“Excuse me, what do you study? Is that some
sort of psychology?”
“Oh… but what do you with that?”
“Greaaat! Chinas economy is booming, you
will certainly find good workingplaces with that“
Thoose are some of the reactions I receive when I tell that I study sinology. I do so in Leipzig, Germany.
But what is that sinology? Why did I chose to study that? And how is that?
Why to read this review
On the internet I read some short introductions about sinology, and what you can do with it afterwards, but I couldn’t find a personal review of students during their studies.
So when I started my studies I didn’t really know what I was going to experience.
As a student in the 6th term, I would like to share my personal experience of studying sinology with you. I don’t only want to brief you about my learning experience, but also like to share some ups and downs of my studies.
My goal of this article is to help people who finished school and can’t decide what to do next. If you think about studying sinology, I hope to clarify a bit what is it you might study in the future.
Besides, I am writing to share my experiences with fellow sinology students, friends, teachers, family and anyone who is curious about it.
Sinology – what‘s that now?
When I let people guess what sinology is, I often receive answers such as psychology or some kind of philosophy, sometimes the correct answer and often “no idea”.
When I am asked, I explain that the goal to do sinology is to make science about the Chinese cultural room. Sinologists stole methods such as literature- history- language- or religious studies from bigger disciplines to apply to “Chinese” “cultural“ ”rooms“. Do NOT ask my professor, what culture means. There are too many different definitions.
When we write papers at University, we have a broad choice of topics and which methods we would like to apply. It just has to be related to China and our subject.
Apart from modern Chinese, we also learn classical Chinese, we learn about history as well as modern societies in China/Taiwan.
The difference between sinology and Chinese studies is that sinologists focus on philology (which basically means that they look on texts, linguistics, history), while china studies cover a range of methods including way more modern methods.
This is the difference in the English language but in German there is no difference between sinology and China Studies.
Why do universities call this subject china
studies although they only use methods stolen from other disciplines? Can’t we
just study Historical studies and Chinese Sociology？
Well much science about China from
generalists is actually not conducted with a lot of background knowledge,
contexts and original sources from China, for example due the language barrier.
In my discipline, we learn exactly to overcome that. This is the purpose of any
area studies as far as I know.
When I explain this, the most common
follow-up question will be:
And what you to become with that?
Actually, this is a great question but I hate it anyway! Is makes me kind of nervous. I don’t know the answer although I often think about it. My Taiwanese Sinologist friends also don’t have got a clue what kind of job they will do in the future.
Actually, outside of my university, the Confucius-Institute and one life-coach, I don’t know anyone who studies sinology and got a job personally 😀
This is an incomplete list I just made up
with possible professional areas which are more likely to get into with a
degree in sinology:
- Tourism (Actually, there is a graduate student in my university in Leipzig who just becomes a traveling guide)
- Diplomacy; Politics (e.g. Consulting)
- Culture and language teaching (intercultural training in companies, Confucius Institute, Chinese teacher)
- Translator/ Interpreter (which can possibly be done remote with a laptop. This is exciting I think)
- Scientific carrier (Universities, or think tanks)
- Business (even though that’s harder than one might think, because employees generally prefer to let an economist learn Chinese than to teach a sinologist economics but there are consulting firms who hire sinologists)
- Journalism (for example related to China like Nihao Deutschland)
- There is much, much more, for example self-employed, marketing, taxi driver…
So, sinology has with other humanities in common, that one probably works afterwards in something unexpected. Other
websites offer even more stories what people have done after their sinology studies.
When I decided to study, I didn’t ask that question and I think that shouldn’t be the question, especially not in this area of studies. I think, success can rather be estimated by your happiness at work, has a good impact at the world and still has time to care for the things that matter, like your family, physical and mental health, spirituality.
I am more and more giving up to find for an ultimate answer what is it I might be working in the future and focus on the process of studying which I clearly enjoy. The more I distract myself from this question by studying, the more satisfied I feel at university.
Let’s move to my favorite question:
Why do you study sinology?
That’s the most exciting question which I ask fellow students and myself, even though I am not too sure about my own
I think, in the aftermath is it easy to make up reasons for anything but I didn’t really do a calculation, I mainly listened to my gut feeling.
There are however some reasons which I think, explain where my good feeling in the gut came.
I love learning new languages, I am very interested to experience different cultures, want to understand other people
and myself a bid better.
China is one of the most powerful countries in the world and I realized three years ago that I hardly know anything about
that country. So I decided to open some books about China, learn Chinese and find a Chinese language partner.
After school and before my studies, I took two gap years. Especially in gap year number two, I spend quite a lot of time playing computer games and worked part time.
One of the few other hobbies I had was learning about China. It got really interesting and gave me a sense of accomplishment. Here I explain more in detail why I really like to learn Chinese.
I wanted to keep on learning and I wanted to
have a more regulated life, so I decided to study at university.
I don’t really know, why is has become sinology and not Japanese, Korean, studies, or Indology/ Africanistic but I know that my decision to study came from my experience with the topic, not through “thinking”.
Ok, and how do you like your studies?
I am in the 6th term and generally speaking, I love the life at university!
The studies open possibilities to engage with China in so many ways.
For example, in the 4th term my professor, a fellow student and me tried to read an original text from the Chinese intellectual Liang Qichao. This text was written in the late Qing dynasty (1664-1912), the message in the text we read was basically that Chinas foreign debt is too high, the government is ineffective and that it would be better if the Qing dynasty fell. The text was really complicated, of course only for us students. We faced many characters we never saw, grammar from classical Chinese, and our professor had to explain us the context and some economics about dept.
As we always asked many questions, we came to page 3 from 4 in a whole term.
The focus of my institute is Chinese history, and for undergraduate students especially: Learning Chinese, long- as
well as short characters.
