By Si Thu Tun
Chinese universities are now popular among students from around the world. Nowadays, students of all sorts of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds can be seen studying in China.
Part of the reason behind this recent influx is that the Chinese government has begun awarding scholarships to foreign students.
Currently, there are a wide variety of scholarship programs in China offered by Chinese regional governments and Chinese universities. There are more than 300 world-class universities with 1,000 programs available for international students in China. Many programs are available in English. Scholarships are offered for a wide variety of programs, including bachelor’s degree programs, master’s programs and Ph.D. programs. There are many courses related to medicine, engineering, economics, management, law & politics, natural science, education, literature, philosophy, arts and history.
As China-ASEAN ties have blossomed, students from ASEAN countries have become a major part of such scholarship programs, including students from Myanmar. There are around 3,000 Myanmar students currently studying at a large number of Chinese universities. Over the course of the past few weeks, I spoke to several such students, asking them about their experiences as students in China.
Poe Ei Phyu Win
I’m currently attending a Ph.D. program at Beijing University of Chemical Technology, where I have been for the past two years. The scholarship I’ve received is known as the China Scholarship Council (CSC) scholarship.
I didn’t face many problems when I first arrived in Beijing because there are many students here from Myanmar. Even though the program in which I am enrolled is in English, I only know a few words of Chinese. This makes everyday communication difficult.
I love Chinese food, so that’s a plus. I usually eat at the university’s canteen. During some holidays, I cook traditional food from home.
As our university is very strict, I feel safe and secure. Even students of the same university are not allowed to enter dormitories that are not their own at night. Strangers or guests cannot visit or enter after 11:00 p.m. Daily household cleaning makes the dorms a clean and convenient place to live.
Transportation is one of the best things about being here. The subway system is excellent, buses are punctual and taxis are plentiful.
I don’t have much free time as I am a Ph.D. student. However, when I do have some time to relax, I like to visit Beijing’s iconic places. I often take part in activities and trips arranged by the university.
I would like to say thanks to the People’s Republic of China for giving me this scholarship opportunity. I hope China continues to give scholarships in the future.
Hnin Ei Phyu Win
I am currently enrolled in a master’s program in finance at Northeast Agriculture University (NEAU) in Harbin. The scholarship I received is the Chinese Government Scholarship.
My biggest challenge here has been the language. When I first arrived, I only knew basic greetings in Chinese. As many people here cannot speak English, communication was not easy. However, I attended a free Chinese language class offered at my university, and became capable in performing basic tasks using my Chinese language skills within just two weeks. As my Chinese has improved, communication issues have disappeared altogether.
Now I’ve been in China for more than one year, having first arrived in August 2016. In my first year at the university, I have learned a lot about Chinese language and culture. Now, as a sophomore here, I will attend classes related to my major. I will graduate in 2020.
Currently there are no big problems for me apart from homesickness. There are not many students from Myanmar in Harbin, and there are only about 10 people from Myanmar in the entire city of Harbin. Additionally, since students from Myanmar study at a variety of different universities in Harbin and we are usually quite busy, we only see one another every two-to-three months. That’s why if I ever feel particularly homesick, I watch movies from Myanmar and talk to my family on phone.
I live in a dormitory room provided by the university. Although we can rent apartments off campus, I prefer to live in the university dormitory because it is more convenient than living off campus. I have a bathroom of my own and I share a kitchen and a room for drying clothes with a few other students.
During my first year at the university, I ate at the canteen. These days, however, I cook for myself. Harbin itself is a bit cheaper than other parts of China. Fresh meat, fish and vegetables can be purchased cheaply. There are many farms located outside the city on which vegetables are grown.
There are three different types of trains (D, K, and T) from Harbin to Beijing, with 20 trains operating from Harbin to Beijing daily. The fastest train takes eight hours and the slowest one takes 20 hours. And there is an international airport in Harbin. These days, I use a smartphone app called百度地图 (Baidu Ditu) to navigate my way around the city.
As I am interested in sports, I often play tennis or basketball or go swimming. I also regularly play basketball and I participate on the university basketball team. I usually go on short trips during my holidays. I also take part if there are marathons, other running races or walking events. There are many places to visit in and around Harbin. As Harbin is surrounded by mountains, I usually go hiking or mountain climbing on weekends. Sometimes, I visit farms outside of the city with my friends.
In China, if you’re a student, you’re not allowed to work — not even a part-time job. However, volunteering as a foreign language teacher is a rewarding experience.
China is a great choice for students who want to study Chinese language and culture. I like the education system here, and I feel safe here. One thing I would recommend to students interested in studying in China is China’s Belt and Road scholarship, which is available to students from countries along the Belt and Road.
Myat Thiri Cho
I am currently enrolled at Yunnan University of Finance and Economics. I received the Yunnan Government Scholarship granted by the Yunnan government.
Currently, I live in Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan province.
The first difficulties I faced upon arriving in China were related to language and food.
Now, I have been in China for more than one year. As my program is taught in Chinese, I sometimes misunderstand what my teachers say. Both foreign students and local students live in dormitories located on the university campus. My classes are only a five-minute walk from my room. I enjoy living in the dormitory, where we have access to 24-hour hot water and electricity.
And there are coffee shops and bars close to campus, in addition to around 10 convenience stores.
Transportation is also convenient, as we can choose to get around by either subway or bus. We can also ride shared bikes such as OfO and Mobike, which cost just 1 yuan (US$0.15) for an hour of use. If your destination is relatively close by, biking is usually the best option.
Our university usually closes on weekends and national holidays. I use my free time to visit parks, lakes and shopping centers in the city. Sometimes, I go to museums and attend hiking trips arranged by the university.
Studying in China is wonderful because Yunnan is located very close to Myanmar. Living here is safe and secure. People in Kunming are happy to help foreigners. I think China is a wonderful country as living conditions, the weather and the food are great.
I am currently attending a Ph.D. program at Ocean College, Zhejiang University in Zhejiang Province. The scholarship I received is from China’s Ministry of Commerce.
One of the first problems when I arrived in China was language. Navigating university websites was difficult as information is presented only in Chinese. Therefore, I had some problems when selecting my courses at first, but eventually figured it out with the help of some Chinese friends. Systems vary by university — some university websites offer information in English.
I have been in China for one year and three months. The current difficulty I’m facing is research. I have a degree in Marine Biology, but the subject I am currently researching is Biochemistry. I have to study very hard as I do not have any background knowledge on this particular topic.
Living here is great. Though the food was a bit of a challenge for me when I first arrived, I have now become more familiar with Chinese food and I enjoy it more.
Transportation here is superb.
I usually listen to music in my free time, and I often go to the gym. I go on trips for relaxation during holidays. I often take part in activities organized by the university.