Thesis defence in Chinese and on the doorstep of graduation

It’s been a hectic week here in Guangzhou, can’t believe it’s Monday again! Those days last week before Friday all let to my thesis defence on the 29th. It was one of the most nervous days of my life, making me almost faint at the classroom!

I arrived early to the campus as printed out two pages of my thesis that had a terrible error on them. I wanted to show the teachers, that I had noticed the mistake my self which is better than wait for them to point it out. Of course I have noticed several small typos as well, wondering how tired my eyes were when I checked my thesis before printing it out.

We had our presentations in small groups, with me I had a Korean girl, Indonesian girl and an Italian guy, last two being ethnic Chinese. We were seated at one of the sides in the classroom, we would be speaking in front of the room and the teachers were seated at the back. There was also chairs for classmates to come in and listen to our presentations.

While I waited my turn, I was third, I started getting more and more nervous. Would I be able to finish my presentation in the 7 minutes allowed or would it be too short? Could I answer all the questions asked my teacher? Heck, could I even stand on my two feet?

Finally it was my time to take the spotlight. I had prepared a nice Power Point slide show about my thesis, but probably it didn’t really matter much. After I was done, I sat on the chair in front of the teachers. I had a desk in front of me and I placed my thesis on the desk. I had read it over a few times, making careful notes on mistakes and questions the teachers might ask.

I have no idea how long they asked me questions, and can’t remember all of them, but somehow I lost my nervousness and was able to be calm. I answered everything the best I could, but wasn’t given enough time to defend my thesis as much as I would have liked to.

Three of us received a grade good, one received average. It was a relief that I was able to get a good grade, but I would be lying if I said I was happy with it. Not being able to get the highest grade, excellent, was bitter.

There won’t be a change to do it all over again, but if everything goes well, I will be writing my master’s thesis in two years. What I have learned during these months is that it’s crucial to choose the best teacher to help you and start as soon as possible. Don’t leave anything at the last-minute and check your work numerous times before printing.

Writing a thesis in Chinese was nerve-wracking at times, but I learned a lot too. I’m happy to get it finally of my hands very soon and head for new challenges.


Writing a Thesis in Chinese


This semester I’ve been busy with my thesis writing and the last week of rewriting is about to start. As my major is Chinese language, my thesis is also in Chinese. Writing such a long academic text have been nothing but easy to do in my second foreign language.

The first challenge was back in June when I had to come up with a topic for my thesis. After going back and forth I finally decided to find out why Finns are learning Chinese. More courses are offered in Chinese language in Finland and our country will need more Chinese speakers in the future. But what are really the reasons that young Finnish adults learn Chinese?

Second challenge was to get enough students to answer my survey. For some reason no one from Helsinki University answered, which resulted in having quite a small number of answers for my thesis.

Third challenge was to analyse the date that I got from the survey. It was super difficult to do as it was my first time to do quantitative research. I even lost a day’s work as for some reason the Excel didn’t save what I had done at the end of the day. I also wasted a lot of time by doing all the wrong things instead of taking the time to really learn how to do the analysing correctly.

Fourth challenge is right now when I’m rewriting quite a large part of my thesis. I got feedback from three different teachers and there is still a lot to be done in order to make this thesis better. Luckily I’ve got some great ideas from my boyfriend who also helps me to check the grammar. Besides him, I also have a friend to help me out with grammar and typos too.

This Autumn have brought many changes for me, as I haven’t been taking any classes anymore. Next Spring will be even more different as I don’t have any university responsibilities! That doesn’t mean that the learning is going to stop though, hopefully I’m able to set some new and exciting goals next year.


Studying at Sun Yat-Sen University: Spring semester’s grades

I’ve been studying at Sun Yat-Sen University for four semesters now. As many of you know, my major is Chinese language and I’m specializing in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language (TCSL). On Spring 2013 I had my last compulsory courses and in this post I want to share my grades and final feelings of those courses.

You can also read about my other previous semesters here:

I hope these posts are helpful to anyone who plans to study their bachelor’s degree at SYSU.

But lets take a look how I did last semester:

综合 Comprehensive Chinese

Last March I wrote how “My biggest challenge have always been how to be motivated when studying boring material”, that was definitely the case with this course. Because I wasn’t inspired by the course or the teacher, I had difficulties motivating my self to learn and do homework.

I’m not surprised that I only got 79 (out of 100) from this course.

计算机 Computer Course

We learned a lot of important things about Word that will definitely help me with my thesis. Studying Excel was a bit boring, but I actually learned some useful skills that I’ve used after the course. Power Point was really familiar to me already, as we had to make many presentations at school, so there wasn’t that much to learn.

