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Written by: Jennifer Kumar, Cultural Adjustment Coach
Monday, August 03, 2009

An Indian in China: Interview with Kochi-ite Sneha Krishnan
Interview by: Jennifer Kumar


Building on Sichuan University, ChinaTo Sneha, her life is quite normal. But, to me, looking in and seeing an Indian studying in China, it’s new to me! Though it’s not new for Indians to study in China (see interview with D. Mirpuri), it’s a new piece of information for me. Though China and India are closer on the map than America and India, I was wondering how the life, culture and expectations are different for Indian students in China. I noticed myselfwondering things about Sneha like people used to wonder about me living in India. For instance, if Sneha eats Chinese food! Well, here’s an interesting interview with Sneha Krishnan from Kochi, Kerala who’s studying medicine in China!


Sneha, growing up in India, many students decide to study abroad for higher studies. What were the criteria you used to choose to study abroad in China?
Sneha says: I went to China via an agency, they submitted my 12 grade marks. I think the required pass percentage is 60%.

Many Indians I know decide to study abroad in Western countries. When I mention I know an Indian studying abroad in China, they ask me to repeat myself. They find it hard to believe. Do you get this reaction, too? Are there other Indians in your college in China? Are more Indians going to China? What other nationalities study as matriculated students in China?
Sneha says: Indian students prefer going to US ,Europe, Australia etc.. for their graduation / post graduation courses, the number of students opting for China is very less. However the number of students joining Chinese universities is increasing every year.

What is the name of the college you study in? What city and state is it in? What is the student population? Are there a lot of International students? From which countries do they come?
Map of China/ Asia
Sneha says: I study in Sichuan University in Chengdu city, Sichuan province. There are more than 300 international students studying medicine there, mostly they are from Asian countries like India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal. We also have students from western countries like America and New Zealand. There are other foreigners who have come to study language and culture too but I do not know the number.

How do local people approach foreigners? Are they used to foreigners?
Sneha says: Well we are stared at a lot but that's expected of any country! There is a communication gap since the locals speak only Chinese. They do try to help the way they can but mostly they try to stay away, they aren't hostile though. There are more and more foreigners coming in nowadays.

What aspects of life there was most easy to adjust to? What are the most difficult?
Sneha says: The cities are well developed and provide an easy lifestyle. The food takes some getting used to since its different from what you would expect. It pays to get to know a bit more about their culture, it makes life better. The most difficult I would say is learning their language.

How did you prepare for life in China? Did you read books, talk to people? What aspects of the cultural adjustment were you prepared for, which ones were a culture shock and which ones are you yet to figure out?
Sneha says: I read a few online documents before I left. Also the agency had spoken to us a bit about the college life and given us CDs about the university life there. For me the place seemed a bit more familiar after seeing the videos, something which I had read helped some did not, everything was new though so I can’t really say. Everything was new to me!

Does the college have an office to help International Students? How is it helpful?
Sneha says:
Yes they do. The international office is in all the three campuses in our university. We also have a supervisor who looks after our batch. The office of the supervisor is in our dorms and they live their too and are thus available 24*7 for any and every need.

I assume the classes are in English? Is that true? Do you need to know the local language inside or outside the college or is English enough? What is the local language in your area?
Sneha says: Yes the classes are in English but we do need to learn Chinese to talk with the locals (store owners, restaurants) and in our case we have it as part of our course since we need to communicate with our patients. The local language in Chengdu city is Sichuanhua. It is a little different from Mandarin.

What is your program of study? How does the schedule of classes (papers) compare to what is given in India for the same program of study?
Sneha says: There are a few differences in the style of teaching between the 2 countries. The subjects taught in various semesters differ, the clinical period in the course differs. There are many differences, however, the basic subjects are the same.

Where do you stay- on or off campus? What are benefits of each?
Building on Sichuan University, ChinaSneha says: I stay on campus, in the dormitory. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other because living outside is cheaper since the dorm fees for international students are high. However the facilities in the dorm are good. We however have a few privacy issues. Living outside will teach u a little more about responsibility since we have to pay bills, deal with our neighbours, landlords etc. Some people prefer apartments some prefer dorms.

What is a typical schedule like? What months of the year is class in session?
Sneha says: An academic year is divided into two semesters with summer break (July-August) and winter breaks (January -February) in between. The classes would start at 8 in the morning and finish at the latest by 5. We have classes only on weekdays. Major holidays would be labor day, spring fest, autumn fest new years and national holidays. We don’t have international holidays like Christmas, Easter etc..

Are teaching methods similar or different than in India? What was some adjustments you made to be academically successful in a new culture?
Sneha says: In China we have powerpoint presentations whereas in India they just have lectures. In China the work load is lesser and the teaching is more comfortable. To adjust to the new teaching methods I asked the help of my seniors and asked for their suggestions. There weren’t many adjustments I had to make, and they weren’t difficult.

What are the menu options like for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Do they serve international food there too? What are some of your favorite dishes? How is mealtime etiquette similar or different to what you have experienced in India?
Sneha says: The university canteen serves only Chinese food but there are Multi-cuisine restaurants. The main food is rice and noodles. The Sichuan delicacy is called the 'hot pot'. The spices they use are mostly what we've seen with a few new ones. The vegetables used are mostly green leafy kinds. They use chopsticks of-course and that is something we are not used to. Their food timings are also a little different. They have their supper at 6:30 in the evening whereas here (In India) we would have it after 8. I’ve gotten used to the food there and I love the variety!

Thank you for your time, Sneha. If you would like to contact Sneha, her e-mail ID is: ksnehak@gmail.com

Update: Sneha has graduated in 2011- see this!!

Image Credits:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/yunmeng/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Image of China/Asia area map courtesy wikimedia. Click on image for bigger size.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/yunmeng/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Sichuan University, Chengdu by Yun Meng on flickr.


Related Posts/Links:

Do you want to be a part of this interview series? Join my Authentic Journeys Facebook Fan Page and be featured! :)


Would you like to participate in the cross-cultural interviews here on Alaivani!? We'd be honored to showcase your life story here!
More information on this post, "Teach Us About Your Culture".

See an archived list of cross-cultural interviews here.



Life in China.. A new place.. A new life - D. Mirpuri
Mirpuri says, "” It is here that you will see that the poor have nearly next to nothing, and the rich have all.” Interesting that is what Westerners to India say, and an “Easterner to an Eastern country” says it too!!!

Indian Doctors, Made Abroad, The Hindu (Hyderabad), August 2009

Sichuan University is no small university! With over 70,000 on three campuses, it is a learning city in itself. Learn more about the learning metropolis, Sichuan University.

Get an idea of the size of the campus, by seeing the map. The map is labeled in Chinese.

Sichuan University Overseas Students Information

Indian Students Find New Mecca- Rediff.com 2004

Chinese Answer to Indian Students’ Medical Dreams- The Hindu 2006
With high academic standards, more available seats and an easier immigration process, Indian students increasingly are East-bound.

Students Flock to China – China Daily 2008

An Indian is not alone studying MBBS in China, with a quoted 6,000 already studying in China in 2008, you will find someone to relate to in your own culture!

YouTube Video- Indian Students dance at Sichuan University 2005- Medley of Hare Ram song.

Thank you for reading Alaivani.com!


Updated July 2011

Copyright ©2009 Jennifer Jayanthi Kumar


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