2018Jul 9

SPAD in China Series: University Life

Katie Profile Picture copyBy: Katie Pittman

Structured, rigid, focused. These are just some of the words that come to mind when learning about university life in China. Our group of students and professors had the opportunity to stay at the Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics (ZUFE) in Hangzhou, China for the first nine days of our stay in China. Students from the university accompanied us to all of our activities and outings and as a result, we were able to get insight into what it is like to be a student in China. While there are many parallels that can be drawn between university in China and in Canada, there are significant differences that became apparent.

Undergraduate programs are typically four years with students beginning their studies at age 18 or 19 which is very similar to Canada. Another similarity to the structure at Laurentian University is that a school year at ZUFE is divided into two semesters. Their school year starts in September with a month off in January and two months off in July and August. While Laurentian students typically take five classes per semester, ZUFE students take more than double that number as they are enrolled in eleven classes each semester. Each year, they must also complete a comprehensive report on a major economic problem that they are to work on throughout the school year. Laurentian and most Western universities put an emphasis on a well-rounded university experience that encompasses more than just academic performance. However, in China, the focus is placed more heavily on academic excellence. There is significant pressure imposed on Chinese students to succeed and less than perfect performance is viewed as unacceptable.

In Canada, mandatory physical education class typically ends after grade nine. This is not the case at ZUFE and in other Chinese universities. Students are required to take physical education class every year of their undergraduate program. At ZUFE in particular, they take swimming class for one semester each year and are given the choice of what sport they want to study in the other semester. They have the choice between sports such as the martial arts, badminton, table tennis and basketball. In addition to these mandatory classes, they must also complete mandatory morning runs. Based on their performance in the previous semester, students at ZUFE must complete a specific number of 2 mile runs each semester. These runs must be completed between 6am and 8am each morning and must be finished within a specific length of time or the run does not count. We thought this would be hilarious if implemented at Laurentian as we could not imagine having some our students run every morning, especially that early. The strict nature of ZUFE was further evidenced during our campus tour. In order to enter certain facilities, such as the fitness areas, students must seek permission from a teacher. We were very surprised by this discovery and the students’ lack of independence as we are able to move freely around our campus at Laurentian as long as we have a student card.

Picture 4Another apparent difference was that living in residence is mandatory. While students in Canada are given the choice as to whether they live on or off campus, students at ZUFE must stay in residence even if they live walking distance from the university. There are four people per residence room compared to a maximum of two per shared room at Laurentian. There are also regulations that require students to stay on campus from Monday to Friday each week and there are imposed curfews. The residence areas, as well as the university building areas, are gated with security stationed outside. If a student is not in his or her building by curfew, there are serious repercussions. These are drastic differences when comparing university life to that in Canada and at Laurentian. Our students have the ability to live off campus and come and go as often as they please and at any time of day. This strict curfew contributes to the very structured life of the students at ZUFE. There is lack of freedom as students are required to spend much more of their time studying. However, similar to Laurentian, ZUFE has many different clubs and societies in which students can take part. They also have varsity sports teams that compete against other universities. However, some of the sports they compete in are different than ours as they have teams for martial arts, badminton and table tennis along with the more typical track and field and basketball.Picture 3

Overall, there are many similarities but significant differences between university life in China and in Canada. It was an incredible opportunity to be able to spend time with ZUFE students and discuss the differences between our two universities. There are many more rules and regulations that are imposed on the students at ZUFE, however, there are many aspects of their university life that are very similar to that at Laurentian. It would be quite funny to adopt some of the same rules at Laurentian as I cannot imagine telling some of our students that they need to be in residence by 8:30pm and that they need to run every morning at 6am. From what I have learned, I am very grateful for the freedom and independence we are given at Laurentian. Our students are able to succeed academically while enjoying a well-rounded university experience.

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