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To Stay or To Leave, Thats A Question
Foreigners in China

A French Exchange Student Experiences Guangzhou

The brain drain is a problem that needs to be reckoned with in China and other developing countries. At the same time China's rapid economic development and rich culture attracts many foreign students to come and study in this land. Guangzhou's Sun Yat-san University, one of the top universities in south China witnesses an annual increase in foreign students of 25% according to Guangzhou Daily.

How's their life in Guangzhou? What's their image of the city? Staying for a few months of study, travelling and discovering China and this southern costal city, some of them are captivated by the charm they find, while others leave, thinking that it is not a suitable place for them to stay. Pierre belongs to the later.

As an exchange student from A.I.X Business school in France, Pierre Chhouk studied in Ling Nan College of Sun Yat-sen University, majoring in Finance. It was not his first visit to China. This overseas Chinese visited his motherland seven years ago with his mom for a holiday. During that three week stay in China, he visited many places, but Guangzhou was not one of them at that time.

Actually, only three students from his department chose to study in China and two of them were Asian - Pierre and a Vietnamese. As for his reasons for choosing China he said that, "first of all, I'm a Chinese (Hua Qiao) and I thought it was a really good opportunity to study and see an education system and culture outside of France."

In Pierre's mind, the huge divergence in language and culture were the main reasons why many French students shrink from applying for the exchange to China. It seems they are scared of being "lost." "My parents are Chinese so I am aware of most Chinese traditions," he said. When asked what attracted him most, he remarked that he liked "Chinese culture and respect for others. There is no bother or complaints when work needs to be done."

Born into a Chinese family and rooted in Chinese culture as a child, Pierre said that, there were no big differences between China and his images of this oriental country. But for most of his friends and classmates who have never been to China, the country is kind of mysterious and full of traditional houses with distinctive roofs. "They want to see that and expect to see that," he said.

It was the first time for him to come to Guangzhou, for study and also adventure. The moment he walked into this city, its huge size impressed on his mind. "Everything is much bigger" than he expected.

He learned the Chinese language during middle school and high school for 4 years. But he said that, his "teachers were French and their accent wasn't that good". Since being at university, he hasn't practiced a lot and it is not practical or easy for him to express himself in some particular situations as the "people here in Guangzhou don't speak English a lot (in general life)." He considered pronunciation is so important in Chinese. Knowing the word is not the only requirement for speaking. "You have to know exactly how to pronounce it, and it's impossible to learn it with books. Ordering in a restaurant is so difficult if there are no pictures." Hopefully, most of the restaurants he went contained an English menu.

Pierre had a great time in Guangzhou and he was very busy with study at the end of this semester. "I like the people in Guangzhou," he always said, but the thing that troubled him most was queuing. "I don't like it when some of them keep cutting queues as if you are invisible." He seemed confused when he talked about this.

The weather in Guangzhou was extremely hot during the summer, but Pierre had his way of tackling the problem. "I like the Chinese herbal tea and its taste. I think it's healthy. One of my friends said that it's for 'old people' but I don't care, and we cannot drink it generally in other countries," he said with a big smile.

After five-months learning at Sun Yes-men University, Pierre is going to continue his studies in France, "Until my graduation," he said, "after that I will try to move."

Of all the cities he visited in China, Hong Kong is his favourite. "Hong Kong is smaller than Guangzhou and moves very fast. It's a mix of East and West". He thought it would be easier for him to find a job in Hong Kong than in Guangzhou because of the barriers in language and culture.

For foreign students who are going to study in Guangzhou, Pierre had these words to say, "Don't come if it's only to say that you've been to China and can speak a little. Come if you are really interested in China, not just as a fashionable destination".

(Reported by Carrot Chan, Alan Devey Source: lifeofguangzhou)


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