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Applying to Fudan and moving to China?


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Hi,

I’m currently a high school senior in California, and I’m considering applying to Fudan Univeristy for my undergrad degree. Let me just say that if I do this, it would be a whole change of lifestyle for me, but I’m considering it for a number of reasons…

- I’ve lived in Taiwan for 10+ years (I’m Taiwanese but attended international school) and moved to LA three years ago. After visiting shanghai twice, for a month each, I fell in love with Shanghai and I definitely feel that there are a lot more opportunities there than in the states, esp for someone that speaks both mandarin and english

- My sophomore year pulled down my grades by a lot, if I was to stay here I’d be a match for a pretty average school. But I’ve heard that it’s a lot easier for international students to get in Fudan, and it is ranked much higher than any of the schools I can get in here so I’d love to go if I can actually get in

- My dad lives in Shanghai, I’ve never lived with him before so it’d be nice to finally be able to spend time with him

- Don’t get me wrong, I love LA, I just feel like it’s a little too slow for someone my age

If I do go to Shanghai for college, that pretty much means I won’t be returning to the states since I was already planning to move after college (both my parents live in Asia, that’s another reason), so I’ll be making China my home. The thing is, I only know a few people that moved to China from the states, and none of them actually went to school there. I read the requirements for international applicants so i'm pretty clear on how to apply, but I still have a lot of questions about Fudan and living in Shanghai in general…

•If I am enrolled full time at Fudan, can I still take some language courses to improve my writing ability?

• I’ve heard that there are about 4000 international students enrolled at Fudan, about how many of them speak english? And are they all enrolled full time, not just to study abroad for a semester/year?

• If I want to get a decent job in china in the future, would it be better to get my degree at an average college in the states or at Fudan?

• What is life like at Fudan? Is it VERY different from colleges in the states? Would it be hard for me to make friends because I’m not local Chinese?

• Would it be hard for me to find a part time job in Shanghai? Will the course load at Fudan be too heavy for me to balance school/work?

Sorry I’m writing a book here…but i've been thinking about this for months and I’m in desperate need of answers so any help would be greatly appreciated (: thanks in advance

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There are a couple of things you don't tell us which are relevant to some of your questions. Firstly, what are you planning to study? It may be easier for you to get into Fudan than for a Chinese student, but that doesn't mean you can just select any course you want, or that you'll have the same experience whatever you choose.

It may also be relevant to your experience in China whether you would be studying in China as a Taiwanese compatriot or whether you have a US passport and would be using that. It may be that it won't make much difference, but there are some circumstances in which it could have some implications.

In response to your actual questions:

•If I am enrolled full time at Fudan, can I still take some language courses to improve my writing ability?

Yes, for definite if you pay for it, or perhaps you'll be able to substitute Chinese language study for the English language requirement that is compulsory for Chinese students. This would have to be negotiated unless you find a course that is specifically set up for non-Chinese (they do exist, but I don't know if Fudan has them).

• What is life like at Fudan? Is it VERY different from colleges in the states? Would it be hard for me to make friends because I’m not local Chinese?

I can't answer the first two, but it should be easy for you to make friends unless you are particularly shy. Your background will make you interesting to local Chinese. Would you expect to be living in the Chinese student dormitory? In which case, you won't be able to avoid meeting people.

•I’ve heard that there are about 4000 international students enrolled at Fudan, about how many of them speak english? And are they all enrolled full time, not just to study abroad for a semester/year?

I think a majority of them would have a working knowledge of English. The exceptions would be the Japanese and Koreans. Most of the Europeans and Americans, will be there for a year or less. Those non-Chinese taking full-degree courses in China are often from Africa and countries where the Chinese education system is seen as superior to what is available at home and cheaper than what is available in the West. A good proportion of these will speak English; some may be taught in English.

• If I want to get a decent job in china in the future, would it be better to get my degree at an average college in the states or at Fudan?

This is a difficult question as so many factors come into play such as your grades and subject. In my experience, Chinese companies in the big cities are becoming increasingly aware of Chinese students coming back from abroad with degrees from second rate universities and colleges. Outside of the big cities companies may make fewer distinctions between different foreign universities. A degree from Fudan would be an impressive thing to all Chinese, but I've no idea what a potential future employer would think about a Taiwanese or US citizen choosing to study in Fudan.

