Asian Studies

Statements from Alumni

Alumni statements on their year abroad studying Chinese

" ... No matter where you go during your year abroad, you will have an amazing time and experience things you never imagined."

Sophie Swingewood
Sophie Swingewood

I spent my year abroad in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. I had never been to China before, but a friend recommended it to me as a green, beautiful city, and the university is considered to be among the top in China. Hangzhou was the ideal place for me to study as you really have to use your Mandarin daily as, unlike Beijing and Shanghai, most people there don't speak any English. The course was very well organised, and there were lots of trips, events and interest courses for the international students to participate in. I travelled around China quite a lot during that year, one of my favourite places was Yangshuo - I've never seen such dramatic landscapes!

No matter where you go during your year abroad, you will have an amazing time and experience things you never imagined. My advice is to make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to practise as much as you can with native speakers, and also travel while you are there - China is a vast country and there is a lot to see!

Cerian Foulkes - MA (Hons) Chinese and Spanish - Graduated 2010

" ... there is nothing to lose from spending a year in China ... I also learnt about a different perspective of life, influencing my values and experiences to this day."

Cerian Foulkes
Cerian Foulkes

Having the opportunity to spend a full year of your degree abroad is one that few students can enjoy, spending it in a surprising, challenging and rewarding country like China is even rarer. During my year abroad in Dalian I discovered the true charm of China by living with a local host mum, Ayi, who was not only the best teacher I ever had, but someone who I now honestly regard as family. Of course being so far from home was not always easy, and at first the thought of conquering the language seems quite daunting, but from the initial days of struggling to understand where the bathroom was to the end of my 2nd semester when I was having deep conversations about relationships, history and culture, I found constant support from teachers (at both Edinburgh and Dalian), friends and even local people met in passing.

During our long winter break over Chinese New Year, I travelled to the very south of China where I spent most of my time volunteering on the island of Hainan. No matter what you fancy doing during this time or in which part of China you are studying, it is very easy to travel and Spring festival is perfect to explore the diverse cultures, landscapes and most importantly cuisine, that different areas of the country have to offer.

There is absolutely nothing to lose from spending a year abroad in China, not only did I improve my job opportunities, communication skills and have an incredible amount of fun, but I also learnt about a different perspective of life, influencing my values and experiences to this day.

Carly Mae Penworthy - MA (Hons) Chinese and Linguistics - Graduated 2010

"... we were left with no excuse but to be well prepared for finals! !"

Carly Mae Penworthy
Carly Mae Penworthy

Studying Chinese at the University of Edinburgh involves a compulsory year of education in China. I opted to study in Dalian University of Technology. I learned more than just Chinese language during that year- it was an invaluable experience and one I will never, ever forget. We had lessons in Chinese language (oral, written and listening), ancient Chinese, Chinese history, culture and tradition, calligraphy, tai chi, business Chinese, HSK, and there were so many more options… we were left with no excuse but to be well prepared for finals! I lived with a Chinese host family who were always keen to involve me in their life, teaching me how to cook traditional Chinese foods, assisting me with my homework and immersing me so deeply in Chinese culture I began dreaming in Chinese!

I have a lot to thank the Asian Studies Department for- I had the most wonderful university career and it has helped me step into a professional career that I also love. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!

Susan Evans - MA (Hons) Chinese - Graduated 2004

Susan Evans

I spent my year abroad living and studying Mandarin in Taipei. I can still remember the disorientation of my first few days, raking through menus for the few characters I recognised and struggling to make myself understood at the night market. This was, of course, all worth it once I got hold of the food - this was a culinary period unmatched in my life since.

I found Taiwan an incredibly friendly place. People would talk to my classmates and me on the street to practise their English, or ask to take photos with us at tourist spots. It was easy to travel around the island, and I somehow managed to fit in a little rafting and beach time amidst my studies. I also took part in both traditional and contemporary cultural traditions, from the lantern festival to karaoke. Even without the typhoon and the earthquake, it would have been an unforgettable year.

Amanda Pateman - MA (Hons) Chinese - Graduated 2004

"... I feel privileged to be able to observe and be a part of it, especially with a solid knowledge of the language, culture and country".

Amanda Pateman
Amanda Pateman

I had always enjoyed language study and after learning some Cantonese at school, Chinese seemed like a natural choice for University. I put a lot of effort into learning to speak Chinese during the 4 year course and found it immensely gratifying and astonishing to be increasingly able to speak to Chinese speakers about anything and everything.

I left Edinburgh straight into a translation job. The role mainly covered written translation, which allowed me to continue improving my Chinese, but I missed speaking Chinese on a day to day basis, and decided I wanted to move back to the Mainland, where I had studied for one year during my degree. Buoyed with the confidence of the advice of a friend, who insisted that China was a land of opportunity, I decided to take over a role of translator of Kun Opera scripts in Nanjing and see what happened. The idea was to produce subtitles in English to be projected in conjunction with Chinese subtitles while the plays were being performed - to make Kun Opera more accessible to foreigners. I didn't have any training, and needed a lot of guidance from cast and crew (on a daily basis!) - big thanks to them!

Within a few months, I moved to Shanghai to work for a US news aggregator, focussing on China. This was a great way to build a solid network in Shanghai, and after two years, I moved on to a role as Executive Assistant to the CFO for Standard Chartered Bank. This role was an ideal way to become acquainted with the Bank, and to decide what I wanted to do next. Within the last year, I joined the Bank's Digital Ventures team, part of the wider technology department. Most recently we've been creating mobile applications and focussing on customer and user experience for banking over mobile platforms. The market in China is moving extremely quickly and I feel privileged to be able to observe and be a part of it, especially with a solid knowledge of the language, culture and country.