Sun Yat-sen; An Unexpected Journey

BUILD Program Reflection

From July 5-25, I participated in the 2015 International Summer Program (ISP) at Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU), Guangzhou, along with 14 other BUILD Abroad students. SYSU is known as one of the most prestigious and top-ranking universities in Southern China. The ISP included Chinese language classes 3 mornings a week, politics and culture or business studies classes in the afternoons, and cultural immersion activities like tai chi, paper cutting and Chinese calligraphy. These classes offered a valuable insight into the Chinese culture. There were also fun excursions like a night boat cruise on the Pearl River, two local company visits, a Guangzhou day trip, and a weekend trip to Shunde and Foshan, a neighbouring city also in Guangdong.
My expectations before travelling to Guangzhou were limited to what I had experienced a year prior, when I came in Guangzhou for the first time as an adult. My family is from Guangdong province yet I hadn’t embraced and explored it as much as I’d have liked. Last summer, I was brought to the ‘Old Town’ area where my family lived. This time, I had the opportunity to study in this amazing city and experience life like a student in Southern China. I expected to enjoy the program but wasn’t sure about how well it would be executed, how many new friends I’d meet, and how I’d deal with the language difficulties I have with Mandarin and Cantonese.
My experience turned out to be unexpected in several ways, but also followed the schedule set by SYSU. The first challenge arose when my flight arrived in Guangzhou at 1:30am on the first day of the program instead of the previous day. I also arrived on campus a little late to the opening ceremony after not being able to find my accommodation. I was sick for the duration of the program due to exhaustion (a combination of the intensive program I’d undertaken directly before arriving in Guangzhou, the flight delay and extreme heat in comparison to Sydney’s cold). Being sick stopped me from being as active as I wish I could have been off-campus, but I was lucky to live at the university hotel and made sure I attended my classes and the various exciting ISP excursions and activities.
I couldn’t have predicted how lovely and approachable our SYSU buddies (the local students assigned to help us) would be. I learnt a number of skills during the program – but the biggest learning curve was being tolerant of other perspectives and cultures and adaptive towards unexpected situations. All the ISP students came from every corner of the globe, but as we were here for a common purpose, we all got along amazingly and embraced whatever linguistic and cultural differences we encountered.
This program has undoubtedly furthered my interest in China and I hope to use the lessons gained through this experience in working towards a career in China and the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on mutual collaboration and cultural relativism. I truly can’t wait to return.

Check out my other blogs on Sun Yat-sen University here;

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