• Would it be hard for me to find a part time job in Shanghai? Will the course load at Fudan be too heavy for me to balance school/work?

It would be illegal for you to work. I understand this is true whether you are there on a Taiwanese or US passport. However, whether it would be hard or not is a different question. You would be unlikely to get formal work unless you had good connections, perhaps through your Dad. Informally there is always likely to be work you could do, but it depends on your particular skills.

As for the last question, it's impossible to answer as we don't know how capable a student you are, just how much work your written Chinese needs, what you'll be studying etc. Plenty of Chinese students do part-time jobs, but that may not be a realistic comparison. And remember the students at Fudan will mostly be very bright. You need to keep up with them and perhaps have a lot of catching up to do on certain subjects like maths or politics which is compulsory for all undergraduates (unless you're on a special course designed for foreigners).

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•If I am enrolled full time at Fudan, can I still take some language courses to improve my writing ability?

Of course you can arrange your own classes privately. I don't think you'll be able to take any formal classes offered by Fudan except for the Chinese classes that constitute part of the undergrad courses for foreign students. However, since your Chinese is probably much better than most foreign students, these classes will probably be too easy for you, and I don't think you would learn much from them. Also, these classes are divided by department, so for example, there is a chinese class for law students, a chinese class for language students, and a couple of others. You can choose which ever one you wish to go to provided it doesn't clash with your other classes, but, it does mean that the emphasis will be on the subject of the department, so it may not be very useful for you, depending on what you are intending to study.

• I’ve heard that there are about 4000 international students enrolled at Fudan, about how many of them speak english? And are they all enrolled full time, not just to study abroad for a semester/year?

I couldn't put a figure on the number of international students, but 4000 sounds like rather an exageration to me. The foreign students broadly fall into two categories - those on language courses, and those on degree courses, and there seems to be very little intermixing of the two groups. There are many westerners on the language courses, but on degree courses, the vast majority (at a guess, I'd say more than 80%) are Korean, with the remainder mainly consisting of overseas Chinese. Whether the Koreans speak English or not is irrelevant since they rarely speak to anyone who is not Korean.

• If I want to get a decent job in china in the future, would it be better to get my degree at an average college in the states or at Fudan?

Probably at an average college in the US. Apart from Harvard, Yale and the like, most people in China won't have a concept of which colleges are good and which are only average. But generally speaking, having a degree from a western college is highly regarded in China.

• What is life like at Fudan? Is it VERY different from colleges in the states? Would it be hard for me to make friends because I’m not local Chinese?

I've not been to college in the States, so I can't answer exactly, but compared with university in the UK, I'd say there is quite a big difference. First of all, there is very little by way of social life and extra-curricular activities at Fudan. There is a fair number of clubs for various activities, but they run on nowhere near the scale that they do in British universities. From an academic point of view, Fudan also very much follows the tradition chinese 填鸭式 style of education. It is quite intense, with frequent having to cram for exams, only to forget everything again a few days later. You get very little feedback about anything you do. If you hand in an assignment, you will never see it again. In fact, you will probably never even know the grade you got for it. You will just get an overall grade for the course at the end. This is in contrast to the UK where you are likely to receive your assignment back with some comments from the tutor, giving you an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.

Also, regardless of what subject you apply for, you will have to take a lot of very irrelevant courses. As a foreigner, it's not quite as bad as for Chinese students, who also have to do politics and sports, but you will be doing, for example, computing, and for science degrees, advanced math, which is usually quite a headache for foreign students.

As for making friends, I think that depends on you. People are not going to throw themselves at you begging for friendship, so you will have to take the initiative. I don't think you will be ostracized for not being local, but many friendships are forged in the dormitories, and as a foreign student, you will not be put together with local students, so from that point of view it may be somewhat harder. Also, as I mentioned before, there is relatively little in terms of social activities, so therefore, a lot less socializing takes place.

• Would it be hard for me to find a part time job in Shanghai? Will the course load at Fudan be too heavy for me to balance school/work?

