Tsinghua University

14 March 2019

Charlotte Cattaneo spent a month in Beijing on a language and culture programme offered by Tsinghua University.

Charlotte Cattaneo, Arts and Sciences (BASc)

I spent a month in Beijing on short mobility. I took part in a Language and Culture programme offered by Tsinghua University. I wanted to improve my speaking skills and learn more about Chinese culture, through first hand experience of living in China (I study 0.5 credits of Mandarin every year at UCL).

Both these aims were met. Upon my arrival, I was lucky to be placed in a very small group. Being only two students for one teacher we had the opportunity to practice speaking and ask specific questions on language subtleties. The course also included outings to the main attractions in Beijing. Our teacher accompanied us which meant we were able to use vocabulary and expressions we had learnt and apply them in real life situations. 

The academic programme featured lectures on a variety of cultural topics (philosophy, calligraphy, painting, seal carving, kung fu, etc.) often followed by a practical activity. For instance, the calligraphy lecture was followed by a calligraphy class in which we were given brushes and ink and asked to write specific characters.



These lectures were interesting but I also learnt different aspects of culture in every day situations. These included visa procedures pre-departure, dealing with broken air conditioning in my room, and getting a SIM card. Getting a SIM card was an interesting experience: we had to queue three hours in a store where they would scan our passport and take several pictures of us before giving us the SIM card. A few days later we had to return when we found out the shop had tricked us into buying products we had not originally requested, meaning we now had no more money left on our cards. This was particularly surprising since we had purchased the mobile plan with our teacher and another native Chinese speaker. We had to return to the store, which once again meant queuing for about three hours and getting our passports scanned.

I would definitely recommend applying for short mobility at UCL. My experience provided me with valuable insight into Chinese culture and I also substantially improved my language skills. Going abroad was also a great opportunity to meet people from around the world who study Chinese. I spent my last ten days in China travelling with a Russian student I had met on the course!