I was bit surprised to get 95.

偏误分析 Error Analysis

The course was all about looking at students’ sentences and finding their mistakes. It wasn’t always that exciting, but I understand it’s important for future teachers to know how to correct your student’s errors. To make it a bit less boring our teacher made as do short spontaneous speeches in front of the class and other classmates would keep their ears open for any mistakes.

I got 93 from this course.

教育心理学 Educational Psychology

Absolutely my favourite course of the semester! Even my thesis is about study motivation, even though I unfortunately didn’t get this teacher to help me with my thesis, as she was taken already by my classmate. We learned a lot about both learning and teaching. As our final exam we had to write 3000 characters in a topic that could be the same as our thesis.

I was happy to get 93 from this course.

毕业论文写作 Thesis Writing

I really liked our Teacher Li on this course, she’s an amazing person. I know that writing is often my best skill, much better than speaking, and she even praised my homework in class once or twice. Writing our theses without this course would be much more difficult, so luckily they got the new textbook out just before our course begin.

I was also very satisfied to get 92 from the course.

What’s next?

I was really surprised that this was my best semester! I almost feel like did our teachers be too easy on us or how could I get so great grades from most of the courses. The one odd 79 doesn’t really bother me much as I know the reason why I didn’t do well on that class. Sure I could have worked harder, but what’s done is done.

The next step is of course to continue writing my thesis. I have to send out the questionnaire in September and then in October we have to hand in our first draft. Everything should be ready in December for dissertation defend.


New Semester At Sun Yat-Sen University

New semester has started at Sun Yat-Sen University. During my previous three semesters here I have received the Excellent Student Award (being best at my class, grades 80+) two times and once I got a Didn’t-Skip-Classes Award (or something like that, for someone who skipped a very very few classes and grades were 70+).

So I have a lot to prove this semester! Lets take a look what kind of courses I’m having this semester.

Compulsory courses


As always, there is the Comprehensive Chinese course which includes vocab, grammar, reading and writing. We changed to a new book series for this course and are now using Road To Success Advanced. It’s very different from the last book series we used the previous three semesters. New book is a welcomed change, but unfortunately our teacher is a tiny bit dry. We had such a great and entertaining teacher last semester, that I can’t help but to feel bit disappointed. My biggest challenge have always been how to be motivated when studying boring material, any tips?


Computer class! During this class we will learn how to use Word, Power Point and Excel in Chinese. I’m not sure how much I will learn during this class as I know how to use those quite well already. But it’s a good idea to get used to the Chinese interface. This course should help us write our thesis and make Power Point Presentations, or PPTs, if we work as a teacher some day. The teacher is young and energetic, so that makes this course better.


Error Analysis is a course that will help us to teach our students and correct their mistakes and errors. Hopefully it will also help me to correct some of my own errors as well. During this course we will need material to analyse, which will be a bit challenging for me. There aren’t so many Finns around here whose Chinese I could analyse, but I hope to find at least one or two. Or find more online. Teacher is young, but seems to know very well what she is doing. I think this will be a good course.


Educational Psychology will be one of the best courses this semester, at least that’s how I feel like just after first class with the teacher. We will learn how students learn the best and how a teacher uses this information in order to help the students. I’ve always been interested in learning methods, strategies and such, so I’m really looking forward what we will learn during this course. This teacher taught us last semester as well and she’s great.


Thesis writing! Of course we need a course to teach us how to write a thesis and this course is all about it. We will learn everything from how to choose a topic to the layout of the paper it self. One important task this semester is to choose a teacher to guide you with your thesis. The best teachers get chosen really quickly so I want to make my decision fast. I don’t want to end up with a young teacher without any experience. The teacher of this course is quite excellent, perhaps I should ask her.


And then there is the Taiji, compulsory course  for us degree students. I feel so lucky that I don’t have to use my head and think what to do on Friday evening as I have Taiji classes then! What a relief! (Or not…) There isn’t anything wrong with Taiji, I actually like it, but not in this setting. Not when there are 50 students and all of us just want to pass the stupid thing.

Selective courses


Read aloud and correct pronunciation is the name of this course, just what I need! We will prepare texts at home to read to the teacher and she will correct us, that’s the basic pattern for this course. I hope to improve my tones and some tricky pronunciation point that I still haven’t got right (z c zh ch). This teacher was really strict when she was my Comprehensive Chinese teacher a year ago and I expect her to keep it like that.


This might be the most fun course of the semester! On this course to Chinese Popular Customs our teacher will introduce as to interesting places in Guangzhou related to different popular customs on the area. We will then visit them our selves taking notes and photographing the visit. After that we will present our finding to the class. What a great idea for a course!