What kind of part-time work would you want? For westerners, finding part-time English teaching is very easy. For you, I don't really know what options you would have. But I'd say it would be quite a challenge combining any kind of semi-formal work with studying. (I say semi-formal because, as a student, you are not legally allowed to be employed.) I'm sure it could be done, probably at the weekends, since classes tend to be spread throughout the day on weekdays, but the workload can get pretty intense, particularly before exams, so I don't think it would be an easy option. Don't forget that working while studying in the US is a normal thing to do. In China, or at Fudan at least, practically none of the Chinese students will be working on the side, and these are some of the smartest students in China, so you will have stiff competition regardless.

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Have you only been in the US for 3 years? Sounds like you are tired of the US already. If LA is slow, wait until .... I mean the personal factors here are probably more important than the academic. There's no harm in giving Fudan a try and apply to the US schools, as well, as a backup.

What are you planning to study? That may be a factor in choosing between US schools and Chinese schools.

Socially, it might actually be better at Fudan. In most universities in the US, college social life mostly revolves around alcohol (and a little bit of pot), except for the very religious Christians, who only socialize with other Christians. So if you neither into beer nor the Bible, you might have a tough time at first, and it may take a while to find your niche.

For the Cal State schools (as opposed to UC's), most students are commuters, so socializing will be much more limited compared with schools where students live on campus.

My philosophy about academics is that teachers are important to provide inspiration, peers are important to provide motivation and competition, but most of the learning you will have to do on your own, either by reading, thinking or working through problems. For me, the best things educationally about US universities are the great libraries and the amount of free time one has to read. But it's a bit of sink-or-swim system in that you could spend all your free time playing video games or smoking weed, as well. The Chinese colleges are much more paternalistic and regimented. They still take attendance for college classes. Most classes undergrads take are required classes, not electives. There is the force feeding of information. If it's in the humanities, most of the stuff is bunk. You might want to try to major finance or management, a kind of middle ground between heavy math type majors and the rote-memorization bunk humanities majors they have here.

But what you learn in the classroom might not be all that important in the final analysis. For a lot of people, it's the friends they make, or the maturity they gain, in college that ends up making the biggest difference in their lives.

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According to the International Students Office, there are over 3,000 international students:

http://www.fso.fudan.edu.cn/en/downloads/Q&A.swf

A large percentage of them will be Korean or Japanese so you will usually need to speak with them in Chinese. If you want to meet English-speaking international students, you might want to live in the large international students' dorm located in the northwest corner of the Handan campus. (Or you could hang out at Helen's Cafe half a block from there.)

The Chinese students are friendly and usually are happy to meet foreigners. You can join student clubs or sign up for sports. However, if you are looking for a very active nightlife, there really isn't that much to do in the area. If you want to get downtown to do things, the closest subway stations are about a half hour walk from the middle of campus.

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Thank you all so much for helping me out! I did forget to mention that I’m going to major in business management or marketing, depending on what the school offers but definitely something in that field

@James Johnston, I’m hoping I’ll be put with other foreign students that are pursuing degrees or local Chinese students, but Fudan’s website didn’t say much about housing so I’m not quite sure. As for the comparison between Fudan and American colleges, I’ve heard that unless you went to Harvard or another world famous university, the employers will probably just put your school in the “average american college” category. But yeah, I’m not sure what they will think of a US citizen getting a degree from a Chinese university. Job wise, I have a 台胞證 (I believe it’s called a Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit?). If what I’ve heard isn’t wrong, I think that allows me to legally work in China? I’m definitely not going to try and get a full time job though perhaps just a part time one, so hopefully that won’t be a big issue

@anonymoose, haha I’m sure the Koreans are just as you described, since many of the Koreans in LA are just like that, I guess they stick together wherever they go. You mentioned that having a degree from a western college is highly regarded in China, do you think that it would be possible for me to go to Fudan & return to the states for my MBA? Is there a chance that grad schools in the states will accept me? I’m definitely aware of the 填鴨式 style of education in China, I’ve attended a local Taiwanese school before so I’m pretty sure I’ll be ok with that. As for making friends, even though I’m not shy at all, I’m a little worried. Like you said, I probably won’t be in the same dorms as local students, and I’m not exactly sure if I’ll be having a lot of classes with them either. After all, I want to meet both foreign and Chinese students so I guess I’ll have to see for myself if I do go. As for jobs, I’m not looking for anything formal, so part time jobs will do. Supposedly New Oriental hires part time teachers, but I’ve never been there so I don’t know if they’ll be willing to hire someone that’s not a westerner.

