May 2016

Beijing is a Blessing for globe-trotting student

Read time: approx 1 mins

Blessing Mutamba never thought she would end up in Beijing, learning Mandarin and walking the Great Wall of China, when she signed up for an Events Management degree. 

The globe-trotting 20-year-old found herself in the Chinese capital after successful applying for a place on the UK’s Study China Programme. 

Blessing was one of 84 students from 1,200 applicants to secure a place – and gave the opening speech when the group arrived at Beijing Normal University. 

“I thought going to China would be the ultimate overseas experience, throwing myself in at the deep end,” says Blessing. 

“When I applied, I didn’t really expect to get picked. I was really excited but nervous to be so far away from home. I remember landing in Beijing and having butterflies in my stomach because I didn’t know what to think.” 

The nerves soon gave way to excitement as Blessing embarked on the experience of a lifetime some 5,000 miles from home.

The three-week programme, managed by the University of Manchester and funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, gives students the opportunity to meet Chinese students, academic staff, families and businesses and get a fascinating insight into daily life in the world’s most populous nation.

Blessing and her fellow UK students attended Mandarin lessons in the morning with a programme of activities and lectures in the afternoon.

“The Mandarin lessons were very interactive. Even though it was a rather challenging task to get our heads around all the different sounds, tones and characters of the language, going to class was something to look forward to.

“The teachers were all so enthusiastic and on hand to help with any questions to do with where to find the best Beijing roast duck right through to how to pronounce a word we had learnt in class.”

The Beijing Normal University arranged a number of excursions including a trip to The Great Wall of China, watching acrobatics shows, visiting the opera and spending a day with a Chinese family in their home.

Blessing, originally from Mutare, Zimbabwe, added: “With all this crammed into our timetables, we still got to do some exploring of our own. My friends and I went to see the 2008 Olympic Park, The Lama Temple, China’s trendy shopping district in Sanlitun and the night markets at Wangfujing, to name just a few.

“It was strange to see familiar sights half way around the world in the midst of unfamiliar sites such as snack bars selling roast scorpions and starfish,” recalls Blessing. “I didn’t venture into the more adventurous street food selections such as donkey meat burgers, but I heard from others on the programme that they went down a treat.

“Being in China as a foreigner wasn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. People loved seeing foreigners and we were frequently asked to join in family pictures with complete strangers.”

Blessing said she fell in love with Beijing and hopes to return. “It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I cannot express my gratitude enough to the Student Services team who facilitated my trip through the UCB Access to Learning Fund. I would definitely recommend the Study China Programme to anyone who is considering doing it.”

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