First blog from Tianjin
From sending away my application to the interview to the first meeting to now it feels like two seconds ago! The time has flown by and we’re finally here!
After months of preparation, trips to the visa centre, meetings and last minute panics I managed to pack and only forget a few essential items like my favourite top!
I felt good about leaving as I went on the 2017 summer trip with CISS so I was already familiar with Tianjin as well as already knowing 5 of the other scholars as we went together. However the one massive difference was the fact I’d be going without Sophie, my twin sister, which was a massive deal to me and I knew it wouldn’t be easy being away from her especially as we’re such good friends. Furthermore I’ve also never done Mandarin as a subject so I was at a beginner level which I was happy about, I thought it would be good to go and learn from the very start.
We had our final meeting where previous scholars came and spoke to us and even then it still didn’t feel real. It was so weird seeing last year’s scholars as I’d followed them all obsessively for the past year by religiously reading their blogs and following their social media. It was strange to see them and know that it was their year done and we were next. We then had a few Mandarin classes which were so helpful for a beginner like myself.
It was my birthday two weeks into the scholarship so I decided to have a leaving party/early 18th on the Friday and we left the Monday. It was so lovely to see all my friends and family for one last time, as emotional as it was. I said a few goodbyes and then finished packing.
We were flying from Edinburgh airport early Monday morning and I live in Glasgow so Bethany and I decided to stay at the hotel in Edinburgh airport the night before and have one last goodbye dinner in none other than Wetherspoons with our families. That night I exchanged goodbye gifts and cards with my mum and two sisters which was probably one of the hardest things about this experience so far. It was so hard knowing I wouldn’t see them for such a long time and as such a close family it was so difficult to initially let go.
We traveled to the airport and said our goodbyes! Most of the other scholars were so excited to be leaving but I was an emotional mess. All I did was cry! The final goodbye when I turned and walked away was so so emotional and I thought the plane journey would be awful! The plane journey went so fast and next thing I knew we were in China !!!!!!! Also I actually never cried once on the plane J it was almost like a switch had gone off and I was so excited.
Walking through Beijing airport brought back so many memories!
We made it to the university and as exhausted as we were it was so exciting to see our new home for the next 10 months! Margaret and I got to our room which has an amazing view of the tv tower, then we dropped our stuff and headed downstairs for a welcome meeting.
The First Week of Exploring
This was one of the most exciting times! To be fully free to explore wherever we wanted was incredible. We discovered a shopping centre a 15 minute walk away called Power City which is my new favourite place. It’s amazing and has a food court which sells the nicest dumplings. Across from the centre is my other favourite place, the water park. When we first heard that we lived near a water park we were so excited thinking we could get out swimming costumes out and have a fun day out but when we found it it turns out it was a park with water like a lake and not a park with a pool and slides which was initially disappointing, however after walking through I couldn’t be happier. The scenery is just incredible. Hopefully the pictures work and you can see it. Since discovering it I’ve taken a few solo trips there to have a run and just to have some time out which has been so lovely.
At the water park we also accidentally walked into a Chinese samba lesson and we were pulled in and joined the class which was so much fun. As we were foreigners they couldn’t get enough and whenever I tried to go back and sit down they kept pulling me up for another dance.
I spent one of the days just sitting in the room fully unpacking and I also decided to make a wall full of pictures and cards from home. It just made my room feel much more like home and of course my dog got a wall of photos to himself.
We were given the opportunity to choose our roommates before coming but most people just let it be random. Margaret and I didn’t know each other before coming however at meetings and things we’d bonded quite a lot especially because we’re both doing law at Edinburgh University next year so we had a big common subject.
We had our first birthday of the scholarship as Amy (Amy Buckle as she’s known as to the scholars) had her 18th which was lovely. We visited the Italian quarter which was so European and slightly expensive compared to most other places. On the way back Henry, Jack and I discovered the river which was lit up so we went a walk down there which was beautiful.
Jack, Stefania, Alex and I went to one of the bigger shopping centres called Joy City which was insane. It was 7 floors and sooooo big. We discovered a karaoke room inside and somehow we thought we were the Spice Girls and decided to go up and murder American boy and Umbrella! Going to these places was so handy as there’s a subway station right next to our accommodation and it’s one stop away from Power City and two from Joy City and tickets are 2Yuan which is around 20p.
