I chose to move to China to immerse myself in a completely alien culture. I love the idea that in 10 years time I might be somewhere I never imagined. It's not about doing what you always dreamed of, is about doing something you could never have dreamed of.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
It really depends on the person, actually. Traveling for a long period really suits some people and not others. I think it's a matter of why you are going. I mainly came to experience China; studying was secondary to it all. I think if it's the other way around - you go abroad for reason A, and changing countries is just secondary to that aim - it will be a totally different experience!
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I would tell them to expect differences. Obviously there are differences in culture, food, and language when you move abroad; but I have been rather surprised at just how different studying a degree can be! Not only between the UK and China, but also talking to other international students and learning about their education systems.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
My favorite story is probably my first day in China. I moved here with my boyfriend, who wanted to teach English in Beijing. His recruiting agency picked us up from the airport on an incredibly warm day towards the end of August. We were sitting in a taxi with the Chinese radio on, accompanied by a taxi driver who could not speak any English and all our belongings (weighing precisely 20kg due to plane weight restrictions). The taxi stopped after 35 minutes or so and the recruiter jumped out, telling us he had to go somewhere but that the taxi driver knew where to take us. We said goodbye and continued our journey. Suddenly the taxi stopped by a bunch of buildings with signs all in Chinese, opposite something that resembled a park. He told us to wait there (it took a while to understand him owing to my rusty Chinese). So we paid him, and sat on a bench in the middle of nowhere with all of our belongings and no working phone, waiting for someone we didn't know. It all turned out perfectly fine...China style. But looking back we were surprisingly calm about the whole thing! We just sat on the bench happily, thinking wow, we are in China! What next?
Chandni's thoughts on what to know before making a big move:
In China there still aren't a whole lot of foreigners or even tourists - not like Thailand. It means that a lot of people only speak Chinese and stare at you...a lot! But they are generally stares of intrigue, and it can be quite refreshing to go somewhere where people genuinely want to know about you and where you come from. Even if you are going somewhere that you know should have a lot of people who can speak and understand your native language, it never hurts to be able to speak some of the country's language that you are going to be living in for a while! It's also always good to know routine things like where your embassy is and emergency service numbers. One last thing - don't let the idea of being homesick hold you back - it's so easy these days to communicate with those you love, wherever they are!