Name: Christian Georgiou
University: University of East Anglia
Programme: Fujian, Joint Provincial Scholarship, September 2015 - February 2016
Why did you decide to apply for the Generation UK scholarship programme?
I’d already taken two beginner’s Chinese modules during my second year at UEA and had become interested enough in Chinese language and culture to want to explore it further, and to see China with my own eyes.
From a practical perspective, I think Mandarin’s an important (and useful) language to learn and that proficiency in it will pay dividends in the future. The Generation UK scholarship programme offered a chance to study Mandarin for free (save flight and visa costs) and to live in the country where it’s spoken – that’s far too good an opportunity to miss out on.
How did you find your scholarship placement and what were you doing on a day-to-day basis?
The beginning was challenging.
China’s the first country I’ve been to where I haven’t been able to rely solely on English’s status as a global lingua franca, so adjusting to practically using my Mandarin and adapting to a different set of cultural norms was certainly difficult to begin with. I kept an open mind and flexible attitude, and adapted to living there after a few months.
The university course itself was as challenging as individual students desired it to be – I was able to move from the beginner’s class to intermediate within the first few weeks after talking to the director – which I think definitely benefitted the harder-working students at the university and allowed those who really wanted to push themselves a chance to reach their learning potential.
It was also very strange to be an ‘international student’ for the first time; I was able to make a host of new friends from a range of different countries (notably Germany, Yemen, Bangladesh, Nepal, Italy and Costa Rica) as we were all brought together by being in the same scenario – we were all ‘laowais,’ and all in this new place together.
I’ve been able to make friends from across the globe thanks to my time on this scholarship, and it’s something I’m very grateful for.
Day-to-day tasks typically involved attending classes (a very strange shift from lectures in western universities), having breakfast, lunch and dinner at the university canteen, spending time with other foreign students and having a language exchange with Chinese students of English.
There was also the occasional Ping-Pong game and street food binge with my roommate.
What was the most enjoyable part of your experience in China?
Being able to slowly use the language and have people actually understand me.
Watching myself progress from being able to ask for the cost of something in the shop to being able to arrange my own phone contract is certainly something I’m proud of and something that’s made the experience worthwhile.
Equally, learning how to read and write Mandarin is a daunting challenge and one that I’ve enjoyed progressing through immensely. Learning how each component works and understanding both the syntactic and phonetic aspects of characters is something (albeit a really nerdy something) that I get real satisfaction from.
What have you been up to since you finished the programme?
Since finishing the programme last year, I’ve continued along the Generation UK vein as an English Language Assistant in Beijing. I currently teach English at Beijing No. 20 High School. It’s an excellent school, and I’m very happy to have been able to find this post through the British Council (in no small part due to the excellent support and training along the way).
Do you have any plans to return to China in future or pursue Chinese language study further?
I hope to be able to stay in China until at least Autumn 2018.
As for my Chinese language ability, I’m working very hard to improve it every day (the benefit of my job being a wealth of spare time to pursue it). I hope to pass the HSK 5 exam before next August and to achieve ‘fluency’ – namely to pass the HSK 6 exam – by August 2018. 加油！
How has the Generation UK programme helped you in achieving your goals?
Its offered me chances that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
I’ve had the drive and determination to work in China and to improve my Mandarin since the second year of university but didn’t know how to pursue it – the Generation UK programme has been able to nurture that desire and interest and provide the resources and environment to let that interest flourish.
Find out more about the Generation UK - China Scholarship programme.