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Foreign exchange students speak: WHU in a nutshell
Author:Raju Maskey  Date:2017-05-08  Clicks:

Backpacking to a different country is not only liberating, it’s downright thrilling. No one can stay in one place for their whole life. It is only natural that students crave to experience culture, food and language that are worlds apart. The foreign exchange students who arrived this year, found themselves mired in an environment that was totally alien—but in a good way.

Thankfully, the student body at WHU is widely represented and can make friends from any corner of the globe. Even the most self-effacing students would come out of their shell and get along with people from different cultural and geographical origins. Australian exchange student from the University of Wollongong (UOW) Matthew James Latham shared, “The foreign students are always interesting. They are all so different and there's a lot of cultural incompatibilities I have to be careful with. Celebrating Laos New Year in my dorm was heaps of fun and a great cultural experience”.

At a time when technology is rapidly replacing the utterly old pedagogical methods, an exchange program has never been more important. It is a prime buzzword among Chinese university students. Zoey Bezos, a Chinese student who went to UOW shared, “My most memorable moment at UOW was the time spent with ICIS mates, volunteers and international students there—all kinds of events were thrown by them with free food and drinks. People there were very helpful and they were willing to help me with my English”.

For most of them, the cultural transition was seamless without any veritable blizzards but they still had to cope with several culture shocks. Australian finance student Timothy said, “There are many cultural differences. Things like etiquette and hygiene.” he added, “I haven't seen everything yet so I'm still kind of settling in”.

Life at WHU is unequivocally rife with so many over-the-top opportunities to immerse into authentic Chinese culture. Something others, except these exchange students, could not experience. Andrew Byrnes majoring in Chinese likes the food at Guang Ba Lu. He shared his most favorite moment, “It was my birthday. We went to clubs, had dinner and played mahjong”.

Upon arrival, the first thing that hit them was the sense of greenery in this buzzing campus. But these straight-out-of-a-postcard landscapes are not WHU’s only calling cards. Its allure lies in its credos that has shaped the lives of several generation of students, both domestic and foreign. This gives a compelling reason for the recent upswing in foreign exchange students and explains why so many foreign exchange students have gravitated towards this historic university.

WHU’s vastness as a host university can be a yardstick for comparison, Matthew said, “So far it has been so interesting because of the size of the campus and that’s been a big difference for me. Like having to think about getting around and learning to manage my time has been really interesting.”

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From right: Mimi, Timothy, Matthew, Katerina; Andrew (first from left), and Zoey (second from left)

Finnish exchange student from the University of Helsinki, Annette "Mili" Kemppi shared, “My favorite hangout place is a secluded spot in the Luojia Mountain where no-one else ever comes, only animals like birds, squirrels and dogs.”

She talked about her prized memories,” We had dinner at the Donghu lake with Wendy and her family. I went biking around the lake with my friend from Zambia. I busted stereotypes about Western people in a Chinese class and had the students try out Finnish chocolate.”

At first, the students were disturbed by pangs of homesickness but that was a onetime effect. Such emotional and psychological discomforts are inevitable when one tries to step of out one’s comfort zone and walk away from self-imposed limitations. It’s not by coincidence that they winded up here. All of them are here at WHU by choice. They have now come to discover that the way they have been living or the way they were being taught is not the only way. It’s a part of experiential learning where the students try to map out a future—different from one they had previously considered

Most of their friends gave them a low-down of the campus but with the benefit of hindsight, they now know their way around the campus. These places have become all-too-familiar for them. Matthew said, “We usually go to the engineering campus canteen, so we have a lot of good memories there.”

For many, exchange programs are an extended vacation where the bills are footed as academics. But these students dismiss such popular stereotypes. They engage in an equally rigorous academic schedule as other regular students. However, the timetable of classes doesn’t leave them jaded and groaning. They still manage to have their fair share of fun and as bright student as they are, and even coast a bit.

It is incumbent for them to complete the credits allocated to them. All those parties past midnight doesn’t shift their focus from academics. Hobby, it’s worth noting, doesn’t subdue motivation. They are highly motivated to learn but in a balanced way—it needn’t be all work and no play!

They stand out from the rest with their indomitable can-do spirit. Their free-spirited and youthful personality shines through. This charm makes it easy to distinguish exchange students from regular students. French student Laura, majoring in economics said, “I’m not living in Wuda (WHU). I just come for class. So I don't spend a lot of time here. I don't speak with Chinese and I talk a lot with foreigners that depend on one another.” At Wuda, she spends her time at the xiaomaibu (a deli inside the dormitory). 

Her fellow exchange student Alexandre Guerard said, “All are very nice people and I made a lots of good friends”. He shared a piece of advice, “Translate all what is right should be a good idea.”

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From left to right: Benilde, Laura, Alexandre, Maxence and Valou

Exchange programs may turn out to be a far cry from what the students had expected. But these students blended in even amidst initial snafus, when they were besieged with doubt, they were able to make several sensible choices and figured out things for themselves. They have become more independent, less fallible, culturally competent and capable to see things from more than one vantage point.

Their time at WHU, since the moment they arrived, is filled with promise and as they near completion of the program, they have to leave behind all those newfound friends. However, they would still take with them enough memories to cherish for a lifetime.

As someone once put it: Exchange isn’t a year in a life, it’s a life in a year.

We wish you all a very successful future ahead. Stay strong and succeed. WHU will forever be a home to you!

 

Edited by Edmund & Hu Sijia

 

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