MY Story with Confucius Institute
When i was lucky enough to visit China, I was sixteen years old and had never been farther away from home than Western Europe. I took part in a Hanban-sponsored trip run through the UCC Confucius Institute which involved one hundred Irish transition year students flying half way around the world to visit Shanghai for two weeks. I was lucky enough to return a year later on the same trip. I can honestly say that these experiences were some of the most impactful and profound of my life and influenced my decision to study World Language in UCC years later.
Hopping off the plane in Shanghai Pudong International Airport was when the culture shock began, I felt as though I couldn’t blink or I’d miss something. Seemingly mundane things like sprawling apartment complexes and huge dual carriageways were suddenly captivating my attention, and the two hour bus ride from the airport to the campus housing slipped by me in what seemed like minutes. We got settled in to our dorms on the Yanchang campus of Shanghai University fairly quickly, and so began a fortnight of new experiences. Everyday we would wake up, go to class and then participate in a host of cultural activities. Visiting Suzhou’s silk factory, Hangzhou’s pogoda, bargaining at Han City and enjoying the talents of the Circus World. Every morning I would enjoy a different flavour of bāozi, cabbage or pork or red bean, have lunch in one of the restaurants lining the streets near the university and explore the campus and surrounding areas at night.
One thing I noticed was how safe I felt. Shanghai has a huge police presence which was noticeable even from my short stay. Walking back to the dormitory each night, I felt at ease in well-lit streets. For such a large and busy city, I felt comfortable and relaxed walking alone or at night. Cleaners sweep the city for rubbish keeping it clean and tidy.
Another factor which made my time in China memorable was the friendliness of the people I met. Everyone I met went above and beyond to make our visit unforgettable and enjoyable.
A particular memory that I'll never forget from my time in China happened when I was alone, in Daning Plaza close to the campus trying to order an ice cream in a shop. My rudimentary Chinese wasn’t enough to convey what I wanted and to my relief a server who spoke English came to my rescue. In a matter of minutes she had taken off her apron, came around the counter and invited me to have lunch with her. I was blown away by how kind and welcoming she was to a complete stranger. She brought me to a little restaurant and picked out dishes she thought I would enjoy. In the hour I spent with her she told me about herself, taught me about Chinese meal-time customs and then walked me back to my dormitory. This made me feel really at home in Shanghai, even in such a big city, with a population much bigger than Ireland’s, there could still be personal connections.
A big achievement for modern China to me is this ability to straddle the big-city anonymity and the ingrained welcoming hospitable nature that I have seen, even in my limited exposure to Chinese culture.
I also found the western aspects of Chinese culture intriguing. Once, about a week into our stay, a few friends and I were feeling the kind of hunger only fast food can satisfy and decided to take the trip up the nearest McDonalds. What we found was a whole different menu. Drinks like bubble tea being just as popular as a coke or a sprite. It made me realise that even though western customs and cultures have infiltrated China, they’re still made uniquely Chinese.
Chinese people balance modernisation and western influences with strong historical and cultural ties, refusing to compromise where other countries have in their identity. As the world becomes more globalised, China carries its customs and culture with it proudly. We bought the strange and different food and laughed at the time, but as I look back on my experiences in China it strikes me as a big example of China’s strong and unwavering cultural identity.
However, my favourite memory of my time in China was when we visited the Hangzhou pagoda on the west lake. In less than two and a half hours we moved from the crowded and lively city to the beautiful and elegant Leifeng Pagoda. The history of the attraction was fascinating and the scenery was breathtaking. What blew me away however was how different this scene was from the city.
It really put into perspective the vastness of China. A beautiful historic landmark in such close proximity to one of the largest cities in the world. Moving from one to the other was almost like stepping back in time, and this to me conveys a prominent duality in China and its culture. The modern and multicultural city, always moving and expanding and the proud and rich history both of which form China as we know it.
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in China. It was a life-changing experience which as I said, hugely influenced my choice in degree and I honestly believe without this experience I could be on a completely different career path. Though admittedly very brief, I was exposed to so much culture and history and got to see a different way of life.
Without a doubt, my encounter with China was a beautiful and wonderful one.
Claire Healy 何明珠
Graduated from Regina Mundi College in Douglas County Cork
Studying World Language in Year 1 at University College Cork.
Days When I Was Learning Chinese In UCC Confucius Institute
I did my first night course at UCC in 2016. After visiting my older brother living in Taiwan I decided to take lessons of Chinese. I was surprised for what I learned about Chinese language and I wanted to know about it and the culture I was shocked by the amount of people eager of learning new things, a marriage couple whose son was getting marriage on Chine and wanted to know how to communicate with their future daughter in law, etc.
On that first course we didn’t just learn basic communication, we also learnt some culture and Chinese songs, we even did a Chops stick context with peanuts! And also we chose our Chinese name, my one is 黄天龙; that Chinese course wasn’t a standard course and I liked that.
At the beginning it was really difficult for me as I was studying Chinese from English which is not my mother tongue however the course was perfectly done for everyone, native speaker or no; and I presume that it was something that everyone appreciated as we were at class people from different countries, no just Ireland.
After the success of the first course on 2017 I signed in for Chinese intermediate level with a really good teacher that became a good friend. Although I had difficulties for the level of that class – my colleague had a higher level than me – the teacher supported me and encouraged to do not give up and on May 2018 I travelled to Shanghai for a month to study there. I was surprise for how many things that I leant on the UCC courses that were really useful, especially during the first days on China.
Once I com back from chime I signed in again for the Chinese classes at Confucius Institute, I was my third year doing those course and once again I met my colleague from last year, we were a small family every Wednesday, ready to learn and have fun at the same time. I couldn’t visit many places in Chine, just Shanghai and the surround area as Zuzhou, however there I could a take a picture that was selected by Confucius Institute, among others as third prize winner on a photography context they organized.
Sadly, this year due to a busy time at work I was enabled to join night course at Confucius however I was able to attend some event as 春节 2020 – spring festival, Chinese New Year. Always happy to be part of events like that where gets familiarized with Chinese culture, for example this year I was really impresses with the performance of the Chinese traditional instruments such as 埙 (xūn), 琵琶 (pípá) and 古箏 (gǔzhēng).
I am glad for the time I stayed learning at Confucius institute and the people I met. I think is a good place to study, no matter if it is only to get a bit insight of Chinese culture or language or to improve the language for personal reason or for business reasons, I always found supporting people there. Additionally the events they organize are always a good way to know about the culture, practise the language and have fun.
Asier Ortolachipi Familiar 黄天龙
A Spanish student from Chinese Evening Course