Chinese students never go out, spend every evening studying, speak poor English and only talk to one another. These are just a few of the preconceptions about this large group of students. But how much of that reputation is based on fact? Resource asked three Chinese students what their life in Wageningen is really like.
‘Before I came here, I expected a free life in Wageningen. I was looking forward to making friends with students from all over the world and to party. The Italians and Germans are my favourites, but it turns out I don’t really like the parties here, they are way too noisy. I prefer to sit at the bar and drink a beer with my close friends. ‘This is my first time abroad, and I really wanted to travel. Rome and Florence are my favourite places. I watched a lot of movies about that area. Also, the Chinese poet Zhimo Xu wrote beautifully about it. In Greece I wore a bikini for the first time. I saw lots of sexy people with chiselled abs and great tans. I want to be like them, so I started going to the gym. We have a we-chat group for fitness. We encourage each other, share experiences and train together. Chinese girls usually don’t like to develop muscles so much; back home I used to do aerobic exercise, like badminton and jogging. I really like to watch hot boys in the gym. ‘I did an ACT project with six Dutch students. At first I felt very lonely and hid my emotions. I only listened during the discussions, but I didn’t like that. During the breaks I started to speak to them. I was not very confident with my English, but they were very patient with me. One girl translated everything for me. Some Chinese students don’t speak up in groups. It is partly a language thing, and a lack of confidence. On the other hand, in group work some problems we don’t need to discuss when the answer is so obvious. ‘Chinese people like to show their best aspects to others, to create a perfect image. We like harmony. When I have problems I prefer to write them down and listen to music. I don’t trouble my friends with my problems often; I prefer to solve them by myself. It’s not good to build relationships on your troubles. ‘In my first year I was not so open as I am now. But after my first summer I realized I can be more independent. Gradually I feel more comfortable living here.’
‘I am an example of the serious student. Parties can be fun, but they ruin the next day, and I have work to do. My family is not rich and I am here on a scholarship. I was not very well prepared for living abroad and this made the first year difficult. I didn’t speak much, it was difficult to even understand the teachers. I was afraid of failing exams, because if I get behind I have to pay a very high tuition fee myself. That is why I don’t have free time like Dutch students do; I work very hard to make sure I pass. ‘Every day I feel stress within me. My family give up their comfort so I can study here. My mother taught me “you have to work hard, then you can get a better life”. Every day they struggle for me. And as long as I have success they are comfortable. I don’t have ways to release that stress, I just keep that pressure in my heart. ‘I live in the Earth house, where we don’t share facilities, and after a year I still don’t really know who the neighbours are. I have my friends and Chinese girlfriend, so there is not much motivation to find new friends. ‘In my second year I started to notice the difference in systems. In China your supervisor is like a parent who takes care of you academically, and we are like children. The Dutch system wants you to be independent, but we want to follow, we need guidance. Here your supervisor is often a PhD student who is more like an equal, and the second supervisor is a really busy professor. The ‘power distance’ between me and my superiors is in my heart, so I keep silent and do what I am told. Meanwhile I am also very afraid to make a wrong move because I may get a study delay. ‘There are two main kinds of goals that Chinese students have here. The first is to achieve a high academic level. The second kind is the group that wants to get work experience abroad. This gives you an advantage if you aim for manage- ment jobs back home. I am in the latter category. I want to have work experience here, but eventually I want to go back to China because I belong to that land.’
‘I have been on the board of the Chinese Association for Students and Scholars in Wageningen (CASSW) for almost two years now. The purpose of CASSW is to help Chinese students live happily here. We help new students from before they arrive and we organize events. ‘Just like any other group, Chinese students are different from person to person. Some like to party, and some are more serious. I am an average student, I am OK with a seven. As long as I graduate, my parents are happy too. ‘When I first moved here I did feel lonely sometimes. In China I always shared a room with at least three other girls. When I got my room in Bornsesteeg, I felt lonely when I was alone in my room. Especially during the summer holiday, there was absolutely nobody. Now I have learned to plan some trips in those periods. I really like to travel through Europe. In China I need a visa to travel abroad, here I am free to go where I want. ‘In my free time I like to hang out with friends. As girls we like to eat together and gossip. The boys have drinking games, play poker and Mah-jong and have serious discussions about research. There are two big events when all the Chinese students come together to celebrate: the Spring festival and the Mid-Autumn festival. ‘Like many other Chinese, I will apply for a ‘search year’, a visa for a year to find a job in the Netherlands. I will stay here as long as I can. But eventually I will go back home. Because of the one-child policy I am the one who has to take care of my parents.’
Photo's: Sven Menschel