@gato, yeah I’ve only been here for three years since I moved here for school. The lifestyle here is obviously a lot slower than living in Shanghai, but I guess that’s not necessarily bad. If getting a degree from a western college will put me at an advantage when applying for jobs in China, I’m willing to stay here until I finish my studies. But if it won’t make much of a difference, or if I can get my undergrad degree from Fudan and still attend grad school in the States, I’d rather go to Shanghai now and start getting used to life there. What you said about US schools being a sink-or-swim system is definitely true, so I guess there are still pros and cons to both western and Chinese universities. I’ll definitely take your advice and apply to both Fudan and US schools =) If I end up in Fudan, I’ll probably be majoring in business, perhaps management like you said. Do you know if the business major there is any good?

@xiwang, do you know if I’ll be able to decide whether I want to room with local students or international students? And are there any buses that can take me downtown?

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Do you know if the business major there is any good?

Fudan has some pretty good professors in economics, so its business major should be alright. Qinghua and Beida have supposedly the two most selective MBA programs in China, so you might consider their undergraduate program, too.

I think if your eventual aim is to work in China in the business area, then the arguments are more on the side of coming to China for your undergrad if you can't get into a top US schools. For one thing, I don't think much of business as an academic discipline. I think it's more something you learn by doing than in the classroom. The open secret about MBA programs is that they are more of a place for networking and branding than studying. Social skills and friendships are more important for business than book smarts. If you are suited for it, then the earlier you come to China the better, if you are eventually headed here, anyway. The college years are a prime time to build up relationships.

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Just to reitterate, as a foreigner (which you are for all intents and purposes applying to Fudan) you will not be housed together with the local students. Either you can live in the foreign students' dormitory, or you can choose to live outside and make your own arrangements.

There are buses to downtown, of course, but traffic can be very slow. The far better option is the metro, and as I said, there is a stop (actually a couple of stops) about a ten minute walk from the university campus. The campus grounds are quite large, and the foreign student dormitory is furthest of all from the classrooms and the metro stations, so walking from there would take somewhat longer.

If you are on a regular undergrad course, most of your classes will be together with the chinese students.

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Job wise, I have a 台胞證 (I believe it’s called a Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit?). If what I’ve heard isn’t wrong, I think that allows me to legally work in China?

Seems you are right, which is interesting because a Taiwanese couple I know living in Nanjing have always complained that while they had come to the mainland because the husband had a job at the university, the wife had never been able to work in China. Perhaps there are some other forms of discrimination at play in her case.

I can't speak specifically about Fudan, so I'm sure anonymoose is right, but usually at the few Chinese universities I've spent time at you can choose whether you stay in the Chinese dormitories or the foreign dormitories. They will assume you want to be with the other foreigners, because this is what most people do want and the university can get more income this way, but you do usually have the option. Some hardcore students I have known have chosen to do this so they can get a more authentic and cheaper experience.

I use 'foreign' as shorthand here, because if you are in China on a 台胞證 then you'll be corrected if you refer to yourself as a foreigner and you'll be put in an administrative category with Hong Kong Chinese and Macau Chinese.

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do you know if I’ll be able to decide whether I want to room with local students or international students?

I'm not aware of any foreigners rooming with Chinese students at the Fudan dorms. However, you can ask the International Students Office.

At Fudan, the dorms are grouped together at different locations on campus. For example, the international student dorm is near some of the Ph.D. student dorms. If you want to meet Chinese students outside of your major, there's a canteen near the international student dorms where everyone living in that area can go to eat. If you really want to get to know Chinese students on an intimate basis, the Chinese student showers are near the canteen. (When I saw all of the Chinese students one day coming out of a building with wet hair, I mistakenly asked one of them if there was a swimming pool inside.)

As you may know, the subways in Shanghai all shut down by around 11 p.m. If you plan to make a habit of staying out late downtown, the cost of taxis back to Fudan can add up pretty quickly.

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