To read this interview in Chinese, click here.
The Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) in Newcastle is a part of the official CSSA-UK for Chinese students and scholars who have decided to pursue their education or work in the United Kingdom. The CSSA in Newcastle Northumbria follows the main goals of the CSSA-UK which is to help and connect the Chinese in the United Kingdom, primarily those who are studying or working at Northumbria University.
They organise a variety of different events including: A series of welcoming events for new students from the end of September to November each year; North-east Five University Welcome New Student Gala; Sports competitions; Trips; Academic seminars; Entertainment events such as dating events and shows throughout the year.
An interview with Cheng Fan and Ziwen Zhu about the CSSA
By Lina Alrababh
Many have noticed that the new year event has focused on the cultural aspect, can you tell us more about it?
Cheng: Yes, a different culture can inspire wonderful activities. As we know, the Chinese New Year is the most important festival in China. Almost a month of celebration includes many activities and customs inherited for thousands of years.
Ziwen: Such as during the Spring Festival, every family pastes the Spring Festival couplets on their doors to express sincere blessings and good wishes. The New Year’s Feast is “a must” banquet with all the family members getting together. The food eaten on the New Year Eve banquet varies according to region. In south China, it is customary to eat “niangao” (New Year cake made of glutinous rice flour) because as a homophone, niangao means “higher and higher every year”. In the north, the traditional food for the feast is “Jiaozi” or dumplings shaped like a crescent moon.
Cheng: Also, this event touched on our deep homesickness – we hardly reunited with our families during the pandemic, but reunion is the key value that calls for celebration.
Can you tell us about the CSSA and what it does?
Cheng: The full name is the Chinese Scholars and Students Association (CSSA). We have organised a series of activities in the hopes that our students and scholars will live a wonderful life here while increasing the mutual understanding among communities through cultural communication.
Ziwen: Our society goals are: To help and connect the Chinese students. To organise more activities on campus to enrich students’ life. To make more friends from different countries and different backgrounds.
Do you have any upcoming events?
Cheng: Basketball, football, and table tennis matches among different universities nearby.
Ziwen: Besides, we are preparing for the Dragon Boat Festival and we are going to prepare some dumplings to share.
Do you find that the events increase the understanding and knowledge of your culture?
Cheng: Yes, absolutely. I know how non-Chinese understand Chinese culture better and the more suitable approaches to practice effective cross-cultural communication.
Ziwen: Many students from around the world learned about traditional Chinese stories and tasted Chinese food and sweets through the Chinese New Year activities.
What event was your favourite? Did it achieve its purpose?
Cheng: My favourite is the Chinese New Year event! I believe it has achieved its purpose because I heard lots of positive feedback and I also enjoyed it when we held it.
How important is the role of your association for Chinese students?
Cheng: We will help Chinese students to be seen and understood more in the university environment through the voice we make in the public area.
Do you have a website to announce events on, or do you usually use the university’s one?
Cheng: We are using Instagram, Facebook, and WeChat Subscription. The Student Union of Northumbria University also helps us a lot.
What are the main struggles that Chinese students face when they first come here, and how does the CSSA help?
Cheng: The cultural difference is one of the main struggles. We will timely respond on social media and also post some tips to let new students know how to settle down quickly.
Ziwen: For example, we will post some local culture and school introduction in advance on our WeChat Subscription, thus helping new students to prepare and know more about local environments before they leave China.
What are the things you wish you knew about the UK before coming here, and what things would you like to let students who are about to come here know?
Cheng: I think it is jumping out of your comfort zone. Don’t worry about the way you speak the English language – just express your thoughts and be true to yourself – you will make more friends.
What do you wish for new students in the new Tiger Year?
Cheng: I wish happiness to everyone during the Chinese New Year (春节快乐 Chun Jie Kuai Le) and to have more money (恭喜发财 Gong Xi Fa Cai).
How to contact the CSSA
You can get in touch with the CSSA and follow their activities via these links:
Via the student union website, here.
Through Instagram, here.