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Don_Horhe

Should I stay or should I go (not the song)

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Don_Horhe

Hi everyone, there's something bothering me and I hope you can give me some advice. Basically, like the title says, I'm wondering whether I should stay in China for the next 3 years of my scholarship, or give it one more year and go back home to finish my degree there.

The reasons for my troubles are many, but I'll point out the most important one - quality of education. Back home, I was studying "Chinese Studies" which, like the name implies, covers a wide area of subjects, not only the language. Before coming to China, I thought that here I would receive an even better education, on top of the fact that I'll be learning the language in the country it's spoken. To my disappointment, things turned out to be nothing like I expected. To illustrate my point, I'll outline the syllabus contents of the bachelor program back home and that of the university here in China:

Back home (I'm only listing the compulsory subjects):

First year, first semester: Introductory Course in Chinese Language, Practical Chinese (grammar, reading, speaking, listening, character study and etymology), Introduction to General Linguistics, Introduction to General Literary Theory

First year, second semester: Practical Chinese, Chinese Cultural Studies (read 国情), Introduction to Chinese Linguistics, Introduction to Chinese Literary Theory, Introduction to the Chinese Writing System, Ancient Chinese History, Introduction to Ancient Chinese Philosophy

Second year, first semester: Practical Chinese, Chinese Phonetics and Phonology, Ancient Chinese Literature, Medieval History of China, Chinese Lexicology and Lexicography, Chinese State and Political Organization

Second year, second semester: Practical Chinese, Medieval Chinese Literature (part 1), Chinese Grammar (part 1), Chinese Phraseology, Grammar of Chinese Publicist Texts

Third year, first semester: Practical Chinese(at this point 阅读 is replaced by 报刊), Medieval Chinese Literature (part 2), Chinese Grammar (part 2), Chinese Morphology, Classical Chinese (part 1), Contemporary Chinese History, Grammar of Medieval Chinese Texts

Third year, second semester: Practical Chinese, Contemporary Chinese Literature, Classical Chinese (part 2), Chinese Dialectology, Study of "Xiehouyu"

Fourth year, first semester: Practical Chinese, Modern Chinese Literature, Classical Chinese (part 3), Chinese Literary Language

Fourth year, second semester: Practical Chinese, Chinese Stylistics, Introduction to Theory and Practice of Translation, Written Translation of Chinese Specialized Texts

Apart from Practical Chinese, the university I'm in now offers 国情, Ancient History, Ancient Literature as elective subjects. They used to have Phonetics and Phonology, and I think there's a semester of Classical Chinese in the third year, but nobody from the administration can confirm that. I spoke to one of the teachers about Classical Chinese and other subjects, and she said, I quote: "课程的安排......要看办公室人的心情". She also hates it, but what can she do? I told her about the existing government standard (thanks for pointing it out, Roddy), which she said that nobody really cares about.

It's obvious that if I go back home I'll receive a much better education, but then on the other hand, I've been dreaming to come to China since I finished high-school in 2005, and it took me three years to get the full, four-year CSC scholarship. I do enjoy my stay in China, despite the fact that people here pronounce Nanjing like Lanjin, 99% of the women have yet to discover the wonders of waxing and hair removal, all the staring, moronic laughing, materialism, certain hygiene issues etc. things that make China what it is today. I'm not trying to generalize, neither am I trying to say that it's all bad - I've made good friends with both Chinese and other foreigners, some of our teachers are very good, despite my rambling above, and in terms of traveling and sight-seeing, China has a lot to offer.

It's a tough decision to make, and I know that nobody can do it for me. As I said above, I've decided to give it another year, see if and how things will improve. I'll speak to my teachers both here and back home, see what they think. If we had the same subjects taught here, I wouldn't think of leaving, but under the current circumstances, it seems that staying here for the full four years is a waste of time. Some might say that I'll learn the language faster - probably true, but then again back home I've quite a few Chinese friends who can, at least partially, make up for the general lack of native speakers to interact with.

Edited by Don_Horhe

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gato

Another thing to consider is that your future employment prospects will probably be better if you get an undergrad degree back at home, even if you eventually decide to return and work in China.

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roddy

I'd say go home. You've given it a full year, there's no indication that things will improve, and you've got something better you can be doing with your days. That's time to make changes in my book.

My only other suggestion would be to look at other options in China - a change of university and perhaps, if you have the language already, a change of major. But for most people, I think first degrees are best done at home.

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Don_Horhe

I've considered both changing the university and changing my major. The former, as far as I know, is almost impossible without a serious (i.e. medical) reason. I don't really want to change my major - I love Chinese, linguistics and languages in general and I plan on turning it into a career, maybe start teaching back home once I'm qualified enough, which I don't see happening in this university.

