting friends that I already had in China, as well as networking beforehand to make new contacts at RUC. During my stay I was also able to make new friends from Hong Kong and Macao that could also help with language difficulties.

In addition to that, the best way to overcome the language barrier was to smile, be enthusiastic and try my best – as well of studying hard of course!

What was the highlight of your Global Summer Experience?
The highlight of the placement was being able to make the friends that I did during my time at RUC.  If I had not taken part in the placement I would never had met such a variety of people that I am still in contact with now.  What’s more, meeting those people really enriched my experience and allowed me to travel during and after I finished the placement.  Beijing has so many beautiful sites and there are cheap flights and high speed trains to get you to so many other places in the country.  For me, a real highlight was climbing Mount Tai, one of China’s five sacred mountains as well as travelling to the Kaiping Dialou in Guandong province.  In addition I now have great friends coming from some of the most beautiful parts of China (and the rest of the world) that I can visit in the future!

How did your Global Summer Experience influence you?
The placement greatly influenced my studies. I applied for the placement because I wanted to know what it was like to be a student at a Chinese university. I wanted to know this because I wanted to find out if I would enjoy studying in China in the future – I decided that I would and that has influenced me to begin applying to study in China once I graduate. The language classes I undertook at RUC were intense but incredibly fulfilling and I believe that I achieved a lot. I was also able to learn about Confucian philosophy, this allowed me to broaden the scope of my current research and opened my mind to the benefits of comparative philosophy. This has influenced me to undertake further research into Chinese philosophy in my spare time.

The placement influenced me personally in that it gave me more confidence to travel in a big city without a guide and without support. It also influenced me in reaffirming my desire to travel in the future as well as live and work in China.

What skills do you think your gained from your Global Summer Experience?
I had lived in China previous to this experience and so was not expecting too many culture shocks. However, I did learn a great deal about other cultures from all over the world as the summer school had a truly international vibe.

On a more practical note I learnt a lot about a different way of studying. I learnt to be more focused and hardworking as well as more dedicated to my studies. This is something that I learnt from time spent with Chinese friends.

I was able to reinforce skills that I had learnt from living in China before, to be open-minded and curious about other ways of living.

What advice would you give to others considering a Global Summer Experience?
The one piece of advice I would give is: do it ! No matter what kinds of worries you are having, there is something to be gained for everyone. It’s an incredibly interesting and fulfilling experience and there’s nothing quite like being a student in another city – you have a great balance between studying and exploring. In conjunction with that, the best way to overcome fears is just to get on and do it; you will be surprised at how well you cope.

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