Sun Yat-Sen University

First week at Sun Yat-Sen University

My first week as a Chinese language undergraduate student is now over and I’m really happy I chose to study at Sun Yat-Sen University! The teachers are educated and know what they are doing. They are prepared for class and have a clear plan for the whole course. The courses are interesting and challenging. My class (本二下) on the second year is just right for me and the level suits my needs.

Our basic compulsory courses are comprehensive (综合), listening (听力), writing (写作), reading (泛读) and speaking (口语). Besides that we can choose at least one selective from five different courses. I decided to choose Cantonese (粤语) and calligraphy (书法).  If you think Mandarin is difficult, then you should try Cantonese and think again!

My original plan back in 2010 wast to apply for Beijing Language and Culture University, but I think I made the right decision to stay in Guangzhou and come to the Sun Yat-Sen University. It’s the best university in the south and usually 9th or 10th best in the whole country. Even though in Finland it doesn’t matter from which university you graduate (students of Helsinki University might disagree with me), but in China it’s appreciated if you graduate from on of the top universities.

Now my job for the following three years is to be a top student. Final exams aren’t the only factor when calculating our grades. We also have to do our homework or other assignments, attend classes (after certain amount of absence from class you’re not allowed to take the exam) and be active in class. All of this requires a lot of study and I’m ready for it.

I dreamed about studying a Chinese degree when I was 16 years old. Now is the time to be worthy of my dream.

Now I would like to throw the ball to you my readers. Would you like to know more about my studies at Sun Yat-Sen University? Or more posts about learning Chinese?


  • Anuliina

    I’m happy you are enjoying your time and studying at the Sun Yat-Sen University. Sounds like you have found your place! :) I am very interested in hearing about your studies there!

    Sara Reply:

    Nice to hear from you dear friend! I’m really happy with my university and hope to have amazing three years here.

  • Sofie

    Im 17 and i dream of studying in china too! I want to study at the beijing foreign studies univerity. Do you know which number it is ranked at in china?

    Sara Reply:

    Nice to meet you Sofie and good luck with your studies! Beijing Foreign Studies University was 29th best this year. You can check the whole list here:

    p.s. Sun Yat-Sen University was 12th!

  • Aurora85

    Good luck :) Does your boyfriend help you with Cantonese?

    Sara Reply:

    He’s not the best teacher out there I have to say, but I’m sure when my Cantonese gets better than I can use it to communicate with him.

  • Confused Laowai

    You know me, I’d love to see more posts about your Chinese studies. I’ve also been a Chinese University student and would like to hear your story and progress too. Good luck!

    Sara Reply:

    I will put all these wishes to my list and write about them as soon as possible!

  • Will

    Good luck in your Chinese studies and congrats for finally living your dream!
    I’m also very interested in studying Chinese at Sun Yat Sen U. in the winter (January) but as a non-degree student… actually I might email you later about the whole process of applying for the school.

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you Will! I got your email and try to answer you soon. Just have been little bit busy lately.

  • Siva

    Good luck and congrats! I think you’ve made good choices about the selective course. Calligraphy is going to help you in so many ways with writing and trust me, though we don’t use our pen as often but instead type on the keyboard, people still have great admiration for whoever writes beautifully.

    Cantonese will be a major challenge but should be easier for you since you have your boyfriend to practice with. I’ve always heard that Cantonese has 7 or 9 tones but never counted it. Now you’re going to find that out. :D

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you Siva! I really think and hope calligraphy will help with my Chinese studies. I’ve just got bad luck with it and still haven’t attended a single class in it! First we had a meeting for new students, the second week the teacher didn’t come and last Friday because of the starting holiday he changed the schedule, but forgot to let us know! I guess he told other students on the first lesson, but I wasn’t there.

    We still haven’t got to the tones in Cantonese, but I guess my teacher said there’s only 6 tones.

  • aabram

    Definitely more on learning Chinese, especially on phonetics and grammar. As a speaker of Estonian I hope that I can draw something from your experience and perhaps avoid some of the pitfalls you stumble through :)

    Sara Reply:

    Nice to see a new reader leaving a comment! I will hear all the wished and requests and put them to my to-do list. I will definitely write more about learning Chinese!

  • ordinary malaysian

    Good for you Sara. By the time you graduate you should be fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese. According the the result of a google search, Cantonese is the second most difficult language to learn after Arabic followed by Mandarin. I am not too sure, but Cantonese seems easier to pick up as far a speaking it is concerned. Although I can’t speak it well I can understand Cantonese. I am Hokkien though. And many of my friends who can’t speak Mandarin well can speak Cantonese fluently. Anyway, we Chinese do not look at Cantonese or Hokkein or any of the other Chinese dialects as a language. We consider it a dialect. It is interesting that you are taking Chinese calligraphy 书法 shufa as an elective. Like one of the commentators said it will help you in your study of Mandarin. I would be interested to read about both how you cope with learning Mandarin as well as how you cope with your studies at the university. Best wishes.

    Sara Reply:

    I’m not sure about Cantonese, but my goal is to be fluent in Mandarin at the time of graduation.

    I’m happy that so many of you like to hear about my studies at SYSU, I will be writing more about it soon!

  • Baobo

    Do your writing lessons use a brush pen like in calligraphy? Is it necessary to write, or can you get by using only computer characters?

    Sara Reply:

    No, we use a normal pen. It’s necessarily to learn how to write by hand because we have essays and exams that need to be written with pen and paper. But after graduation I’m not sure if I can or will keep up with that skill or will I only type and forgot writing? That is happening to lot of Chinese people too because they always use computer to type and don’t write so much by hand anymore.