Chinese philosophy is taught by one of my favourite teachers, our Comprehensive Chinese teacher from last semester. I probably don’t do the exam on this course but just because of the teacher I’m willing to take the classes. I’m sure it will be entertaining and interesting at the same time.

That’s it!

So these are my courses this semester. During this semester we will decide our thesis topics, find a guiding teacher and finally write a 开题报告, Chosen Topic Report, or something like that to finalize our topic choose. Next Summer and Autumn will be all about writing the thesis of about 6000 characters, there’s a lot to learn before that!


Looking back to last semester’s courses and grades

In September I wrote about my first impressions of autumn semester’s courses. Now it’s time to look back what I learned and what kind of grades I got! Last semester was the end for my third year, and my final year will begin at the end of this month. If all goes well, I will graduate in December.

For new readers: I’m studying Chinese as a foreign language undergraduate degree at Sun Yat-Sen University. My major Chinese with a specialisation to Teaching Chinese as a foreign language.


Spoken Chinese course continued like the semester before this. Too many students in class and a teacher who liked his own voice more than ours. We did learn many sentence patterns, but didn’t use them often enough to actually remember them. We only had one presentation per student, which is way too little to actually help with our spoken Chinese level. My final grade was 86.


Modern Chinese course number two continued with the same book as spring semester 2012. We learned a lot about Chinese characters and even more about Chinese grammar. We also had to write a minimum on 1000 characters mini thesis about comparing a grammar point in Chinese and in our native language. I like the teacher a lot and was really satisfied with the course. My final grade was 91.


I usually like Chinese writing courses because I like essay writing, but this semester didn’t seem to offer enough  challenge. I wrote pretty much the way I wanted, started homework always the night before and still got good marks. In the final exam I did a huge mistake though! The part two was to write an essay and that went well, but in part one you had to write an outline for an essay. I completely misunderstood the point of the essay! So with this stupid mistake I lost 30 points in the final exam, nothing to do with my writing skills. I was really happy to still get a final grade of 84.


Comprehensive Chinese course was one of the most memorable ones. I liked the teacher a lot! He really made us use our heads and push us outside our comfort zone. He was funny, smart and didn’t go easy on us. The key in this course was to learn new vocabulary and chengyu’s (Chinese idiom usually consisting four characters). Final grade 84.


On this course we learned how to plan class activities when/if we become teachers. The first half of the course we basically planned and tried several activities every week. It’s was really fun and I learned a lot! The latter half of the course we learned how to plan lessons including an activity for different kind of Chinese courses. I liked the two teachers a lot and it was perhaps the funniest course we had. Our exam was to be a teacher for 15 minutes and I think I did a pretty good job. My final grade was 91.


This course teaching us how to teach pronunciation, characters, vocab and grammar started badly. Teacher was young and inexperienced, it was painfully boring to sat on these lessons. Then I mistakenly criticized the teacher heavily while she was in a hearing distance. I felt so bad about it, but in the end she did change her teaching method! The following lessons were much much better! My final grade was 93.


Taiji sword, one of the compulsory taiji courses we have (I’ll the normal taiji next semester). Too many students, hard to concentrate on teaching, lessons started at 6pm and were held outside.. Some of the reasons why I didn’t have much motivation for this course. I was glad to pass it and get a grade of 75.


Chinese news paper reading course was perhaps the most boring course of the semester. I had zero motivation to participate in that course and in the end I think I didn’t even learn anything. Our teacher was young and bit inexperienced. She used a level of spoken Chinese too high for us, the hardest of all teachers. My final grade was 85 (it’s like 85%, 100 being the best). This was actually a compulsory selective course.


My only selective course for the semester, Chinese idioms was a great course. Strict teacher, lots of idioms to learn and the fear that kept me doing my homework every time. It wasn’t an easy course, but I managed to get a 88 points final grade.


It was a hard semester for me. Too many things happening and taking away my motivation to study. I really thought that this would have been my worst semester, but in the end it wasn’t. I did better than on the spring 2012 semester which was a surprise.

Compared to my three other classmates* in five of the compulsory courses (not including taiji sword) I had the best score in four of them, one spoken Chinese I had the second best grade.

But why do I care what grades others get? At this level it often, well all the time, feels like there’s no progress in my Chinese level. It have felt like that for a long time now. The improvement is slow which makes it harder to be motivated to keep on learning. But at least I can see from my grades that I’m doing somewhat good job and I’m on the right track.

*(yes, there are only four students in my group, though we often have classes with other groups)