All good stories start with a bit of time wasting.

Edit: This was my first post on this blog. Ergo, it’s rather longer than the others and I’m sorry about that! But, it tells the story of this blog. I’ve changed a lot since then.

All good stories start with a bit of time wasting. Like myself, in the library, with a computer in front of me, open textbook beside. Presently, I’m thinking about possibly starting to decide what topic I want to study for the duration of next year.

I will throw myself into what I hope will become one of the biggest adventures of my life and fly to Tsinghua University in Beijing (, one of the renowned universities of China. One reason I have decided to start a blog is, essentially, that Facebook and Twitter are censored in mainland China, and I feel I need a way to document my experiences if this is going to be the adventure I want it to be.

It began with a younger me attending college, searching vainly for the right university course that would give me the balance between something I would enjoy, something that would help me develop my future career, and something I could forsee myself actually passing with a 2:1 or a 1st. I really wanted to do a BPS accredited Psychology degree (in case I were to go into clinical psychology) that would also offer a year abroad or year in industry, because I felt I wanted to experience the real world a bit and get away from campus. I couldn’t find one, it was far too selective. I weighed up my options, deciding to just go for a university that might possibly offer a year abroad option in the future and happened to fulfill all my other wishes for my degree.

Then, midway through first year, about a year ago this month, when I had pretty much settled for my degree being a standard three year course and not having any new, exciting, opportunities to TRAVEL, I got the email. Headed ‘Opportunity for a year’s study abroad’. I signed up before I had scrolled down to the signature.

My tutor replied with a description of the universities I could possibly attend. There were connections with everywhere from the University of Toronto to the University of Queensland. How could I choose?! I decided to give myself some time to think about it. All I knew was I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before, and somewhere I’d always wanted to go. Australia? California? I even considered Germany!

Fast forward a few days. I sat in a small church waiting to give blood, with nothing much else to do, when I decided on a whim to pick up the copy of National Geographic that lay in a box to my right. As I idly flicked through the magazine, a picture of a towering city resting by the Yangtze River in China caught my eye. Peter Hessler’s article was captioned ‘Return to River Town’ and described Fuling in the Three Gorges region of China, the small town turned metropolis. I’d never even heard of it. Hell, I’d not even known Beijing was the capital of China (I thought it was Shanghai!) until I read that article (for those who are interested,

“As I read, captivated, of the two carved fish that lie on the bed of the Yangtze river (a sign of good fortune to the locals) that date back to the eighth century, I realised how ignorant I was. I know next to nothing about China, a land built on ancient culture (Archaeologists have found the remains of rice paddies in eastern China that date back to the Stone Age), a land where good luck takes the form of two carved fish. Since then, I’ve recalled to countless people these fish which I find so fascinating, but I can’t claim to describe accurately, to understand Chinese culture until I’ve become immersed in it myself.”

So reads my expression of interest which I sent to my own university when I decided to choose China over the many universities of the glamorous U.S, over Australia, New Zealand, or Brazil. I want to throw myself into a culture that I see as so far from my own, to see what it is like REALLY.

I was accepted into Tsinghua University in January. So begins the endless, complicated process of visa applications, insurance, flight bookings, registration and (worst of all) packing. Unfortunately, I can’t do any of that until I have registered with Tsinghua and received their official letter of acceptance. It’s stressing me out so, naturally, I’m not doing it. Instead, I’m doing this blog. Once this blog post is finished, of course, I may possibly actually begin to figure out what courses I might consider actually studying while I’m in the country! Maybe.

I feel it is important to document everything that happens to me in this biggest adventure of my life, though, so I have made an effort to summarise the story so far. In my next blog post (two in the same day, I KNOW!) I’ve decided to write a little about why I’m having such trouble deciding on a course to study in Beijing. [Edit: This post has been made private] That way, even if no one but me were to come across this blog, I get a chance to brainstorm a little!

Oh, and for anyone else who’s thinking of going on a year abroad and is having trouble with the progress, I found this in a random Google Search. Who knows, it may turn out to be my Bible!


28 thoughts on “All good stories start with a bit of time wasting.

