Jack Daly: Scholarship in Wuhan

Name: Jack Daly

University: Edinburgh Napier University

Programme: Wuhan, China University of Geosciences, September 2016

Although I’ve travelled to many countries in Europe and Asia over the past few years, nothing could have prepared me for China.

Before going to China for the first time I thought I had a pretty representative image of what it would be like.

I had read that China will soon become the world’s biggest economy, overtaking the United States, and so I automatically assumed this country would be developed and modern, with the kind of quality infrastructure, clean streets and sense of order that I knew from the west.

Although this is true in some cases, on the ground and in the thick of it, it was immediately apparent that China is still developing, and at an incredible pace.

My misconceptions were quickly drilled out of me; there are cars everywhere, driven by road laws incomprehensible to observers. The amount of construction hits hard, with 100 floor skyscrapers being thrown up everywhere. 

However, these little things add to the charm of the place.

Walking home and being deafened by the horn of a scooter driving past can sometimes be comical.

In China, it’s important not to sweat the small stuff.

The language barrier can be difficult, but also hugely motivating. I found the struggle to find my way or order food encouragement to get to the level I needed – going to classes and improving day-by-day was a great feeling.

If you can shrug off the challenges, life on a Generation UK –China scholarship is full of opportunities to make friends, network and see China for what it really is.

It’s good that making Chinese friends is really easy. I made many Chinese friends in the first few weeks of being in China and was suddenly playing baseball and ultimate Frisbee with my new friends.

They set days aside to help me feel comfortable getting around, show me the city and get me to try weird foods like BBQ bull frog and scorpion.

Making Chinese friends is essential, both for learning more about the culture – like the tradition that when you are out for dinner to let the host pay, knowing you will return the favour in the future – and also as a lifeline in a foreign city. 

While day-to-day living can be just as it is back home in China with Starbucks, McDonalds and western snacks like popcorn available, I found exploring Wuhan, the city I was based in, the best option. I visited as many places as I could, speaking to the locals to improve my Chinese. 

Classes and studying took up a huge amount of my time and it was important to study and keep up attendance. The Chinese characters you learn one day will go in your head as fast as the ones you learnt yesterday will go out. To my surprise, classes were taught in Chinese and with Chinese characters. If you didn’t know the characters, you couldn’t know the homework and would quickly fall behind, so studying was important and progress was quick.

For a Chinese student the mantra is Eat, Sleep, Study.

I have a Chinese friend who said to me once “I want a girlfriend but I need to be more attractive to them. So I will roller-skate more and study lots”; this is the nature of many Chinese students, so the environment encourages you to work hard and learn. 

Taking part in the scholarship was important to me as China is becoming the biggest economy in the world. The opportunities from this expansion are so vast.

A proactive English speaker with knowledge of Mandarin can go far in China. A great thing to remember about business in China is that a lot of deals and connections are based upon relationships. An effort with Mandarin, like with making friends, is step one to making all important business connections.

I urge everyone who can to go to China. An open mind is crucial for “surviving” the initial stages and thriving in the later stages. I loved my time in China and am already thinking of how I can go back.

This opportunity is delivered through Generation UK - China in partnership with the Hubei Provincial Education Department. 

Find out more about the Generation UK - China Scholarship programme.