What is studying in the UK like for Chinese students?

Chinese studentsWhat are the challenges that Chinese students face as international students in the UK? Xiangping Du is an Academic Skills Tutor at the University of Hertfordshire, and in the first of two guest blog posts for Prepare for Success she shares her own experience of dealing with the challenges she faced as a student in the UK. Having studied in both a Chinese and English higher education environment, she understands the academic challenges Chinese students face when they come to study in an English context:

In the past 4 years of study, I have been through many ups and downs. Thanks to a high IELTS score, I did not have to do a pre-sessional preparation course; however, I felt that I was disadvantaged as I missed all the lessons on academic expectations and skills required in an English-speaking environment. Consequently, the first semester was the most challenging, when I had to manage different academic expectations while I was adjusting to a completely different physical environment.

Coming to study in the UK was considered a short-cut after I completed 3 years’ diploma in China. The idea was to spend 1 year on a final year of my undergraduate (UG) degree, and 1 year on my postgraduate (PG) degree. That is to say, within 2 years, I would be able to graduate with a Master’s degree, which would normally need 5 years if I chose to study in China. As a matter of fact, I ended up with the award of PhD after spending 4 years in the UK (1 year on UG and 3 years on a PhD).

The first day coming to the university was very memorable. I was surprised to see so many international students from so many different countries, with different accents and limited English. The first week was International Orientation Week, particularly organised for international students, and home students only came a week later for Induction Week. Nonetheless, l had fun during that week and I participated in various social activities, met many friends from different parts of the world and built my confidence speaking English with other international students.

After the course started, I was surprised that a textbook wasn’t given to us, only a few ‘Module Guides’ which contained only brief information about the course, the assessments, and a long reading list. There were no course textbooks like in China, and I was expected to read widely from books I found for myself, and also journal articles, news items and other database information as recommended in the reading list. The reading was just killing me at the beginning! I was not used to reading full English texts without any Chinese explanation / translation so it often took me ages to finish reading a recommended chapter or an article. Gradually, I learnt to read for ‘gist’ – skim and scan for information – instead of reading every single word, and I also kept a good dictionary with me.

Gradually, my improved reading helped with my writing, although the paraphrasing techniques I had to use in writing, as well as referencing, were other difficult things for me initially. When I used to study in China, I didn’t need to include any references in writing, or acknowledge sources, because we regarded citing others’ work as an honour for them, and we regarded things written by them as available for others to know and to use. However, I learnt that in the English academic world, referencing is a serious matter and if it is not followed properly, students can be accused of ‘plagiarism’ which is a serious academic misconduct issue and has serious consequences. Therefore, referencing is definitely something I had to quickly learn in the UK.

In her next guest blog post, Xiangping discusses more of the challenges she met whilst studying in the UK, especially in academic assignments and critical thinking. Xiangping has co-written Study Skills for Chinese Students with Michael Courtney, who is also an Academic Skills Tutor at the University of Hertfordshire. They have taught Chinese students in China and the West for many years, and using her own experience both as a student and as a Tutor, Xiangping shares strategies for effective study. Chinese students interested in purchasing the book via the Sage website can receive a 25% discount using this code: UK15SM04 (enter it in the promotions code box during the checkout process). This offer is valid until the 20th March 2015.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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9 Responses to What is studying in the UK like for Chinese students?

  1. rebe says:

    after reading this blog, I found out thant there is still lots of things that I need to be familiar with and practice before I go abroad for university. She really remains me about what is the most important thiongs that I would need in the future.

  2. Shi Xuelin says:

    I find this bolg very useful for me. It gives me a picture of the study life in UK. I can feel the study is quite different from Chinese. It would be better if there is information about the social life in UK, not only academic study.

  3. Leila says:

    This blog is really helpful for me!Studying abroad is really fun but challenge as well,and you should cope with language difficulties.I think It will be a great challenge and I am looking forward to studying in the university!

  4. Nanvy Meng says:

    After I read Xiaoping’s blog, I found out get involved into the university environment is very crucial. Initially, students must obey different cultures and regulations. Then we should talk and make friends from different countries. Moreover, a reading list is very common and very important, students need to adapt this. The most significant point is ‘plagiarism’ this is the most serious mistake in foreign countries. From my point of view, if we obey all the points above, we can adapt our new lives very quickly.

  5. Emily says:

    Studying in the UK is completely different between studying in China.International will face many problems, like students need to write the references in writing in the UK and the challenge from the confidence speaking English. Study in the pre-sessional preparation course and Orientation Week will be good choose to help International student build their confidence of communicating in English.

  6. Rip says:

    I do konw a lot of useful information from this article, especilly in improing my reading is very important for me before i go aborad. I am a little shy in speaking, and i am going to practise how to talk to others to hlpe me join the real English environment as fast as the English people.

  7. James says:

    The article mentioned a lot of diffculities that international students faced when they going to Britain. It is really helpful for mr to notice them before going to UK

  8. Thank you all for your comments! Xiangping’s next guest post will appear on this blog next week, so please keep looking at our site and we hope you find it useful!

    Andrew (from the Prepare for Success team)

  9. Shaina Arora says:

    Wow..!! Great information Thanks for sharing it …