Chinese have what they call the 'Beijing Dream.' China has a policy that gives benefits to people who keep their families registered in Beijing. As such, many Chinese people want to study, work and live in Beijing. In other words, talented people and people with diverse dreams gather in Beijing. Majoring in Chinese Language and Literature, I, too, had the 'Beijing Dream', so I wanted to visit Beijing as an exchange student. I got the chance to attend Beijing Language and Culture University, located in Haidian District, an area famous for its educational institutions.
The search for a new direction
Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) is a public university managed by the Ministry of Education and it is the only university in China that focuses on Chinese international language education, Chinese language, and Chinese culture. In addition, since its opening, it has the largest scale which can be the best history in China, and the faculty are specialists in both Chinese language and culture. Therefore, BLCU is renowned both in and outside of China for its quality education. It was a pleasure to study at the best Chinese language and culture university. It gave me the chance to meet and talk with others preparing their Master's or Doctorate in Beijing, which sparked my interest in attending Chinese graduate school. Being an exchange student means leaving a familiar life circle and fully accepting life in a foreign country. Like others, I had many unexpected opportunities and found a new direction in life. I hope that other Sookmyungians have the opportunity to experience life as an exchange student.
Success at a Chinese Speech Contest
I found that most exchange students did not actively join the events held by the university, so I participated in activities like local Chinese students. As a result, one semester I joined two Chinese speech contests. I proudly won two championships. One contest was hosted by the Graduate School of Translatology, which I am exceptionally proud to have won as it was against graduate students. The contest evaluated contestants' Chinese verbal communication fluency through stages. At one stage I had to read a manuscript one-minute prior to appearing on stage and then performing an improvisation. The other contest was the Chinese Language Presentation Contest for Foreign Students hosted by the university's international team. Many international students from various countries participated. I did my best to represent Korea. It wasn't easy to give a PPT slide presentation in Chinese, but I presented happily for five minutes in front of others. As an exchange student, I won both contests, so I was interviewed by the school press of BLCU. I proudly mentioned I was from Sookmyung Women's University. For exchange students, the chances might not be given like local students. Therefore, we have to find chances ourselves. I did my activities as well as other domestic Chinese students because I tackled the opportunity with courage. I matured greatly through those meaningful experiences. I recommend any Sookmyungians going overseas on an exchange to take part in all activities with courage. From this, Sookmyungians will grow meaningfully.
Club activities with Chinese classmates
At BLCU, a large-scale club recruitment event is held after China's National Day in October. For foreign students, clubs do not charge admissions fees, so it is an opportunity to make Chinese friends. I recommend participating in as many clubs as possible. I joined the Korea-China interchange club and a DIY handicraft club one semester and had a wonderful time with domestic Chinese students. I became good friends with my Chinese club friends and teachers. They helped me endure life in China. I think they opened their hearts to me more because we met outside of the classroom, doing recreational activities. During the club meetings, we listened to Chinese songs together, watched Chinese movies together, and ate food together. Each of those days remains a precious memory for me.
Let's look into China as much as possible
"There is nothing more foolish than to say that you know China." This statement truly reflects China. Its land is so wide and diverse that it is impossible to know everything about China properly no matter how many times you visit or study China. While I was in Beijing as an exchange student, I kept this sentence in mind. I decided that if I couldn’t know everything about China, then I would visit places as much as possible. I tried to capture more of China through my eyes. I traveled to seven regions (Inner Mongolia-Wuhan-Sichuan-Tianjin-Sian-Harbin) besides Beijing. During China's biggest holiday season, China's National Day, and before returning to Korea after finishing my exchange, I visited each of those seven regions. Each region had different food and culture, and I even discovered that people in those regions had very different personalities from other regions. China is one really big world, and the more I know, the more I am attracted to the country. I think this attraction was largely shaped by my traveling to all those regions.
Being an exchange student changed my life
My time in China, though it was only for one semester, was the happiest since entering university. I made precious relationships, friendships I would have never made if I hadn't gone to study in China, and unlike learning in Korea, I enjoyed my leisure time after school. I was able to think about my future and have inner conversations with myself during my semester overseas. A semester has become a turning point. In terms of improved Chinese language proficiency, well, I had to use Chinese all day long, so I improved tremendously to a level that I could never have reached in Korea. Choosing to go on an exchange to China has only benefits. You will have no regrets. Many Sookmyungians, because of COVID-19, may have had their exchange plans interrupted, but despite the problems, I recommend not giving up, and pursuing the dream until it is reached.