Faculty of Law

Faculty of Law
Faculty of Law

JD student climbs 'Great Wall' of language and legal skills on exchange in China 

(March 6, 2017)

Monica Wong, Law’17 (2nd left), with new  friends she met on exchange at Fudan University in Shanghai in the fall of 2016
Monica Wong, Law’17 (2nd left), with new friends she met on exchange at Fudan University in Shanghai in the fall of 2016

Rù xiāng suí sú – “when entering a village, follow its customs.” These are words Monica Wong, Law’17, took to heart during an exciting semester at Fudan University in Shanghai, China’s largest city. One of two Queen’s JD students who studied at Fudan last fall, she comes back to Queen’s this winter with the experience and stories that come from living and learning in a new environment.

“You develop a newfound confidence that comes from going on exchange, putting yourself in a completely new environment, meeting new friends and people from all over the world and gaining new experiences and perspectives that you never would have been exposed to otherwise,” she says.

This wasn’t the first time living in China for Wong, who worked as a summer legal intern at an energy company in Hong Kong after her first year at Queen’s Law. “From my time in Hong Kong, I knew that I would be up for the challenge of moving to a completely new city where I barely knew anyone,” she says. Living in Shanghai, however, posed new challenges for Wong since there are fewer English speakers and many parts of the city are less developed. Far from being a downside to her exchange, she credits these differences with making her experience particularly rewarding.

“The discomforts that came with living in Shanghai challenged me, helped me to grow and pushed me outside my comfort zone,” she says. “I knew very little Mandarin, needed to learn to navigate an entirely different city and had to quickly adapt to new cultural mannerisms and ways of doing things.”

While Wong’s Mandarin skills improved in day-to-day life in Shanghai, her legal skills also flourished by being immersed in China’s civil law system through her coursework. “My favourite course at Fudan was Chinese Legal Culture, because each week we learned about a different aspect of the Chinese culture, such as marriage, revenge, filial piety, religion, and women and gender, and how each aspect has influenced Chinese law,” she says. “I found that the skills I learned at Queen’s in studying the common law were very transferable when learning civil law.”

Outside the classroom, frequent travel breaks around China and Asia also made for an unforgettable exchange experience. “I was able to visit lesser known cites in China and see how different they are, despite being so close together,” she says. Hiking various peaks around China exposed her to the country’s diverse and stunning landscape and also offered the chance to get to know her fellow exchange students at Fudan. 

“I made great friends with the students from other schools, many of whom I still frequently talk to,” she says. “We even plan on visiting each other in our respective cities soon!”

For Wong, the combination of living in a major Chinese hub, studying at a world-class university and meeting students from around the world made for a challenging but rewarding experience abroad, one that she would recommend without hesitation to fellow QL students. 

“The city of Shanghai, quality of teaching, variety of courses, administrative support for students and diverse representation of exchange students from many different countries made exchange at Fudan an incredible experience.”
By Emily Lieffers