Being a star in China for a day

InterviewRowan Watson will always remember when he became a star in China. It only lasted for a day but that’s still something to share with your friends. In 2013/2014, he studied at Beijing University of Technology. Halfway through his year in China he decided to visit his friend’s hometown in Southern China. He gave English lessons in a primary school there and then decided to enjoy a market.

‘While at this market near my friend’s hometown, a reporter from the local news station interviewed me in Chinese, just for being a foreigner! I was a local celebrity for one day after the interview aired in Zixing.’

When you think about China, you may picture grey, polluted skies in Beijing, but some days the sky is as blue as Australia’s. One of the common sights in Beijing you will enjoy is crowds of people filling up the streets. If you want to be able to communicate with locals, learning Chinese may be a good start.

That’s what Roman Watson did. ‘I used to have a level 5 Chinese class. The classes were all cultural melting pots with students from Korea, France, Russia, Japan and Vietnam (with me representing Australia!).’

Roman Watson spent a lot of time handing out fliers on his campus for the English Association.

‘We got lots of students to sign up, eager to learn English with their new foreigner friends.’

After classes, everyone loved to go to PBD, Roman’s favourite bar for Friday night drinks, pizza and dancing.

‘Also the only time we’d see knives and forks at the table,’ he jokes.

For him, menus remained an endless source of entertainment due to the Chinese/English mixed language. Weird examples?

‘Fired lactation pigeons, Qishan smell of urine dried noodles, and Japanese according to bum cuttlefish monsters.’ Bon appetite!

As for dancing, Roman Watson embraced K‐pop songs and performed a dance at the New Year’s Party.

‘One of the best memories of my exchange, all the practices finally coming together as the closing performance of the night.’

In China, you’ll discover a vibrant culture. Roman Watson took Tai Chi and calligraphy classes.

‘I learnt to paint the basic strokes with our calligraphy brushes.’

But cultural differences may be challenging. You have to know, for example, that Christmas is just not a big thing in China. However, Roman celebrated it with the Christmas party held by the English Association.

English-course-regionalImmersion was an important part in his exchange.

‘One of the more rewarding experiences of doing this exchange was becoming so familiar with a foreign city that I got to be my parents’ very own tour guide when they visited me and the Great Wall,’ Roman adds proudly.

Spending a year in a crowded city inhabited by more than 20 million people can be tiring.

‘After spending a year in the big city I enjoyed my tour of Yunnan in the south of China, known as China’s most beautiful province. I took various photos like one of a man herding his cows through the tiny town of Nuodeng.’

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