Isabelle Davage, from the UK, is currently pursuing her MSc Media and Communication at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. She shares with us her experience of studying in China, how it has broadened her cultural perspective, and how it has helped with her personal and professional growth.
- Why did you choose to study at XJTLU?
I heard about XJTLU from a Chinese friend who completed his bachelor’s degree here. Immediately, I was tempted. My original plans to study abroad had been cancelled due to Covid, but seeing the world remained on the agenda.
I joked that since my bachelor’s degree was in “media, communication and culture”, pursuing my master’s in media and communication here at XJTLU would provide me with the “culture” aspect first-hand.
Many people have asked me why I would come to China to do a University of Liverpool degree when I’m from the UK. But this study abroad experience has been one full of comfort. The familiar teaching style gives me the strength to address the big adjustment that studying in a totally different culture often brings.
I am the only foreigner in my class, but the environment has been warm and welcoming from the start. I think those who choose to study here all have a similar mindset that leads to what people suggest university should be about: finding your “people”. This experience thus far has provided me with friendships that cross cultural boundaries with those from a wide range of backgrounds. The international community here is tight-knit and provides a “home away from home” support system.
- Why did you decide to choose your programme? What topics/modules have you found most useful?
The choice to pursue this degree programme initially came easily as a very direct continuation from my bachelor’s degree. However, the amazing Head of the Department, Dr Tabe Bergman, changed it this year to have two pathways. I was faced with a challenge to go for my comfort in theory or go a practical route. I decided to opt for the latter, essentially plunging myself into the deep end. The pathway is undoubtedly in its developmental stage. However, for the vast majority, any skills you could need have equivalent classes to support you. As people come from many degree backgrounds and their skill levels are not even, so the module leaders do their best to cater to that.
As for modules, I would say the Public Relations module with Dr Julie Bilby was extremely useful for real-life practical applications. For theoretical criteria, Research Methods with Dr Angela Lewis provided a rigorous and challenging preparation for the impending final project.
After studying with Dr Bilby, I have now become interested in going into public relations as a future career. Previously, I thrived in academia, but this module showed me a realistic career path that still interested me.
- Can you tell us about your experience studying at XJTLU?
My experience has been an eventful one, especially with all the challenges that Covid provided.
Going from a country that had essentially moved on to one that was in a transitional stage made studying abroad a larger adjustment than it would have been otherwise. But in this sense, XJTLU provided me with a lot as a foreigner. The global team supported all of us as best they could and even helped us on an emotional level.
XJTLU holds a lot of events that are ideal for meeting people outside of your classes, as well as perfect accommodations. This is how the international community here thrives.
Isabelle Davage (in the middle of the back row) with her friends
- Any special memories, or places to go on campus?
For me, the campus is so beautiful and so magical that every time I arrive, I notice something new.
Everyone has their go-to place for study. For me, it’s the café on the fifth floor at International Business School Suzhou. It provides a comfortable spot that’s not as quiet as the library or the classrooms but focused enough to not get too distracted. Not to mention, bubble tea and cake being available is a major plus. Even the free stickers you can choose from have been the boost I needed many times throughout the exam season.
- What do you think of life in Suzhou?
The lifestyle is Suzhou is ideal for me. As someone who grew up in the countryside, I was fearful that since Suzhou was a city, it would be hectic and the people unfriendly. But somehow, Suzhou has all the best parts of country living with friendly people and nature all around. There is many lakes and parks to be enjoyed, and the people are leisurely and not as busy as people in Shanghai despite both being a first-tier city. But, the pleasure of Suzhou extends to Shanghai, since it’s so close that if me and my friends felt like enjoying the city, Shanghai is only 30 minutes away.
Suzhou is a modern city with beautiful architecture and has everything at your doorstep and definitely contributes to why I love XJTLU so much. It’s comfortable for foreigners, and you can develop your Chinese language skills in a safe and nurturing environment. The more you want to learn, the more you will, with many kind store owners who are patient and familiar with the small international community here.
- What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying your course at XJTLU?
If there’s any advice I could give, it is that an open mind and a willingness to try goes a long way, whether in your studies or your everyday life here in Suzhou. The more you give, the more you receive. What you gain is an indescribable magical experience that will provide you with lifelong skills, friends and memories.
By Isabelle Davage
Edited by Xinmin Han and Patricia Pieterse
Photos by Isabelle Davage