Inside China's Best University
The China Flexpat Podcast is expanding and the next stop is Brazil!
Colleagues from around the world, we are happy to announce that we have landed in South American lands. You bet, our little adventure that started over a year ago in China, became so relevant that it crossed the world and arrived in Brazil. In this new branch, we develop exclusive content in Portuguese and focused on the Brazilian context.
The launch of the first episode was a success and our colleagues from Brazil were very excited about the tips on how to study in China and the different ways to do so. We talked about student experiences, scholarships, Mandarin, the socio-economic context that makes China a great opportunity for Brazilian students, and in this article, we will transcribe the best moments of the interview for you who are part of our international community can also take advantage of the tips.
Our guest is Andre Wertheimer Pascual. He was born in Rio de Janeiro, has a degree in Production Engineering from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and is currently doing his Master’s in Engineering at Tsinghua.
Andre: I've always been very interested in international experiences and throughout my career, I've had the opportunity to study and work in Germany, to work in the United States, and now I'm finishing my master's degree at Tsinghua, in China. It's this Chinese experience that I'm going to focus on in our conversation today.
China Flexpat Podcast: How was the experience of studying in these different countries?
A: I think like everything else in life, there are pros and cons. Each place has its particularities and I think that both in Brazil and abroad there are teachers who take their role seriously and others who don't, but in general, I think it's the student who dictates their learning. The tip I can give to anyone venturing abroad is to try to make local friends. Unfortunately, many people surround themselves with friends from the same country of origin and I consider this a loss.
CFP: Could you tell us about how the educational system works in Brazil, Germany, and China, and what are the differences and similarities?
A: In terms of methodology, I think that in Germany and China the tests were done in such a way as to test if you were able to repeat what was in the book, in Brazil the tests had a higher level of interpretation. In China, there was also much more homework than in Germany and Brazil and the punctuality was impressive. I feel that in China the written quantity sometimes outweighs the quality itself, which is not very good in a world where the ability to speak as concisely and clearly as possible is an increasing skill. People's attention is extremely limited nowadays.
Talking about Tsinghua, the university is wonderful. There are many international students and opportunities for extracurricular activities such as sports and student unions. Tsinghua is so highly regarded in China that people on the street are always amazed and show respect when they discover you study there. Some even ask for a photo. I also really enjoyed the trips I took with my course. We visited industries in Shanghai and Nanjing and learned a little about Chinese history.
About the educational system in China, they have the biggest entrance exam in the world, the Gaokao. Chinese parents place a lot of emphasis on their children's education, including spending a significant portion of their income on extracurricular activities. About Gaokao, a Chinese teacher told us a real story about a grandfather who had a terminal illness and didn't want his family to tell his granddaughter that he was about to die. That was the year of the entrance exam. The family only told the girl that her grandfather had died after she left the test, for not disturbing the pace of her studies.
CFP: How do you see the importance of foreign students in China today?
A: I think the process of opening up the country involves internationalizing Chinese universities and companies, so attracting international talent is part of China's long-term strategy. Let's remember that now Chinese companies are no longer just factories in the world and started to compete in high-tech markets with high added value. They are increasingly competing on a global level, so the international student in China today may be the manager of a Chinese company abroad tomorrow. It makes perfect sense for the Chinese to invest in us.
For German or American companies in Brazil, there is no shortage of Brazilian professionals with the experience to build a bridge between the branch and the head office. However, when it comes to China, almost no Brazilian has experience in the country, so whoever is prepared will come out ahead.
CFP: And speaking of studying in China and studying at Tsinghua, more specifically, how can we apply to this university?
A: I will tell you about my application process. First, I applied directly for my course in the industrial engineering department. When I was approved, they sent my application to the university which, fortunately, also accepted me. In the case of Brazil, if you are going to apply for a scholarship through the embassy, you must apply before receiving the final result from the college, otherwise may miss the scholarship deadline.
If you don't have contacts and want to know more about how to study in China, go to the universities' website, look for the department in your area, see the courses being offered, and analyze the application process specific to each course. On Linkedin, you can find colleagues who have gone through these processes, clarify doubts or ask for tips. I've been sought out there by some people and I've always helped.
CFP: Is it possible to get a scholarship?
A: For Brazilians, yes, but that will depend on each country. In Brazil, for example, the CGS usually awards 15 to 20 Brazilians a year, but I believe that not even 50 should apply, so the chances are high. I got scholarships both from the engineering department, which covered only the tuition and from the Chinese Embassy in Brazil, which is the entity that chooses the Brazilian students who will receive the CGS.
There are several scholarships available. If you go to the college's website, you will see a list of scholarships that the college offers. The most famous is that of the national government, but the provincial government and even the municipality can award you scholarships. In addition, the university itself can grant you a scholarship and the Confucius institute too. There are some modalities for professors as well.
The sworn translation was only required for my college degree. Documents can be in English or Chinese, but I think we all apply in English for ease. At Tsinghua, there is also no cost, so it is worth trying to apply.
CFP: Do you believe Mandarin is a barrier for students? Being at university, do you consider it essential to speak Mandarin or are we able to enjoy the experience only speaking English?
A: Speaking Mandarin, your experience will be better. You will be able to interact better with the local people and absorb the culture more quickly. There are several courses in English, however, as this is not the native language of the teachers, I sometimes felt that they didn't pass on all their knowledge in the same way they would in Mandarin, but that doesn't stop you from enjoying the experience. I think it's still worth going to study in China. 20 years ago, I believe it was very difficult for any foreigner to live in China without mastering the language, but today, with the cell phone in hand and the translator, you can get by on your own in most situations, you just can't be out of battery.
CFP: What is BRICS The Catalyst, the group you helped found?
A: BRICS The Catalyst is a Brazilian initiative that emerged in 2020 at Tsinghua. Brazilian students and professors linked to Tsinghua came together around a simple objective: to create a collaborative and informative environment so that more and more new Brazilian students and professors can also have the opportunity to study or teach at prominent universities in the BRICS countries. We want to scale what happens today in a punctual and disorganized way. So, if you're passionate about exploring international opportunities, you've come to the right place! You can find the link to The Catalyst platform on my LinkedIn or Google.
CFP: Do you have any final tips for those who want to study in China and at Tsinghua?
A: Life goes by fast and we only live once. If you can go now and feel like it, go. If you leave it for later, with each passing year it will be more difficult to venture into Asia. Whoever goes now will be one of the first Brazilian professionals with experience and training in China, and this will certainly help your career a lot in the future. Besides, the experience of living abroad always opens up your horizons and shows you new perspectives. It sounds cliché, but it's true. I, who had the opportunity to live in Europe and the United States, can say that in China the cultural shock and learning experience will be much greater. But it's all worth it when the soul isn't small, so you can go easy and good luck!
To hear the original version in Portuguese, click here.