Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Year abroad stories: Nina Lotze

Chinese and Economics MA (Hons) student, Nina Lotze, shares her first impressions of life in Shanghai.

Photo of a student and friends in Shanghai
Nina (centre) and friends in downtown Shanghai

The Year Abroad is a key part of many undergraduate degrees in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC). Compulsory for some degrees, and optional for others, it’s a year of great change and great opportunity.

As part of a series of features on the Year Abroad, we’ve asked a range of current students to tell us about their experiences so far. Here, Nina Lotze talks about her first few weeks at Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

"The best thing about my first impressions of Shanghai is that they completely eradicated the anxiety I had felt in the days leading up to my departure. I sat in the plane, terrified that I was going so far away from my family to an unfamiliar place, sure that I was not prepared, worried I wouldn’t find a place to live, and worried I couldn’t speak the language. By the time I landed after my nearly 11 hour flight, all of that had dissipated into a quiet exhaustion and once I reached the hostel and took a shower, thanks to the time difference, I felt awake and refreshed. I took one walk through the streets surrounding the hostel and that was all it took to make most of my anxiety disappear."

Photo of a park in Shanghai
A peaceful spot in which to relax

Long lines and new friends

"Shanghai is both very much an old city and very much a new one as well. In some ways it’s more modern than Europe; the Internet is faster, people pay at the supermarket using their phones, and there are wireless charging stations at every Family Mart. On the other hand, turning the corner from a street lit up by neon lights and every imaginable type of shop, I would find myself in a dimly lit street with crowded and crooked houses, and piles of rubbish big enough to reach the first floor."

"Of course, I didn’t come to Shanghai just to admire the cityscape, within the first week of my arrival I had to register at the university, an arduous process involving long lines and seemingly endless paperwork needing to be stamped. Perhaps the most inefficient part of the procedure was the fact that it was interrupted by a two-hour lunch break! The only good side effect all those lines had was allowing for time to make friends by bonding over the irritation at the wait."

A different way of learning

"The teaching methods are different from those at Edinburgh. Not only are there more classes, with vocabulary tests every week, but every morning is also an early start. Participation in class is not always necessary and often four hours will have passed of simply listening to the teachers explaining and reading. A friend aptly described it as “being spoon-fed knowledge.” I am sure that this method has its merits, but I can’t help but miss being asked to think for myself."

"Overall, the year is off to an excellent start. I went from being terrified to at ease, a development that should not be sold short. The most important thing about living far away from home, in a foreign place, is to take care of oneself. I am happy to say that Shanghai is a fantastic city and I am looking forward to seeing what else this year will bring."

Are you interested in studying Chinese at LLC?

The University of Edinburgh is the only university in Scotland to offer Honours degree programmes in Chinese. Suitable for complete beginners, you can take Chinese as a single honours subject, or jointly with one of 10 other subjects.

Find out more about studying undergraduate Chinese at LLC

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