One of the many advantages of studying abroad in Shanghai with CAPA at East China Normal University (ECNU) is the opportunity to engage with other students from all over the world. There are over 100 different nationalities on the campus - in the international dormitories, in Mandarin language classes, in the affordable student cafeterias and in the clubs and societies you'll be welcome to join.
Another way of mingling with the international crowd is by joining in on the annual ECNU International Culture Festival Talent Show. CAPA's Shanghai Resident Director Colin Speakman, was there up front and center to watch this year's show, take photos and interview, on behalf of CAPA World, a key performer: CAPA's graduate Academic and Program Services Assistant, Tomas Hlinka.
Tomas combines work for CAPA with studying at ECNU himself on a master's program in Chinese Linguistics. He is in his second year at the university. Hailing from Slovakia, Tomas represented one of 41 nationalities involved in this show.
Below, Tomas shares story of his journey to Shanghai and his involvement in this special event.
CAPA WORLD: First, please tell us a little bit about your home country Slovakia.
TOMAS HLINKA: Sure! Slovakia is a small landlocked country right in the center of the European continent. Much of the country is mountainous and it is a great place to do outdoor sports like cycling or hiking. My favorite place would be the capital Bratislava, especially in the summer, although there are many other places that are worth visiting too.
CW: It sounds a nice place. What made you decide to come all the way to Shanghai to study?
TH: It is a really complicated story! I originally graduated from law school back in Slovakia, but wanted to broaden my horizons a bit and wasn't really satisfied with the idea of working as an assistant at some small law firm somewhere in Slovakia. I decided to apply for a three-year undergraduate program in Chinese studies at Masaryk University in Brno (Czech republic) and spent the last year of this program as an exchange student in Shanghai, attending Chinese language classes here at ECNU. After having graduated from Masaryk University, I decided to stay in Shanghai and continue pursuing my master's degree in Chinese Linguistics.
CW: What do you most like about studying at ECNU?
TH: First of all, ECNU is really welcoming for international students who study at this university and offers big support to all of us in various aspects of academic and student life. Then there's all the different facilities on the campus: new and clean dorms, cafeterias that are really affordable, many small convenience stores with lots of goodies, lots of sports facilities and, of course, a library. Throughout the semester, there are many different activities that students can join and there is also a huge number of student clubs. I also enjoy just simply walking around the campus, especially in the spring and fall seasons.
CW: Did you have any reservations about joining in the Talent Show?
TH: Oh yes I did! (laughs) My impression of cultural festivals and "galas" like these before left me with mixed feelings. I've found performances of "traditional" culture not that authentic and thus expected some kitsch. But now after having watched the show, I can see where I was wrong. It may not be so important whether the culture presented is really authentic or merely just a presentation of what any given country wants to present as its so-called traditional culture. The more important thing for me as a viewer in the audience is the quality of the performance and I have to say I was delighted to watch most of it! One really could see the hours of time the students invested in training for their performances.
CW: Did you need to spend a lot of time rehearsing for the show?
TH: Actually not much (laughs). We chose a song that I already performed on different occasions, so at least I myself did not need to train a lot.
Photo: Tomas performing
CW: Tell us about the song you performed. Does it have special meaning?
TH: This particular song is quite popular as it was a theme song of one Taiwanese TV drama that was airing a couple of years ago. It is a song about love, as many of the pop songs indeed are. My personal understanding of the lyrics is that one keeps falling in love with his or her sweetheart every day, even after successfully ending up being together. And that's how it should be!
CW: I believe one of our CAPA students also performed in the show. Can you tell us a bit about that?
TH: Oh yes, we had our Caleb Kostreva, official CAPA Shanghai blogger, there as part of the group too. He performed by dancing to the tune of a very cute song which was originally performed by TFBoys (which is a popular teenage boy band in China).
Photo: Caleb performing
CW: What were your impressions of the show overall?
TH: I think it was very well organized and both the organizers and performers were very professional.
CW: Do you feel well settled into Shanghai life now?
TH: Yes, I think I can consider myself almost a local now. I'm pretty familiar with most of the services the city offers and, starting this semester, I decided to move off of the campus to broaden my cultural experience. Now I can say my life is no different from an average young Chinese city dweller!
CW: What is the most important advice you would give to CAPA students thinking of coming to the Shanghai program?
TH: Don't hesitate and come to study in China! Especially Shanghai is a wonderful modern and international city with lots of opportunities and it is also a very convenient place to live in. The world is much smaller than it seems to be!
Thanks Colin and Tomas!