A story of success
Excitement, happiness, nervousness… these are some of the feelings many students have before they reach their destination and their Spanish school. And this is not surprising, as a new world is waiting for them to be discovered, full of colour, culture and learning, and for sure of fun and personal enrichment.
Nothing develops intelligence like travel. – Emile Zola, writer.
If you add to the essential idea of learning that travelling implies, sharing and attending classes with students from different parts of the world, in which the language and culture of a country are taught, this personal enrichment is unmeasurable.
Luckily for our society, there are more and more young people who decide to take their chances, leave their country and live the experience to share their culture while learning a new one. This is what our student FEI TONG, from China, decided to do 7 years ago.
FEI TONG was born in Henan, a province in the North of China. At the age of 18 she started studying Spanish at the Beijing Language and Culture University. Her dream was coming to Spain, learning Spanish, going to university, doing a Master’s degree and finding a job to live adult life in a different country and then return to China, full of experiences and knowledge.
Fei, why did you decide to study Spanish?
Already when I was a child I had the dream of being able to master a foreign language, leave my country and live an adventure. 7 years ago, for us Chinese Spain was still a quite far and unknown country. What we knew about Spain was that it had a warm climate during the whole year, many famous football players, flamenco and bull fighting.
Besides, at that time, learning Spanish was like learning a minority language for us. That is why I knew that I had to take advantage of the opportunity, because this language would help to enrich me personally as well as professionally, for sure.
And why did you choose to come to Valencia?
I decided to come to Valencia to learn Spanish thanks to the directors of Hispania, escuela de español.
When I began to study at the Beijing Language and Culture University, I had the chance to meet the directors of Hispania, escuela de español at an education fair, organised yearly by ICEX. I still remember the talk perfectly: they presented the city of Valencia, the school, the courses offered by the school, they explained to us the Spanish education system and the possibilities to go to university in Spain. I was totally sure that Hispania, escuela de español would be my destination to start the adventure.
Before coming, how did you imagine your life here? And was it like this?
I knew that it wasn’t easy at all to live in a foreign country that you virtually don’t know anything about and anybody. And of course, you have to deal with many problems and get over them.
What surprised me most when I arrived was the kindness of the people, as a matter of fact I think that this is one of the reasons that motivated me to continue studying this language and its culture. Here in Spain, wherever you go, you are always greeted with a smile, something that is not usual in China. Buying metro tickets, explaining us the way to the school, these are small things for them that they might not even remember any more. But for us the fact that everybody was so kind to us quickly took away the fear of insecurity that we had of this country.
And thanks to sharing this experience, I made a lot of friends who surely will be friends for a lifetime.
I would also like to take advantage to thank the whole team of Hispania, escuela de español, for being so patient and attentive with us. They have always helped us at any time.
What did you know about Spain before coming? And now, is there any characteristic of the Spanish culture that doesn’t resemble what you thought before?
As I said before, for us Spain is a distant, unknown country. Although it’s true that these days there is more and more communication and cooperation between the two countries.
For me, the image I had about Spain was the same as everybody’s: the weather is warm during the whole year, all the boys play football, the girls dance flamenco, the “clichés”, their five daily meals and the famous siesta.
Now that I’ve been living here for 7 years, we already take the biggest clichés as a joke. Not everybody plays football or dances flamenco. The Spanish people love having some beers outside, meeting their friends on the weekends, travelling. And I like all that.
Congratulations! You were accepted to university in the Valencian Community. Which degree did you choose? Why?
Yes, I studied Tourism at the University of Alicante, because the Valencian Community is a tourist destination of high prestige, at a national as well as an international level. Being able to study at a university of this region allowed me to get first-hand information and also be in direct contact with the tourists.
And Tourism is a multidisciplinary degree that allows me having knowledge of different fields.
Which are the main differences between the Spanish university world and the Chinese?
People always say that in China it is quite difficult to enter university, because we are many students taking the university entrance exam every year, and among us there is a lot of competition.
Here in Spain it’s the other way round, there are enough educational resources so that you can choose the university and the degree that you would like to do. But then it is not that easy to finish your studies, you need a lot of effort and dedication.
Which recommendations would you give to a student who would like to study at a Spanish university?
For me, the most essential thing is the language. It is so important to learn Spanish well, if not it’s impossible to successfully complete your university studies.
When I started to study at Hispania, escuela de español, we had general Spanish classes, which was perfect for us to advance in our language study. And then, we had university preparation classes, these classes are very important, because they reflect the reality that you will encounter afterwards. Of course, after this intense learning, I felt very well prepared before going to university.
When you finished your degree, you signed up for a Master’s degree. Did the Spanish higher education system meet your expectations? What do you like most about it? What less?
Yes, I am quite happy and thankful to my teachers, especially my tutor who helped me a lot to finish my Master’s thesis.
What I like most is the approach of the subjects, how the Master’s degrees deal with a specific field of study. Mine, for example, is Marketing and Market Research, and after this Master’s I know quite in depth the contents of this field.
What I like less, maybe that some more practical subjects are missing, for example to do projects with real company cases, and I also missed the possibility of doing an internship in a company, in order to gain work experience.
Now you have finished your Master’s and you are doing a PhD. What is your PhD about?
Yes, I am studying a PhD in Marketing, related with my Master’s degree. My research topic is a cross-cultural study about Chinese and Spanish travellers, comparing these two groups of travellers who come from two totally different countries (language, culture, way of life etc.), to be able to find what they have in common and in which aspects they differ.
You are also working, was it hard to find a job?
Yes, apart from studying, I work at Hispania, escuela de español. It’s a unique experience, working at a school where I studied and now the teachers are my colleagues.
For my Master’s thesis I had to create a Marketing plan for a real company. And I decided to do it for Hispania, escuela de español to share everything that I learned at university. As soon as I finished my thesis, the directors of Hispania, escuela de español offered me the opportunity to stay and work for them.
I think that it’s easy for foreigners to find a job in Spain, as they have the advantage to master at least two languages. Besides, these days they are more and more Spanish companies that would like to work with Chinese companies, so for the Chinese this is a big opportunity.
What are your plans for the future?
First, I would like to finish the PhD I’m doing at the moment, and I know that it’s not easy.
Afterwards, as I studied Tourism and Marketing, and now Spain is a new, but very fashionable destination for the Chinese, I would like to take advantage of this opportunity, return to China and work in the Tourism sector and bring more Chinese tourists to Spain, as well as Spanish tourists to China.
If you could go back in time, before starting your trip, what would you do different this time? What would you do again?
It seems like a joke, but it’s a big truth. I would probably not bring so many suitcases, because before coming, we thought that it was a country totally different to ours, and we came here with suitcases full of Chinese food, clothes etc. But with the time passing, we noticed that you can get everything you need to live here.
And what I would do again? Without a doubt I would choose Hispania, escuela de español to start learning Spanish. At this school they taught us the language, how to face any problem. The teachers here are like our parents in Spain and we are all family. We are so thankful, without them it would be impossible to fulfill our dream.
What advice would you give to travellers who would like to go to university in a foreign country?
It is so important to learn the language well, for me this is most essential thing.
We have to know very well what we would like to study, before the preinscription, and it’s crucial to read well the study plan of every degree.
Finally, an advice from the heart: we have to be courageous, we are young, we have time to enjoy, to be wrong and to learn. So, don’t be afraid, we can learn everything, achieve everything and everything is possible.
Thank you very much for your contribution, we are sure that many student travellers will be very grateful for your words.
For us it has also be a pleasure to have you as a student and in our team.
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