Name: Amelia Coe
University: University of Oxford
Programme: Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai Programme, February 2016
I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I got the email telling me I was going to study Chinese Law at Shanghai Jiaotong University for a semester.
I had just left a physio appointment in the middle of Wiltshire, on a dark and torrentially rainy morning, when I discovered I’d left my headlights on and now had a dead car battery.
When my father came to rescue me he found me in a surprisingly good mood as I casually announced I’d be off to China for five months.
What I couldn’t fully appreciate at the time was that receiving that email marked the beginning of the most incredible few months of my life to date.
I have never experienced anywhere like Shanghai, and I won’t pretend it was smooth sailing from the beginning, despite assurances from many people that Shanghai was ‘China on easy mode.’
Culture shock doesn’t even begin to describe my first week. The language barrier exacerbated adjusting to the weather, noises and navigation of this loveable monster of a city.
My worries departed swiftly. Jiaotong is in an incredible location, and the other scholars were interesting, fun and supportive.
We had our lectures with lots of other foreign students, it with a busy schedule, but there was still plenty of time for exploration.
Transport wise, Shanghai is well connected to the rest of China, and we were easily able to take trips to local cities of Suzhou as well as larger expeditions to Beijing, Xi’an and Taipei.
We had some weeks off towards the end of our course and I was lucky enough to travel to Tibet and the DPRK - both unforgettable weeks.
Experiencing Chinese Higher Education was fascinating, particularly studying Law. The structure of classes was vastly different to my experience in the UK. For example, we had three-hour long lectures, and the way in which politics interplayed with some of our legal teaching was fascinating, if a bit bizarre.
It’s difficult to pinpoint a favourite memory from my time in China. Small things spring to mind like falling into the 24 hour dumpling shop next to Jiaotong after a night out and the joy of being able to order (too many) dumplings despite inebriation in new-found Mandarin.
But one particular experience does stand out. In some of my free time I visited Guilin and Yangshou with two other scholars, and experienced some of the most strikingly beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.
We walked through the countryside for a few hours before coming across what appeared to be an outside restaurant. We were beckoned in and it was only after about 15 minutes and the presentation of a mountain of food that we realised through our broken Mandarin we had accidentally gate-crashed a family reunion.
We apologised and were met with profuse expressions of happiness to meet us, followed by several rounds of ‘Gambei!’ (aka: finish your drink), many photographs, and games of rock, paper and scissors.
We stayed for hours, and with WeChats duly swapped, went back to our hostel still not quite believing what had happened.
This meal sums up my experience of China; the giving and generous nature of the people I met, and the sheer size and range of places and experiences available in China.
I’m now back in London and doing my law conversion before starting a Training Contract, where I will be seeking every opportunity to secure a secondment back to China
But I’m still learning and improving my Mandarin, and I still crave dumplings after a night out.
This opportunity is delivered through Generation UK – China in partnership with Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Find out more about the Generation UK - China Scholarship Programme.