After our trip to Joy City we went to the cat café which is round the corner from our university. Back home I have a cockapoo who I’m obsessed with so being in the company of animals is one of my favourite things. We spent hours in there and all the cats were so friendly. It’s western prices so it’s around £4 for a coffee which is really expensive when I get my green food parcels in the morning for the equivalent of 20p.
Having the first week to ourselves really allowed us to scope out where we’re living for the next while and gave us the opportunity to really settle in before starting classes.
We’ve found some incredible food places like the restaurant round the corner that sells amazing chow mein for the equivalent of around £1.50. I’m not going to lie as a chocoholic I’m struggling! There’s not much here and it’s tough, at least I’ve got crab and cucumber flavoured crisps though!
The Technical Stuff
We had to get oral and written tests so that we would be put into the correct level for classes. I obviously knew I would be in the beginner class but for a lot of the other students they spent a lot of time studying as they were in between class levels.
The next day we had the dreaded medical exam. A bus came and picked us up at 7am and took us all to a hospital for the day. My *and I cannot stress this enough* worst fear ever is getting my blood taken. Back home I’d always refused whenever I needed one and I knew I didn’t have an option here. Usually getting jags back home I’d sit and pace myself in the doctor’s office and hold my sister’s hand but here I was all alone miles away from her. I left that station till last and got an x-ray ultrasound and eye test among others then finally worked my way up to the blood desk. I knew that if I hesitated it would make it worse so I just shut my eyes and gave the lady my arm. She couldn’t find a vein which made it even worse but the next thing I knew it was finally done! I felt really faint after and had to lie down but I actually did it!!!!! I was so proud and this was definitely one of my milestones here even though it may sound ridiculous.
We had to go register as students and we also got given our Chinese SIM cards which made everything a lot easier.
The university opening ceremony arrived and we all got taken on a bus to the main campus. The show they put on for us was incredible! There were thousands of people there and it felt like we were at a concert. There was singing, dancing and a lot of entertainment. The university spirit was definitely high that night.
We also had to go try and set up bank accounts and register for residence permits which both took hours of waiting about but once they were done it was such a relief.
Monday came and I was finally 18!!!!!!!! It was also our first day of class so it was an early start. My mum had given Bethany decorations for me so I woke up to my room all decorated which was lovely! I opened my presents from Bethany, Margaret and Bethany’s Mum Carol had got me something which was so kind. We had our first day of class which I’ll go into more detail later but at lunch Alex, Jack and I went for green parcels then as I got out the lift the common area was all decorated and the full group were waiting singing happy birthday as my cake and presents sat on the table. It was such a lovely surprise! I opened the gifts which were so thoughtful and read my lovely card. I’d had my eye on this adorable teddy but refused to buy it because I’d already bought a shark teddy so the group got me it!
That night I went out for dinner with my close friends as we’ve discovered big group outings just aren’t practical.
At first I struggled with class as my Mandarin was very very basic, I didn’t even know any characters before coming. Although I was in the beginner class most people had a solid base. I found it really overwhelming to start with but after the first week when I’d learnt sounds and characters I started to really enjoy it. They do a lot of speaking out which back home I would hate but after the first few times I feel fine doing now. It’s so important to remember to just be patient and don’t be afraid of messing up. Here’s some examples of the work we’re doing.
One of the reasons I was so excited to do blogs was so I could factor in fashion! I adore Chinese fashion and in a country with billions of people you’ve got to be bold to stand out! Going to so many shopping centres I would literally drool over the clothes! One of the other scholars, Jack, is doing fashion at university after this so we’ve bonded so much over that and now he’s my best friend here.
I’ve seen a lot of tulle skirts and I’m desperate to get my hands on one! There’s also so much tweed which I just love!
Now that I’ve got Taobao the Chinese shopping app I’m hoping I can find some cool things which I’ll show you.
I’m known to always be over dressed here but I just love clothes! I’m starting to be a bit more casual for things like class and my plan to wear a skirt up the Avatar mountains had now changed to sports clothes which is a huge step for me!