OUTLINE: Mariana is a CLSBE Master’s student who decided to have her Erasmus experience in China. In this interview she talks about her experience abroad, the experiences that made her fall in love with the country and some advice for master’s students who are planning to their Erasmus there. #uduni
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ERASMUS DURING YOUR MASTER’S DEGREE: WHERE AND WHY
First of all, thank you so much for answering our questions, Mariana! You must be busy doing your thesis so we really appreciate it. Firstly, I would like you to introduce yourself. Where did you study? How was the decision-making process regarding your Erasmus?
I did my bachelor at Nova SBE in Economics, and since I started my University studies I was fascinated by the fact that so many of my colleagues would go to such faraway places. I also wanted to go abroad, as much as I could, and the more far away possible. On my bachelor I went first to India for a volunteer project and then to Brazil on exchange. Finally on my master at CLSBE I wanted to go again to a very big country, with an amazing culture and where I could learn a new language so China was definitely the most appealing option to me.
That sounds like an amazing Erasmus experience! When did you get to China and how long were you there?
I went on the 2nd September 2015 and came back on the 7th February 2016, so it was about 5 months.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE ABOUT CHINA: FIRST IMPRESSIONS AND EXPERIENCES
Almost half a year in China sounds like a lot of fun! What was your first impression about China? Can you remember any important moment or first impact when you arrived?
After being in India and Brazil, with such different cultures and realities from Portugal, I thought I was prepared to go anywhere else in the world. The fact is that no one prepares you to China. The fact that I lived in Shanghai (the biggest city in the country), made me feel for the first time that I was a little ant in this world. Nevertheless from the first day I was helped by so many people that for me my experience has almost no negative aspects. I never felt as an outsider and always had a helping hand in times of need.
Everyone, especially Portuguese students, seem to have that first overwhelming impact! After being there for a while, have your first impressions changed? How?
The fact that I was so well taken care of and helped by everyone I asked help from (even those who couldn’t speak a word of English) I did not change my first impressions (which were very positive). In fact, as time went by, I reinforced them: Chinese people are the nicest, most welcoming and generous people I have ever met.
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After such a positive answer it seems kind of redundant to ask this, but what are the most positive things you have experienced there?
For me, Europeans usually think their culture is a reference to other non-Europeans because we are such an old continent that our culture has been established for a longer time. But in the case of China, that is not true. Their culture is so much older and for me it made so much sense. They have rules for absolutely everything but those rules only show how they care so much for others. In the Chinese culture you have always to think in a collective way (everyone knows that most Asian cultures are extremely collectivist and I noticed that a lot), while in Europe you think only for yourself, we tend to be much more individualistic. It was so good to learn and compare the two cultures and to see that I still have so much to learn.
Sounds like such a rich culture! With so many positive experiences, did you have any negative ones?
Honestly I don’t have negative experiences. Even those who started badly at first became great experiences.
ACADEMIC AND SOCIAL LIFE IN SHANGHAI
No negative experiences? That is truly amazing! What about your academic experience? How was it? What surprised you the most?
In fact many subjects were much related to China and the Chinese culture in general. I found it very interesting because this is rare in Portugal, as most subjects are largely related with many other countries and cultures and almost never to our Portuguese reality. My professors were trying to teach as much as possible about the subjects and the Chinese culture, which was very interesting. I loved the subjects and we also had to write so many papers; it was great because in CLSBE we never do that.
And what about Chinese people? Have you got along with them easily? Many cultural barriers?
The people are so kind and so interested in knowing you and showing their culture! For me no cultural barriers, I made a lot of friends! It was a really easy culture to immerse myself in.
So did you enjoy your social life here there? Which kind of activities did you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoyed my social life a lot. I went for a lot of walks to explore the city, travelled around, lots of night outs and dinner with friends and also visited many museums to get to know a bit more about China’s history. I really tried to get in touch with the culture.
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FINAL THOUGHTS AND ADVICES
Sounds like you really took the most out of that experience! Would you like to come back? What do you miss the most?
Yes I would! I really miss the people, all the fuzz in the city, and my independent life.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone thinking about going to study to China?
I would advise students to keep their mind open and enjoy the most out of every experience! Also, try to learn mandarin.
Thank you so much Mariana! Good luck with everything!
Author: Margarida Morais