Discovering China

Georgiana Epure tells us how Leeds for Life helped her to explore China. 

d bund 1The Study China Programme was not a life changing experience, because I already knew what study and career path I want to follow. However, my participation in this amazing programme was more than a step further in my personal and professional development path: it represented an unchaining of energy, ambition, curiosity and desire for understanding and knowing more about this overwhelming world (which you can reach the other side of in less than 13 hours by plane), its beautiful people, mesmerizing cultural diversity and its challenges alike.

As a young Romanian, born 5 years after the overthrow of the communist regime, and an International Relations student, visiting China appealed to me both emotionally and intellectually because of my curiosity to see life under the powers of communism (and perhaps understand a little bit more about the recent history of my home country) and my interest in experiencing and understanding the culture of an emerging power in the international system.

a6 mauDuring my three-week stay in Hangzhou, I learned basic Mandarin, following an intense beginner’s level course at the Zhejiang University. However, the best part of the programme (besides weekends, which I saved for travelling) were the afternoon classes in Nation and Nationalism in China – a very interesting course taught by a Chinese professor, who did his PhD in Scotland and who was not afraid to critique the Chinese political system and to discuss ‘taboo’ topics such as the question of Tibet and the Tiananmen Square massacre. As a politics and international studies student, the time I spent in China allowed me to tick one box that I missed out on ticking in Leeds: studying  Chinese politics (which is available as a module at the university but because I chose German as a discovery module, I did not have enough credits to choose this module too).

Avid for knowledge and curious – that’s how I’d best describe myself. It is no wonder that I absolutely loved my time in China, where I could unleash my curiosity and ask people about topics that are of interest to me, such as gender issues (particularly old cultural practices such as ‘foot binding’, the one-child policy, and the current problem of migrant workers, which is related to one of the modules I have been attending last semester, Gender and Violence, as well as my role as a member of the Association of Liberty and Gender Equality).

a3 conf travellingIn addition to the 4GB of pictures I took, great friends and memories I’ve made and the new flavours I discovered trying a shameless variety of Chinese dishes, there are some other things that will stay with me forever: the transferable skills that I have developed (and I am not talking about my ability to eat with chopsticks). By far, my experience in China enhanced my sense of responsible awareness and respect for other perspectives and sensitivities, whether local, national and international, and my critical skills and ability to question received information through the course I attended on Nation and Nationalism in China, creative problem solving and working out solutions to the challenges that arise when living in a foreign country within which you cannot speak the language.

The Study China Programme runs every year. If you crave for a ‘fast forward’ learning experience about the magic of cultural diversity and about yourself, do apply. By testing, not only accepting your limits and immersing yourself in a new culture, you will find that we are all not so different, that is only a myth which applies to those who cannot see the beauty that lies within every human being and culture.

You can watch Georgian’s video of the Study China Programme here

@GeorgianaEpure, BA International Relations

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