  • Marcus

    Quite some time last time I commented because I have also just started university! I am quite interested in the teaching methods and structure of Sun Yat Sen University so I would like to read more about your studies in it. It is very different in my university because the main form of teaching is really small-group tutorials.

    Sara Reply:

    I will put this to my list of future blog posts!

  • Jack

    Oh Cantonese is not hard! It took my father a month to learn and he is completely fluent in it like the native speaker now. But then again my father is a Hakka (HAHA!) so if that makes any difference….

    From what he told me, (I don’t know a lick of Cantonese, nor Hakka :() Cantonese is very closely related to Hakka, so that’s why it was easy for him to pick up. Plus he was a tour guide in his days so be able to converse in many different dialects/languages is a must.

    But yeh, if you can master Cantonese, I think you might want to consider Hakka too. Hokkien is very different from Cantonese and Hakka as far as I know. And its another very popular dialect too besides Standard Mandarin and Cantonese. Majority of Chinese communities in south east asia are probably evenly divided between Hokkien and Cantonese speakers, so there is benefit to know both. I can speak Hokkien and Mandarin, while my father can speak Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Mandarin, English.

    It would be fun if you can do a comparison article on Cantonese to Mandarin vs English to Finnish. I am very curious to know how they are compare in this perspective. Is Cantonese as different as Finnish to English or more like Irish to English? :D

    Sara Reply:

    I think Mandarin and Cantonese are more than enough for me. If I decide to learn one more dialect, then it should be my boyfriend’s native dialect. Atleast I would like to understand what everyone is talking about when meeting the family for dinner.

    Interesting topic for a post, I will put it on my list!

  • thenakedlistener

    I’m a native Cantonese speaker myself (though not Cantonese by blood). Cantonese IS a hard language/dialect to speak well in, especially if the person is reared on something like Mandarin or Shanghainese. The Hakka can handle Cantonese extremely well (and better than most others, for instance, the Shanghainese) because the Hakka intonations are almost identical to Cantonese. Cantonese and Hakka are different from Hokkien (Fujianese) as night and day. Most Hakka people I know from anywhere (especially in Southeast Asia) invariably are able to speak Cantonese, and usually without a hint of Hakka accent.

    As to Suomi (Finnish) and English, they’re different as night and day – but what the hell, I only learnt a few words of Finnish way back long ago with that fantastic-looking Finnish girl in school – but that’s another story.

    (N.B. Sara here is pretty fantastic-looking too, if you don’t mind me saying so.)

    Sara Reply:

    Don’t mind at all ;)

  • Hugh Grigg

    It’s cool that they offer Cantonese! I’ve always wanted to have a go at that. I’m at 海洋大学 in Qingdao for a year now – sounds like we’re in similar situations! All the best with your studies

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you Hugh! It is great that they offer Cantonese, but unfortunately it seems to be the worst class I have. There’s about 50 students taking that course and no way to concentrate on studying.

  • Jono

    An interesting blog post. What motivates you to learn Chinese? What will you do when you graduate? How do you intend to use your knowledge?


    Sara Reply:

    I have always thought that Chinese is an interesting language and China have always been a passion for me. I’ll graduate after two years and I don’t have a full plan what I’m going to do after that. I would like to work at the Finnish consulate here in Guangzhou after graduation to see what it’s like and if that kind of job would be the right for me. I could also do my own business that could include a lot of things: business consulting, translating, interpreting, lecturing and so on. I hope that these ideas will form into a some kind of plan during the next two years.

  • Dillon O'Connor

    Very cool Sara.

    I’ve heard about Sun Yat-Sen University before. I think it’s a great school.

    Next year I’ll be going to China to study. Can’t wait to see where I’ll be :)

    Sara Reply:

    It sure is a great university, I’m very happy that I chose to come here. I can’t wait to hear about your China adventure when it starts next year!

  • Inessa

    Dear Sara, thank you for your posts) i would like to ask you for advice. next year i would like to do my master in china. i studied in bj before, i like it. but recently was thinking of choosing Sun Yat-Sen. I saw that you made the similar decision yourself, so would you be so kind to tell me why have you decided on studing in guangzhou?

    Sara Reply:

    Hi Inessa, nice to hear that you’re planning on doing your master in China. What is your major and would you be studying in English or in Chinese? That could also affect your decision about the university. Me myself decided to stay in Guangzhou because after half a year I started to really like the place and I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend behind. I’ve been very happy with my decision and Sun Yat-Sen University is a great univeristy.

    Inessa Reply:

    Dear Sara, i was really looking forward to your reply, but i understang that you should be very busy with your studies). so, i actually read more of your comments here, and i have found out that most probably we have different reasons which make us like GZ. Nevertheless, if you try to be in my shoes, i can choose i guess any city, but i like China , i like HK(i read that you dont quite like it, somewhere in the middle;) ), i would like to learn cantonese very much, and besides,its warm in GZ comparing to Bj. the only thing makes me hesitate – is that Bj is Bj, its a capital…the most famous and top universities are situated there. Dear Sara, could you pls give me some advice, what else should i take into consideration…

    Sara Reply:

    I have started to like Hong Kong after I get to know it more, but it’s still too expensive and too English place for me at the moment :)

    I think the most important things is in which major you will do your master’s and which universities offer the best program for that. But that’s pretty much the only advice I can give you. It must be hard to decide where you will study, but I’m sure you will make the right decision, no matter if it’s in Beijing or Guangzhou.

  • Ivi

    Hello Sara,

    I am going to study at Sun-Yat Sen university this year.I have to take a Chinese training course first before I study a Bachelor degree.I was wondering,what lvl of HSK did u reach the first year?I really need lvl 5 HSK for the Tourism and Management programme in the same university that I am planning to start in my second year in Guangzhou.
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Ivi ^^