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wushijiao

What about staying in China and self-studying in a lot of those same subjects? You could make the case that time spent on the ground - talking and chatting with as many people as possible while also studying a lot – would be more valuable in the long run (as a Chinese Studies major) than theoretical knowledge back home. (Of course, I’m sure you’ve thought of this).

One other thing, the outline of the courses listed at your university back in the US really looks quite amazing, and if you decide to go home, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. However, if I were you, I’d try to ask any graduating people about the pace and challenge of the classes. In my experience (as a Spanish major), after one year of intense university study abroad, I came back to the US to do my final year (and ironically, I was behind in my major –Spanish, but perfectly set to graduate otherwise). Anyway, many of the classes in my final year were very well taught, well organized, and with great passionate professors – and this systematic comprehensiveness is indeed one of the great things about the US university system. Nonetheless, due to my year abroad (and the massive advances it allowed me to make), I found many of the classes to be fairly slow and slightly unchallenging. I don’t know if you might face a similar situation. I’d go out on a hunch and say I strongly doubt whether many people who hadn’t spent a lot of time in China (and who don’t have very solid Chinese skills) could really get much out of some of those advanced-sounding courses (Medieval Chinese Literature (part 2), for example) without the professor having to dumb it down or give out very brief, annotated, or summarized texts. So, I think the key is to ascertain the real rigorousness of your courses. Of course, perhaps I’m completely off base, and these courses would be as good as they sound!

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Meng Lelan

What is your home university? See if there is a study abroad advisor at your home school who can address some of those concerns you have so you don't "lose" credits if you do come back to your home university.

If indeed you are staying another year in China, then revisit your concerns after another year in China. Things can change after a year.

I don't know where home is for you, but here in the US I actually know some American females who could use waxing and hair removal, so only a percentage of your problems will be solved by leaving the land of the unwaxed women, or women who are lax about wax.

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Don_Horhe

Home is in Bulgaria, my university is Sofia University. The courses are as good as they sound, I've met many people who've gone through it all and they all say it's absolutely amazing. Also, I know most of the teachers, who really are passionate about what they do and, despite the low salaries, they do their best to pass on their knowledge to the students. I didn't want to mention the name of the university, because it might come across as advertising or bragging, though. The thing is that eventually, I want to teach, and, without having studied all those subjects taught back home, I don't think I'll be any good.

I've considered the self-teaching method - I bought the books and everything - it's just that I'm the sort of person that works really well when being pushed and put under pressure. When I know there's no deadline or somebody to direct and test me, I tend to be quite lazy (have to work on that). Apart from that, even if I do sit down and learn it all by myself - how do I prove it? I can't go up to a potential employer and say "Well look, I've had formal training in a limited number of subjects, but all this other stuff I've learned by myself." For better or for worse, having a piece of paper which states you have expertise in a certain field is sometimes more important than the fact whether you really know your stuff or not.

If I go home, I'll have to start where I stopped - second year first semester. Although I'll be way ahead of the others in terms of practical language skills, this is actually a plus - I can focus more on the theoretical subjects and also have time to work, or just hang out with my Chinese friends more. They won't recognize the two years I spent abroad for the very same reasons I mentioned in my OP - the difference between the two educational systems is just too big.

Sorry if I came across as rude when mentioning waxing and such - it's just that back home, it is considered very unhygienic not to do it, so it did come to me as a bit of a shock. 怎么办,文化差异......

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abcdefg

It sounds as though your formal academic qualifications will be better if you return to your home university though your practical Chinese language skills will be better if you remain in China for the next few years.

The reasons for my troubles are many,

Your final decision may also depend in part on the other factors to which you alluded. Best of luck.

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Scoobyqueen

Also consider how you might explain your move/change of mind to a future employer. You need an explanation you are happy with but also one which is acceptable to an employer. If you need to start where you left off, the question will invariably be asked at an interview. Students who change their minds half-way through a degree need to be able to come up with some good reasons.

Good luck to you whatever you decide.

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Kobo-Daishi

Dear Don,

I was reading the Wikipedia entry for "Arthur Waley", how I got to it I honestly don't remember, but this interesting bit caught my attention:

Despite translating many Chinese and Japanese classical texts into English, including much poetry and several philosophical works, Waley never travelled to the Far East. In his preface to The Secret History of the Mongols, he writes that he was not a master of many languages, but claims to have known Chinese and Japanese fairly well, a good deal of Ainu and Mongolian, and some Hebrew and Syriac.

XXXXXX

Wikipedia entry for "Arthur Waley"

So, it's obvious that one is able to gain a fairly fluent ability in Chinese without actually having gone to China or any of the countries in Asia where Chinese is one of the main languages.