  1. Good luck with your year! And third year abroad WILL become your bible, I look at it all the time even now that I’m more than half way through my year. Have fun!

    1. Hey Lydia, that’s great to hear! I love your blog by the way: “He was nice. He was Nice.” aha! Just out of interest , how easily have you been picking up French by living in the country? Am I likely to learn Mandarin quickly while I’m in Beijing, do you reckon?

      It’s really great to know that there are so many people on WordPress who like to explore !

      1. I study french as part of my degree, so I had a bit of a starting point, but I have definitely improved a lot since being here! It’s very easy to just stick with expats so try and make some Chinese friends if you can, and I’d learn at least a few phrases before you go to make your life a little easier. And WordPress is a great way to look at how other people dealt with the same things!

      2. Oooh, will definitely make some Chinese friends then!

        Do you have to speak French to everyone all the time in order to learn or do you just, sort of, pick it up?

      3. The more you speak it the better you’ll get – don’t be afraid to make mistakes! It’s a myth that you can just sort of absorb the language, but I don’t consciously try to learn it either, it’s more about just getting involved in it. And you don’t have to say everything in it, it’s hard work! I still have a lot of English speaking friends that I hang out with when a day of French has just got too much

    1. M.R- thank you very much 🙂 I’m flattered to have a published writer show interest in what I have to say! I will consider writing a bio of sorts before I go to China.

      I love your tagline by the way: ‘Writing to stay visible to my world.’ Books are a fantastic way to stay connected with society, friends and strangers alike! And maybe, just maybe, you can help others to make a positive change in their lives.

      1. I honestly doubt that; but it’s a lovely thought …
        I AM finding enormous pleasure in the talks at libraries I’m giving, now; but don’t think for one moment that because I’m published I have any clout at all in the bookworld – I have none. I think I might have done better to publish it myself; that way, I would have expected nothing by way of marketing support (which is what I got anyway) …

      2. Well, I have read books by a couple of authors who don’t necessarily have as much influence in the book world as, say, Tolkien, or Stephen King, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

        I would be interested to read some of your work as it sounds like your writing follows the stories of unique people’s lives. I love both fiction and non-fiction biographies!

      3. I have written just the one. And I’ve had a bad time with my publishers in terms of its marketing that I have no idea at this stage what I’ll do with my next.

      4. Well, inspiration comes and goes. Perhaps a cross-section of a new character’s life?

        Can I read your book online? :)

      5. No. Oz publishers haven’t got organized to that point. If you really want to read it, you’re going to have to cough up SOME moolah – but if you google it you’ll find all sorts of discounts.

  2. Unfortunately, blogs are also blocked by the Great Firewall of China. You’ll want to subscribe to a reliable VPN service before coming over here, or consider moving your blog to another site that has thus far escaped notice by the Chinese censors. =/

      1. You might be right. Different ISP’s seem to block different things, and in different areas. I wish China would just evolve, but the government isn’t ready to let that happen yet. I wish you all the best!

      2. I think you mean http:// Yes, it’s reliable, though not always up to date. For example, China occasionally adds and removes websites to the firewall as a form of punishment. For example, was blocked for a while, but now it’s not. The WWW can be a little frustrating here without a VPN.

  3. Have a great time in China.
    I lived in Shanghai for nearly 2 years and was often in Beijing. It was all such an adventure. Photo opportunities everywhere, sounds, smells, tastes…. Lucky you starting all that.

    1. Fantastic! What would you suggest I see in Shanghai? Actually, my first choice of university was Fudan University, but it turned out they didn’t offer a huge choice of courses taught in English. It’s about a 2 hour plane journey to Shanghai from Beijing isn’t it?

      1. Yes it is…fast train too these much to see… Not sure where to start. By night it’s at it’s best with all he lights… So my favourite is Nanjing Pedestrian street right on the centre… Early morning with tai chi, dancers, badminton… Evenings with dancers, singers, jugglers etc. you can just walk up and down there and have eyes on stalks!

      2. Yes I was…unforgettable time and place. If you can get to Kashgar right near the Pakistan border while you are there – if it’s not a conflict time there- you will see some axing sites. The Beijing cultural centre organised some great short trips…

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