Student associations help relieve stress

Overseas-education | Charlie Ng 16 Nov 2021

Coming from hong Kong, David Yu didn't think there would be much of a culture shock going to study in the mainland. "But I found out life has strayed away from my initial imagination," said the third-year economics student at Renmin University of China.

Air pollution is one of the concerns when it comes to studying or living in Beijing, said Yu, but since more environmental policies started being implemented in 2015, the air quality is much better now.

The language requirement for Putonghua in universities is not that stringent as long as students' understanding is good and Yu found northern Chinese accents easy to adapt to.

Transport can be tricky, though. In Beijing, it seems to be peak hour for trains round the clock, so "I rent a bike or take a bus," said Yu.

In terms of student life, he said it was a common belief among top-tier university students that a master's degree is the minimum required to excel.

So some see the undergraduate program as just another four years of high school.

"Even those who don't have an ambition will be forced to study under the competitive atmosphere or they'll gradually convert to this religion."

That's why, he said, it's common for students from Hong Kong or Macau to find it difficult to balance school and social life.

But he found joining student associations helped preserve his peace of mind amid this struggle.

As the leader of the planning sector in an inter-college NGO, Yu helps organize events ranging from orientation camps and departmental visits to conferences on Hong Kong-China issues - something he found very rewarding.

Hong Kong students are highly valued in the mainland and that's why his association has gained a lot of attention and support.

For instance, Yu has had opportunities to meet political officials and the peoples' political committee members in representing the association. "I see this as a rare platform to steel myself and hone my skills."

Receiving internship opportunities in country-owned companies is another advantage of joining a student association. There are many decent positions open exclusively to Hong Kong students.

Yu has previously worked at a holding company and is now working at China Merchants Bank with the aim of exploring the world of business and finance in the mainland.

In China it is believed that Hong Kong students have a good command of English.

Yu, who graduated from an international high school in Guangzhou, said that's why one of his duties is to translate "classified agreements."

Duties vary within the sector and with the size of the company. Yu said that the more sophisticated work is generally for postgraduates as companies deem them to be more qualified.

The limitations of his qualification are disappointing but Yu is enjoying his life as an intern. "They always keep some maotai and fine cigarettes in the office in case of business dining," he said of one of the interesting business cultures in China.

But he is looking forward to coming back home.

"I have stayed in China long enough to understand the culture, so I think I'll come back to Hong Kong for my postgraduate studies."

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