Alicja Gniewek

In summer I spent a month in China, studying Mandarin and learning about the Chinese culture as part of the Mandarin Summer School in Suzhou. It was one of the best, weirdest and most exciting summers of my life. If you are unsure whether to do a summer school yourself, just go for it!

The Mandarin lessons were very hard to keep up with at first as it was almost like learning two languages at once; the Mandarin characters and Pinyin for pronunciation! Still, the teachers were lovely and helped us with our terrible Mandarin. In the afternoon cultural classes were organised, including mahjong, Chinese chess and calligraphy – all a great insight into Chinese leisure and daily activities.

 After classes, we spent our time exploring the beautiful province of Jiangsu. We visited many traditional Chinese gardens like the Master of Nets or Lion Forest Gardens, as well as lively streets of Pingjiang Lu and Shantang Lu. All of these places were so charming and very different to the typical streets of England. During the weekends, we ventured out a bit further and organised trips to Shanghai and Mount Huangshan; astonishing yellow mountains of China, with spectacular views and 4650 steps to climb.

Of course, the trip was filled with loads of delicious foods! Every day after 11pm, loads of street food stalls were set up in front of our accommodation luring us out to try delicious foods before bed, from divine fried dumplings to pick and mix barbeque. Not to mention the delicious bubble tea that could be found around every corner!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I met amazing people and visited some incredible places. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Lifelong Learning Centre for the Opportunities fund, which helped fund my flights to Shanghai.