Outline Rui Rodrigues is a 22 years old student from Almada, who has spent an exchange semester in China while taking his Bachelor’s Degree at Nova School of Business and Economics. He is now starting his exchange semester in Lithuania while taking his International Master’s Degree at Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics (CLSBE). Throughout this interview he will tell us about his amazing life-changing experience in Beijing and give some amazing insights about the country.
GOING ABROAD: WHERE AND WHY
Hi Rui! Thank you so much for answering our questions all the way from Lithuania! Hope you will really enjoy your time there. Throughout this interview I wanted to ask you about your other experience studying abroad in such an interesting country as China! Tell us about your time as a Renmin University of China exchange student.
First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where you took your bachelor, why did you decide do study abroad and what was your destination?
I took my bachelor’s degree at Nova School of Business and Economics. I decided to go study abroad because it had been an ambition of mine for a long time. I always enjoyed travelling, but I had never been outside Portugal for more than one week at a time. I wanted to experience living abroad for a longer period of time and immerse myself in a new, totally different culture. I ended up studying in Renmin University of China, in Beijing. In fact, China was my 3rd option (the first was New York and the second was Japan). I put China in my options because I was always curious about the Chinese culture and I knew it would be a richer experience to go to a country with a culture so different from other countries in Europe!
CHINA: A COMPLETELY NEW REALITY
Sounds like an interesting experience to look for cultures so different from the Portuguese one! So when did you get China and how long were you there?
I decided to do my Erasmus during my bachelor’s degree, so I got to Beijing (China) in February 2013 and stayed there for 4 months.
Four months sounds like a good amount of time to really get in touch with a new culture! Can you tell us what your first impression about China was? Can you remember any important moment or first impact when you arrived?
The first impact that I felt about China, more specifically about Beijing, was the unbelievable dimension of the city. It takes over an hour and a half to get from the airport to the University. There are people literally everywhere and I needed to adapt to that. Being a Portuguese student I am used to living in smaller cities with much less people walking around everywhere. But one thing that also impressed me on the more negative side was the pollution of the air in Beijing, it really is bothersome.
Sounds like a whole different reality, you must have been totally stunned! After being there for a while, how did your feelings change? Did you start to feel more at ease in that huge city?
For me, the first overwhelming impressions did not change. The more I got to know about the city the more amazed I was on its dimension. However, I did feel less scared and confused; I started to feel more “at home” as I walked around and got in touch with the city.
There is nothing better than to get to know a totally new place! Sounds like your experience started on a good note. What are some of the most positive things you have experienced in Beijing?
The overall experience was truly life-changing. I ended up meeting people from all over the world, with very different cultures and personalities. I travelled to Shanghai and Tianjin, which were amazing and fun trips. I also experienced totally new food and learned a new language; it was such an enriching experience!
That sounds truly amazing! With that kind of experiences it almost seems like a pointless question, but what were – if any – the most negative things you experienced?
There weren’t a lot of bad experiences while I stayed in Beijing. I would have to say probably the fact that very few people there speak English which can be very annoying, especially when you get lost and need to ask for directions!
RELATED: WHAT BEIJING REALLY LOOKS LIKE
ACADEMIC AND SOCIAL LIFE IN BEIJING
I guess that is a drawback you find in many countries, also in Europe unfortunately. Now I wanted to know a little bit more about your academic experience. How did it go? What surprised you the most?
Actually I thought that the Chinese students would take their studies very seriously and have a lot of respect for the teacher. I found out that they do take school very seriously, but they have as much respect for the teachers as we do and a similar relationship student-teacher contrary to what I was expecting.
Interesting! What about Chinese people? Have you got along with them easily? Have you faced many cultural barriers?
The Chinese people are mostly very nice, even though it is difficult to communicate with them since most people don’t speak English. After a while I saw that the Chinese people are not as different from us as we usually think. There are a lot of cultural differences, but there is also a common ground. Overall, it was easy to get along with them and we ended up having a lot of fun together.
It is great when you get along with very different people! Maybe you kind of already gave us some hints about this, but did you enjoy your social life in China? Which kind of activities did you like to do in your spare time?
Yes, my social life in China was very good. There were a lot of foreign students so we would all go out together. As I said, people In general were very open to make new friends so we went out a lot. In my spare time, I would do some sightseeing around the city. It was such a big beautiful place; I just wanted to take it all in before I left!
Would you like to come back? What do you miss the most?
Yes, I would like to come back. What I miss the most is the low cost of living. I could do a lot in Beijing with little money, which I think it was one of the reasons why I got to know the city so well and felt so comfortable there after a while.
You really make it sound like a perfect destination! So, to finish this interview, I wanted to ask you: what advice would you give to someone thinking about going to study to China?
Prepare yourself for the adventure of a lifetime and don’t be afraid of anything! It is a very safe country, just pack your bags and go!
Click here to check out an opposite perspective: an Asian student’s perspective on his terrible experience in one of the most elite Portuguese universities!
INTERVIEWER: Margarida Morais
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