Vanessa Nana Ofosua, a final year Political Science and Chinese student at the University of Ghana, took advantage of an exchange opportunity to travel to and study in China for a year.
She was based at Taiyuan University of Technology (太原理工大学), in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, from October 2019 to August 2020.
Vanessa travelled to China because she wanted to build and better her understanding and speaking of the Chinese language by personally interacting with natives of the Asian country.
“I wanted to learn more of the Chinese language, I wanted to speak more with the natives and I knew studying at Taiyuan would give me that push to make me want to study more.”
“I also embarked on the exchange program for the exposure, to learn new stuff and to able to accommodate different people from different backgrounds, to be able to just have a different feel from the usual one that I am used to. I just wanted to have something different and see how best I will be able to fit in. I just wanted something different,” she told Kuulpeeps.
Vanessa, however, least expected that her time in China will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. From late January until June of 2020, most parts of China were on lockdown – a measure taken by the Chinese government to curb the spread of the virus.
Living in China for just three months before the lockdown was announced, Vanessa indicated that it was a difficult period of time for her.
“It was quite difficult being in China with the whole lockdown. Because I know we were there for like three months and then we were locked up for over 7 months I think. So it was very, very difficult. I had friends who really didn’t go out during the semester because they were waiting for vacation so they can go out and sadly for them, now they couldn’t go out because we had lockdown. Our school gates were locked, we couldn’t go out and it was crazy,” she narrated.
The lockdown, however, was not the only challenging experience for Vanessa. She also had to deal with racial discrimination from some Chinese people.
“It will baffle you to know that Chinese people, most of them have not seen a black person before. So when they see you coming they either run away from you or they take pictures of you or come and ask you silly questions like ‘If you bath, does your water black?’ and ‘If I touch you will I become black?’ or ‘Is it true that you live on trees?’, ‘Is it true that China is the one taking care of Africans?’… very silly, silly things and you don’t blame them because they are cut out from the world. Anything they hear or anything they see or listen to is being controlled by the Chinese government,” she said.
But aside from the negative impact of COVID-19 and racial discrimination, Vanessa enjoyed her time in China, visiting almost every restaurant in Shanxi province and making amazing friends.
“I think I went to almost every restaurant in my province… I’m a foodie so, I think I went to almost every restaurant there.”
“If I will get to China again, I will probably go because of the food. I really enjoyed their food. It’s quite healthy and different from the Ghanaian dishes which have a lot of carbohydrates. Over there [China], they have varieties that you can choose from.”
“Also when we dressed in our colourful clothes [African print outfits], they [Chinese people] looked at us in a very wired way, but for me it made me feel proud to be an African or a Ghanaian. There were also Africans and Ghanaians there that made me feel at home.”
“I also made a lot of Ghanaian friends that I’m really proud to call family.”
She added: “I was part of NUGS China [National Union of Ghana Students – China] and I was also part of a jama group that give Ghanaian athletes morale whenever we had sports competitions… It was fun!”
After highlighting all the amazing experiences she had while studying in China, Vanessa went on to encourage other students to take advantage of exchange opportunities
“I would advise every student to go on exchange programs if they have the chance to because it makes you understand exactly what you are studying. It gives you more foresight. It just helps you to practice more. It’s a very good experience and everybody should take this opportunity when if there’s one.”
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