Name: Frederick Soames
University: University College London
Programme: Beijing, BCCS Scholarship, September 2014
Why did you decide to apply to the Generation UK - Scholarship programme?
I had been taking evening classes at UCL in Mandarin and happened to come across a link for the program online. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to experience China first hand and really get to grips with the language.
What did you think about your scholarship placement and Chinese learning experience?
Going in with very basic Chinese was a challenge. The first month or two were intense as I tried to get up to speed enough to get along in Beijing by myself. The teaching style is a little different from what I was used to, but the teachers are extremely experienced at teaching beginners and the classes were great fun. Learning characters can be a little repetitious, but everyone is doing the same thing as you which makes for great camaraderie in class. Once I grasped the basics at Tsinghua University where I studied (helped by some amazing student language partners) I did my best to get to know Beijing. This was where the real improvements in my spoken Chinese came about, as I explored the alleyways and parks that make central Beijing such a special place. The program is busy, but still leaves you with the time to see more of the country outside of the University campus. There was plenty to keep me busy: playing rugby for a local team, attending lectures on China at the Beijing International Society, singing with the Beijing International Festival Chorus, but most importantly sampling China's truly outstanding cuisine.
What was the most enjoyable/exciting part of your experience in China?
The best part of being in China was getting to know the Chinese, especially other students at my University. I was lucky as my roommate was half-Chinese, half-Japanese and we got along extremely well. He was able to introduce me to Chinese culture and took me travelling with him to a small village on the banks of the Yellow River called Qikou. We ate the homemade noodles with freshly picked tomatoes as the sun came down over the river, an experience I will never forget. He actually came and visited me in the UK two weeks ago: it goes to show that the friendships you make in China will stay with you after you go home.
What have you been up to since you finished the programme?
I enrolled on some summer courses at the LSE which have just finished. The second one was titled 'Power Shift: The Decline of the West, The Rise of the BRICs and World Order in a New Asian Century' and largely concentrated on the emergence of China onto the world stage. This is with a view to apply for Masters programs in related fields.
Find out more about the Generation UK-China scholarship programme.