My New Life in Oriental Venice, Suzhou
My New Life in Oriental Venice, Suzhou
  • Kim Sookjin
  • 승인 2013.11.11 12:48
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There is a Chinese saying “Above, there is heaven; below, there is Suzhou and Hangzhou.”  I heard this saying many times, but I wondered whether Suzhou and Hangzhou were really good places to live.  Are they really that great?  I decide to stay in Suzhou for a year to find out.  This semester begins my one-year-stay at Soochow University in Suzhou studying Chinese Language.


Preparing My New Dream
I double major in Chinese language and literature.  Last year, to improve my Chinese language, I went to Beijing for 4 months.  During my stay, I made many Chinese friends as well as foreign friends from different countries.  I had the chance to also travel to lots of cities in China.  I felt 4 months to be too short, so I started to seek another chance to study in China.  My search led me to apply for an exchange program.  When I saw the list of universities for China and Taiwan, I couldn’t decide where to go.  I started to list the universities and cities in order.  My first criterion was the use of simplified Chinese characters as they are easier than traditional Chinese characters.  Hence, I placed China and its universities at the top of the list.  Second, I wanted to avoid cities where many Koreans live like Beijing and Shanghai, so I placed them nearer the end of the list.  After my selection process, I was left with Suzhou, Dalian, and Sichuan.  I first considered Suzhou.  When I studied in Beijing, I took a short trip to Suzhou.  My memory of it was that it was not that big and had a countryside-like atmosphere.  There were many gardens and had a pleasant environment.  Because environment is really important to me, I chose Soochow University.  To prepare for the exchange program, the most important item is one’s language grade.  To become an exchange student, HSK, which is the Chinese language test and standard for qualification, required a grade of class 4 or 5.  I had been studying for the test since last year summer and was able to get the grade I needed during winter vacation.  Most universities require a HSK class of 4 or 5, but I got a grade of class 6.  Also, there is an interview test, which is important, too.  At the interview, interviewers asked me to explain reasons for wanting to go to study in China.  They also wanted to know my plans while in China, and why I chose Soochow University.


Arriving in Suzhou
After arriving in Suzhou, I was mesmerized by its waterways at first.  Everywhere I went, I could see waterways, and it is indeed the “Eastern Venice” as it is often called.  In Suzhou, white walls and gray roofed houses are jammed together, but it is not stuffy because of the waterways is in front of the homes.  Also, there is a clear view of the river just like the view of Han River in Seoul.  Under a bridge that acts as a liaison between campuses, the river flows majestically.  This place is always beautiful, not only during the day but also at night.  The second thing that surprised me was that Suzhou is a city of much foreign company investment.  For that reason, Samsung, which is a Korean company, is also there.  Surprisingly, there is a Korean town and many store signs are written in Korean.  At Suzhou Universities, there are many Korean students.  Some classes are for foreign-only students, so there are no Chinese nationals, only foreigners.  Especially, most foreigners are Koreans.  Sadly, I have had little chance to meet Chinese nationals.  For that reason, I joined the Ping-Pong club on campus to meet Chinese nationals and other students majoring in Korean language, and we communicate in Chinese using the smart phone application Weixin.  The Chinese people I met in Weixin were really interested in Koreans.  They are interested in Korean women, especially Korean actors and singers.  They admire Korean women’s beauty.





Difference in Cultures
All Chinese students must live in the dormitory although they are Suzhou citizens.  Strangely, there are no shower rooms in the dormitory.  Students have to use shared shower rooms outside the dormitory, so I often see students going to these shower rooms with their bath products.  Fortunately, in the foreigner-only dormitory, there is a bathroom in each room.  China roads are longer and wider than those in Korea, so it takes much time to go places.  I regularly use public transportation like the bus and subway.  In Suzhou, the subway is newly opened, so it has only one line.  However, traveling about the city was not difficult due to diandongches and bicycles.  A diandongche is similar to a scooter, but it operates on electric power.  Most people use it.  Unfortunately, people don’t always follow traffic rules, so it is really dangerous.  In class I learned that China, laws are so flexible that people can either break them or follow them.  This flexibility caused me much anxiety one day.  Suzhou does not have a refund policy.  It is possible to only get an exchange.  I once bought a textbook for my class, but noticed it was the wrong edition.  However, the clerk at the bookstore said it was possible to get an exchange; the store had a norefund policy.  I told my professor.  He called to request a refund, but it was useless.  The clerk refused it stiffly, so I didn’t get a refund.



Exciting Days Ahead in Suzhou
I have been here only three weeks.  I have many days to go, and I will use them meaningfully.  Certainly, the Chinese language that I learned in Korea has made a huge difference.  I will meet many Chinese friends and travel, and I will learn from them, especially Chinese culture.  I really anticipate my days ahead in Suzhou and the new me after this exchange program.

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