“Last October an e-mail was sent around offering places on the Study China Programme to University of Liverpool students. I thought “sounds interesting, I might as well apply and see what happens”, so I filled in the application and sent it off. After a few weeks I’d forgotten all about it. Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised (understatement!) when I received an e-mail telling me I’d been accepted onto the programme. Three months later I was jetting off to Hangzhou.
The 21 days that followed were possibly the best of my life. It’s amazing how much I – and everyone else on the programme – managed to fit in to such a short space of time. The activities were endless and varied. I learnt the basics of Mandarin Chinese, as well as tai ji and wu shu (a Chinese martial art); I zip wired across the bamboo forest where part of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed; I took a boat trip across West Lake and visited a nearby pagoda and Buddhist temple; I sampled scorpion-on-a-stick (which tasted strangely like pork scratchings) at Gourmet Street; I watched and laughed as my friends – stretching their Chinese vocabulary and insane haggling skills to the limit – spent hours trying to make a cheap purchase on a pair of (fake) Beats by Dr. Dre headphones at a market stall in Shanghai; I visited a fairly humble-looking house on Mount Mogan that happened to be the former temporary lodging of a certain Chairman Mao… I could go on forever.
But at the risk of sounding horrendously corny, none of the above would’ve been so memorable without the fantastic people I met on the trip, many of whom I will definitely keep in touch with. The Chinese volunteers were friendly, helpful and often hilarious. In fact, I found the people of China in general to be really gracious (apart from stall holders when you were trying to haggle their wares down to stupidly low prices!).
The people, the landscape, the language, the culture – everything about China has left a huge impression on me and I hope to return as soon as my degree is finished. For now though, I’ll just content myself with sipping Chinese green tea and reminiscing… and getting on with uni work, obviously.
Anyway, I can’t recommend the Study China Programme enough. Sending off that application was the best decision I’ve made and I’d advise everyone to do the same when the next opportunity comes around!”