I have never written a diary in English before. I feel so excited about this new opportunity, but also worried about whether I will be able to express myself clearly or not. Writing a blog is quite different from writing an essay or dissertation. It is an informal piece of writing and requires more personal insights. It is not enough just to tell the facts indifferently. This part—expressing my emotional and personal thoughts—is pretty difficult for me, but I will try my best to work on that. After all, practice makes perfect!
So far, I have spent two months in Edinburgh. I am getting used to this fresh city and its distinct education system, and I feel more confident at dealing with problems independently. I guess this is huge progress for me, because when I was in China, I always counted on my parents for everything. I am really glad I chose to study abroad. I have to push myself to move forward and grow up, and I guess the best way to achieve this goal is to live on my own and stay far away from my parents' protection.
I find there is some conservative bias about overseas students in Chinese society. Some people will think that only students with poor grades and no future in the Chinese education system will choose to study abroad. There is a belief that these students are born into rich families and go abroad to avoid fierce competition, to get easier access to a degree. When I see such comments online, I feel really angry and upset. It is unfair to draw these conclusions so easily and casually without knowing the real experience of overseas students or doing actual research.
This kind of stereotyping makes 'overseas students' almost a derogatory label. However, based on what I see here at the University of Edinburgh, and what I have heard from my friends at other UK universities, I believe overseas students cherish their educational opportunities and apply time and effort to improving themselves, all while fighting against feelings of loneliness and homesickness as they adjust to a new country.
Taking myself and my close friend Lily as an example, we both really value this precious one-year study opportunity, and we often encourage each other to get out of our comfort zone. To be honest, it was pretty difficult for me to keep up with the other students in my class. I needed time to adapt myself to a completely English-speaking environment. All the learning materials are in English. All the lectures or discussions are in English. Sometimes it is hard to understand what people are saying and to finish reading tasks on time, let alone express myself confidently and clearly in English.
Instead of getting depressed and doing nothing, Lily and I decided to change this situation. We went to the library together on weekends to preview and review reading materials; we joined the Edinburgh Award and Professional Development programme to equip ourselves with competitive skills for our future career; and we attended interesting and helpful lectures to help us gain insights and open our minds to new concepts. We often felt exhausted, but satisfied and happy at the end of a day.
It is not just us. Other students from China are all working hard to make progress in their studies. I often meet a lot of friends when I am in the library. I often see their posts about studying on their WeChat Moments. What I observe and experience is that many overseas students are putting in great effort. I hope over time that the outdated bias about overseas students will change and people start to see our endeavours.
I hope that with an increasing number of Chinese overseas students, people can get closer to the real-life experience of the majority of us, and realise that we do not try to avoid or escape from anything by studying abroad. Instead, we made up our mind to face a more challenging adventure.
Jiayin Ji is a student on the MSc in Marketing at the University of Edinburgh Business School.