Sun Yat-Sen University

Busy Life of a Graduate Student

Sun Yat-Sen University

It’s been a busy start of the semester, but finally I found the time to share my first thoughts and feelings how it’s like to be a graduate student in China. As most of you know, I did my bachelor degree here at Sun Yat-Sen University first, and continued to the master’s this August. Doing the undergrad was more like going to high school: go to lessons, do your homework, take exams, just with an added bonus of writing a thesis in the end.


Doing a master’s in Teaching Chinese (or International Chinese Education as we call it), is something totally different. My studies consist of following elements:

  • lessons
  • individual homework
  • group projects
  • reading articles, research papers, books
  • writing project reports and course papers
  • listening to experienced teachers teach
  • teaching simulation
  • internship at Chinese Teaching Materials Base

My current courses can be seen on the schedule above, later this year two courses will be added to the mix. Next year Spring and Summer semester will continue more or less in a same way, leaving the teaching internship and thesis writing for the last year.


Studying a graduate degree in a second language is always a big challenge, what makes it a bit easier is that in our class of 63 students, we have 22 foreign students from all over the world. We come from different cultures, but also have similar challenges in studying a degree in Chinese. It means a lot to have this support group.

All of our courses are of course taught in Chinese and I can follow the lessons well. I can see that some teachers are still a bit unsure in which way their teaching can keep both the foreign and Chinese students happy, but in general it’s us foreigners that need to keep up with the Chinese.

Reading a lot of material in Chinese is also a challenge at the moment, but at the same time a good way for me to improve my reading skills and speed. I will be reading papers mainly on teaching, psychology and culture fields, using digital versions on my iPad whenever possible.

Later on writing course papers will present another challenge, I need to improve my written Chinese and avoid too colloquial expressions in my writing. I believe reading a lot helps with writing skills as well.

A good choice

I’ve been very happy that I got the scholarship and the chance to continue my studies here at Sun Yat-Sen University, during the years it has already turned into my home university. I just got the news that the supervisor teachers I chose also chose me, so I will be doing my thesis next year in a good company.

This is just the beginning of my degree, there will most probably be sweat and tears along the way, but hopefully also feelings of success and happiness. I will keep you posted!


  • Timo

    Good luck with your studies! I will (try) to enroll next year for Master studies in Germany but I am really not looking forward to study again after a couple of year pause in between..

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I can imagine it’s hard to get back to study mode after a break, I’ve been studying all the time since primary school so I’m just postponing getting to the work life :)

  • Jocelyn Eikenburg

    Wow, I’m impressed that you’re taking all of these classes in Chinese and doing so much reading in Chinese too! You are going to be an amazing teacher when you’re finished with your degree!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Aww, thank you Jocelyn. I’ve always been interested in learning and now I’ve noticed that teaching can really be my things. It’s amazing to see how my students improves in her Chinese every time we meet.

  • R Zhao

    Wow Sara. You never fail to impress me. It sounds like you are working really hard. Glad to read an update!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    It’s a lot of hard work, but also very very interesting. I’m happy to have one student now and another next month, it really looks like being a teacher is my thing :)

  • iawn

    I have read all sorts of blogs on China through the past few years but this is the first time that I read something about higher education in China and in the Chinese language. Please do continue to write about your experience. It is very interesting. Best of luck

  • Amanda Roberts-Anderson

    This sounds like an amazing experience. And, yes, reading does help with writing. I teach writing (composition) at American universities to mostly native speakers (all online since I live in China), and I tell them, “in order to write well, you have to read well.” It is true no matter what the language is. Good luck. I can’t wait to read more about your experiences.

  • PrincessRune

    Your university has impressive scenery, especially those palm trees!
    Your post inspires me even further to study the language intently so I can one day attend a Chinese university and take courses in Chinese. 加油,Sara小姐!

  • maria carolina

    Hi, Sara!
    It’s so nice to know that you are liking the course. I would also like to take my master’s at the same university. I do have a question regarding the course you’re taking, what’s the difference between your course and the Chinese as a Foreign Language one?

    and congrats again!