Written by (作者): Eline Moerland
Photos by (图片来源): Veronika Khasanova
I can not even begin to imagine that it has been over a year now since I was sitting behind my computer in the Netherlands, searching for Masters degrees in Australia. Yes, Australia. I was desperate to go down under, meet some kangaroos and study at one of the country’s many universities. Well, it turns out it is a pretty expensive place to go.
At the time, I was about to give up my plans of studying abroad, far away from Europe. But then the internet shed light on this British university in Ningbo, China. Well, at least it suited the criteria of being ‘far far’ away, but that was virtually all I knew about this mysterious city. As I had no reason not to apply, I figured that I might as well give it a shot and started writing my personal statement. A few days later, I walked down the road and put a little envelope in the mailbox, hoping that it would reach its far away destination.
Having completely forgotten about my spontaneous decision to send out my application, I suddenly received an e-mail from the University of Nottingham, Ningbo Campus. “We are glad to inform you that you have been accepted to the Masters degree of International Management”. I can’t recall how long I stared speechless at the screen, reading the sentence over and over again. From the corner of the office, my colleague walked up to me and asked, “Eline, are you alright? You look a bit pale.”
Now, here I am, sitting on my bed in Ningbo, no longer noticing how hard the bed actually is. It feels like I stepped onto a long rollercoaster ride: it gets you all dizzy and nervous but at the same time you are feeling alive and excited. My experience in China can hardly be described on paper, but I will do my best to give you an impression of what it is like to study in Ningbo.
As part of my careful preparation, I looked up Ningbo on the internet, since no one around had ever heard of this place. Wikipedia informed me that it is a mid-sized Chinese city, meaning it is the home of eight times the population living in Amsterdam. And still growing, fast. Every time you blink, a new building climbs its way up to the sky. It is only in China that they manage to build a 57-story skyscraper in just nineteen days.
In my opinion, the beauty of Ningbo is that it represents China as a rapidly developing and modern country, but at the same time gives you a taste of the traditional Chinese culture. You can go shopping at H&M and Zara in Tianyi Square and only a few blocks away you may spot a Chinese local growing some herbs in the garden of their fragile little house, which is now surrounded by newly built highways. Ningbo looks completely different from the way it did a few years ago, and it will look completely different again in just a few months from today.
Then, there are the people. Although I have been here for quite a while, I still am a long way away from completely understanding the Chinese people and their unique culture. When you enter a Chinese library, half of the students are literally asleep on their desk. When you enter the gym, you barely see anyone in a sports outfit. Instead, you see them running around in their jeans or skirts, if you are lucky you might even spot someone working the treadmill on their heels. When you enter a room in KTV (Chinese karaoke hall), you will see the Chinese transform into loopy rock stars as soon as they get hold of a microphone.
Despite the fact that their behavior seems a bit ‘different’ to me at times, it has to be said that they are always willing to offer a helping hand and eager to get to know foreigners. Every time I got lost in Ningbo, people found a way to send me in the right direction by simply drawing a map or letting me follow them. All the nights that we hit the bar street of Lao Waitan (the Old Bund), we met locals who wanted to buy us drinks, add us on WeChat and //ganbei// (bottoms up) several drinks with us. Although the language barrier renders any deep conversation, they will make sure that you wake up the next morning properly hungover and with a thousand ‘selfies’ of you and your new Chinese friends on your phone.
So many unexpected things happened to me since I arrived in China. Just a few months ago a stranger approached me on the street and asked me whether I wanted to do some modeling for advertisements. As I am only 5 ft 6 and certainly not the skinny type, this kind of took me by surprise. But before I knew it, I was starring in commercials on YouTube and found a picture of myself promoting a product on EBay.
Some things can and will only happen to you in Ningbo. There is simply only one way of truly finding out what Ningbo has in store for you: get your self on a plane and take a deep dive into the city of endless possibilities. You will meet so many new people, all of whom have an interesting story to share and have different perspectives on things than you. And it is worth talking to every single one of them. Ningbo has helped me to break out of my little bubble and explore a bit more of this beautiful world we live in. One thing I have learned is that it is true what they say; life only begins at the end of your comfort zone. So make sure you don’t get stuck in that.
is a 24-year-old Dutch student. After high school she went to Guatemala to work with children as a volunteer and learn Spanish. This first taste of travelling left her longing for more. When she came back home she started an international degree in Economics, which allowed her to study in Spain for six months. She finished her bachelor’s degree in the Netherlands and is currently doing research in Ningbo for her Master’s degree at UNNC.