China is becoming an increasingly popular destination for foreign students. Many come to study at Chinese universities, while others participate in study abroad programs run by overseas institutions of higher learning.Here at the Ctrip-sponsored China Travel Blog, we've been fortunate to have a number of talented interns work with us in recent years, the majority from NYU Shanghai (you can find out more about them here).Kush is our newest intern. He'll be learning about the travel business in China this semester while sharing with us his impressions of life as a student in China. >>>
One of the great opportunities I have studying at NYU Shanghai and having access to the East China Normal University resources and faculty is the chance to take Chinese culture classes.
We have been offered a range of opportunities ranging from learning to play the guzheng (similar to a harp), the erhu (similar to a cello), to taking classes in martial arts, painting, calligraphy and cooking. I enrolled in the guzheng and martial arts classes.
The guzheng is a very tranquil instrument. It's sound is peaceful and creates a relaxing atmosphere. For those with knowledge of music, it's different from Western instruments in that it goes by a major pentatonic scale. To come up with the notes in between, one has to "bend" the notes. It has 21 strings so it ranges to four octaves.
I chose this instrument partly because of homesickness. At home I play the guitar and I could not bring that here. I've missed the feeling of playing so I decided to learn a new instrument here. I chose this one because I liked how it sounded. Traditionally, it is seen as a feminine instrument (although Confucius popularized it), but it doesn't matter. It has made me forget about the guitar. Ideally, I would love to bring this instrument back, but we'll have to see how things work with airline restrictions.
For my first class, I was the only male and the entire lesson was in Chinese. My skills in Chinese are extremely elementary, but for anyone interested, do not let that be a deterrent. I had no problems learning and it is easy to pick up. With the right amount of practice anything is possible.
To any music enthusiasts, I would definitely recommend trying out different instruments here. Western style is very different from Eastern style; by learning both, it widely enhances one's music repertoire and perspective.
The other class I am taking is martial arts. This is the type of fighting seen in Jackie Chan movies. It's a great discipline and exercise.
Many people wish they had the skills to do what martial artists can do. The best way to do so is with instruction. It is another worthwhile investment if you choose to spend time in China. In class, you learn how to make your body more agile, flexible and stronger. It works different muscles than you would use in the gym as you are required to hold poses and use your entire body in different routines. And best of all, it is very pragmatic as it can be used for self-defense.
If there is one piece of advice to give, take classes, which really expose you to Chinese culture. There is a big difference between visiting a place and living as a tourist versus truly diving into a culture. The latter opens your perspective and opens up a new world beyond just tourist sites and cuisine.