Sometimes, my teachers explained Chinese characters more in detail or interesting things about Chinese culture, which I
appreciated a lot.
There is a German – Chinese tandem coffee organized by my first Chinese teacher. This is where I got to know more than
only language partners but also friends. If we had any questions about the grammar, our teacher was always very helpful to explain.
After one year, I have passed the so called HSK 3 exam and a so called HSKK intermediate level. HSK 3 is an exam where 600 simplified vocabularies are tested, HSKK intermediate is a kind of oral exam, where you told a monologue where 1200 words would be optimal to know (which I certainly didn’t know by than).
Besides Chinese class, I had an introduction into methodology in regional sciences with the focus on how to
make science about China. We also had one year of Chinese history.
This was very exciting, because my professor knows so much about China and I like the way she lectures. Whenever
anyone had a question, she almost always gave very deep answers and many details. In the exam she tested the bigger picture, only few facts.
In the second term we had hold a presentation and write an essay. I chose to write about the personality cult of
I think, the study is quite relaxed, if one doesn’t expect to get a 1.0.
At my university Leipzig we have to choose a side subject. We have been advised to choose something which can teach us more methodology. I think, the methodology being taught in sinology alone is a bid poor but I am unable to compare this with other universities.
After studying a had time for hobbies and I had a wonderful love relationship in the 3rd and 4th term. university isn’t only about studying :).
Generally speaking, I am a happy student.
My view about studying is highly affected by my time before, when I spend way to much at home. As I played too much computer and didn’t really get further in my life, I felt lost. I appreciate the contrast to this life as a student where I have got some manageable challenges and friends.
What do you like least?
Even though I am generally very content with me studies, there are many disappointments, too.
On many days, I asked myself why I should go to university (which I mostly did, though)
My biggest issue about studying sinology is that I basically didn’t learn anything about modern China! Ok, this is exaggerated but I except of 45 minutes in a voluntary tutorial in the first term, there was only one lecture in the 4th term left for modern Chinese societies, about the People’s Republic of China since 1949.
Among these lectures, we only had five lectures completely given by our lecturer, the rest has been left for our huge course to hold presentations about topics they chose themselves.
That’s disappointing to me.
I think that ongoing sinologists are nowadays motivated to better understand the current development in China than to stick at historic topics. Of course, knowledge about history helps a lot to understand the present but why can’t we just focus more on the present and take a look back from there?
I am missing insights about international
relations, political science, basic knowledge about Chinas economy and Chinas
role and the globalized world!
So that’s because my institutes focus is at history, and religion of China. I still think, that this is normal not to learn
exactly what you want at university but get a lot of basics. How should I even know, what interests me or might be very relevant if I didn’t deal with a topic enough?
For the choices to study, I still think this is one of the most interesting ones.
One more advantage is that we have got the Confucius Institutes.
They generously give scholarships to students who are committed to improve their Chinese. In 2018, if we have passed
HSK 3 and any oral HSKK exam, we can apply for a one year scholarship in China, with high chances of success.
What I would have advised my younger me
Decide your university wisely!
So I have chosen my university because I think that the city Leipzig is really cool, because there are many creatives at startups, alternative movements etc.
I am very happy with that decision but if you are willing to prioritize your study to your city, you can find courses which are more likely to be really interesting. For example, in Freiburg, Germany I see a greater focus at modern politics and cultural revolution, Heidelberg seems to me like a high level university and more strict, etc.
Is might be worth to get to know the place where you cant to study a bid better ?.
One counterargument is, that any university help you to discover new interests.
My biggest mistake:
The “Deutscher Akademische Auslandsdienst“, (DAAD, might be translated into something like German Academic Foreign Service) gives some scholars a great scholarship. They offered a scholarship to study one year in China or Taiwan, or anywhere you can persuade them to go (according to their website even North Korea).
Beside the great experience, this scholarship benefits the CV a lot. Applicants must write an academic proposal, so I decided to commit my holidays to write it. I let it check my professor three times, (she has roasted me two times), and she wrote me a recommendation letter, so all in all, this was quite a lot of work, even though I enjoyed it.
So it turned out that I have received an invitation to an interview. The only problem is that I have didn’t read the
E-mail on time, instead, I checked my spam folder one month too late, when I got informed that I have got “one new message at the DAAD-Portal.”
I even got a second message. They let me know that because I didn’t confirm the
interview, I have been kicked out of the application process.
This has upset me a lot, because if one gets an invitation to the interview, chances to receive a scholarship are high.
And I was upset how uncareful I was not to check my spam folder.
Also, my other application for the scholarship at Hanban, didn’t work out, and it was not because they had no
interest but also because of me not being able to handle the application process careful enough!
It happened, after one University has accepted me provisionally, if the Hanban institute itself decides if they
accept me. There was a deadline to fill out a form with general information about yourself and names of your family members etc.
I forgot to klick the box that says my application gets funded by Hanban, and I was asked to correct this within 3 days
Unfortunately, I forgot to check the website from the university, somehow I expected to get an Email notification.
Well, when I found out about the mistake, I corrected it but this was too late
However, I haven’t immediately kicked out from the application process but I found out about the rejection a few months
later, a few days before everyone got the results. The official decline came a week after my fellow students have received their approval.
Thanks to my parents support, I have been able to go to Taiwan and I am very happy to be here. If you would like to know about my impression and reasons to go to Taiwan, click here.
I hope I was able to give you a few insights about the sinology studies!
Are there any questions regarding the study or my personal experience?
Or do you have any feedback or a wish, what you would like to read about on Liuxuesheng？
Can you share your experience, expectation or view about studying sinology ？
This would interest me a lot.
I would absolutely be happy if you would share and comment this post!