I'm still amazed at your English writing ability for one studying at a Bulgarian University.

I know many Americans who aren't able to write as well as you do.

Good luck on your Chinese studies wherever you choose to study.

Arthur Waley got so good at it he was even honored by the Queen of England twice.

A true inspiration for us all.

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

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leeyah
having a piece of paper which states you have expertise in a certain field is sometimes more important than the fact whether you really know your stuff or not

True. You'd better forget self-study if you want an academic career. A solid & uninterrupted academic record is essential for this.

From the language acquisition point of view spending time in a Chinese speaking environment is great, but for a professional sinologist, definitely not before you've spent at least 2-3 years doing some serious studying at home. If you stay in China you'll end up probably speaking very good Chinese and your best option would then probably be interpreting for a Chinese trading company. If this is what you want, then stay in China.

Whatever, from what you said you left your home Uni for a Chinese scholarship just after year 1st, which is a mistake. Now sounds like the best time to go back home, finish what you've started. And don't worry, the advantage of your two years in China will most certainly show during your studies. With excellent 成绩 you might eventually earn a postgrad scholarship, which is much better than what you have got at the moment.

Edited by leeyah

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Lu

Can't you get credits at least for language classes for the time you spent in China? At my uni, students who studied in China/Taiwan for a year used to get a language test when they return, and if they pass they can skip a year of language classes and move on to the next year (this is also more fair to the students who haven't been abroad).

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Don_Horhe

I think I can arrange something with the head of the department. But that's not really an issue, I have nothing against going over some of the stuff I've studied before. Repetition is the mother of all knowledge.:wink:

Anyway, thank you all for the advice.:D

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zerolife

Sounds like you have an excellent university for Chinese studies at home and you are currently at a terrible university in China. I mean I'm surprised the administration can't even tell you what courses they are offering? I know "wen ke" in China with the exception of maybe a few major often get significantly less funding than "li ke" so this might explain the sub standard of your program. I would seriously consider going home, finish your undergrad degree, and then come to China for a graduate degree. Maybe you can even make it into top universities like Beida or Beishida (for teaching)

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zhen_shuai
It sounds as though your formal academic qualifications will be better if you return to your home university though your practical Chinese language skills will be better if you remain in China for the next few years.

You can say that twice.

I studied Chinese at a public university in the states for a year before going to China for a year. I learned a lot more in China, but I did appreciate having a good foundation in the language before I went. I've done the whole 'blind immersion' thing before (in Germany and other places) and the difference between the two is pretty big. Not that I think you HAVE to study at a university to learn decent Chinese, but it doesn't hurt. Anyways, off topic. After my year in China, I thought about finishing my BA at a Chinese uni, but since my credits from back in the states weren't going to transfer I decided I'd be better off finishing my degree here. Basically, 1 year here versus 4 years there. And there was the question of the quality, too.

I think the point of a BA, like most people have said, is unfortunately not the education you get from it, but the qualification that it gives you. That said, it doesn't matter if you have the qualification but can't speak the language because you're not going to be able to do the kind of jobs that will allow you to use the language. I would guess that most of my classmates here in the states would have difficulty passing the HSK even at the beginner level. For a lot of them, that's fine, because they don't want to go into academia or become translators. Most of them are looking at finding jobs in the US or teaching English in China or going into the foreign service. I think the last one will be difficult without being able to speak the language, though I've heard a lot of the employees in embassies can't speak the local languages very well, either.

It depends on why you are studying Chinese. If you want to speak excellent Chinese you can study it just as well at home as in China, you just need to be more motivated. And on the plus side, you will have a more useful degree, wherever you end up looking for work.

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bathrobe

Personally, I would say go back.

China will always be here. You can come back again in future if you want. As a post-grad. As an expat. There will always be opportunities.

But getting a decent degree is not so easy. You need that as your springboard. Maybe money's not important to you now, but it will be in future. Any employer, Chinese or Western, will put much more store by a decent education in your native culture than a few years' immersion in a Chinese environment.

You'll learn a lot of stuff at home that the university in China won't teach you. The Western way of looking at China -- which you will need more and more. An intuitive understanding of China (going 'native') is great, but you also need a Western intellectual/academic background if you're planning to do anything more than blend into the scenery. It's quite unfortunate that teaching in standards in China are so low. What China gives with one hand it takes away with the other.

Good luck!

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Don_Horhe

Thank you all for the advice.:D I decided to do one more year in China and go back home in early fall 2010. I spoke to my former teachers and to the director of our Sinology department, they all pretty much said what you did, so it wasn't a tough choice to make after all.

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