Understanding the Health Care Systems as an International Student in China

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The day I landed in Nanjing, China is still very fresh in my mind. It is a day in my life that can be described by only three words: overflow, assumption, and enthusiasm. To say that I had a relaxed mind can be an understatement! My mind was overflowing with assumptions and enthusiasm. This is very true. As an international student, I was agitated about how I will adapt to another culture, comprehend studies at Nanjing University, and explore the enthusiastic city. The only thing that was unknown to me is that there was another important thing that would soon demand my attention-details in China’s healthcare system.

Right from the plane, I found the new streets and signposts written in characters I couldn’t comprehend. This left me puzzled as I asked myself. What if I felt unwell and was looking for a hospital and not understanding the writings? What could have happened by then? Indeed it could have been disastrous. That was one thing. Again later, I found out that there are some important things that I must understand for my well-being in China. But, through trial and error, I learned that there are vital lessons that an international student ought to be aware of.

For one, I realized that every international student was required to have health insurance that was provided by their relevant universities. The cover made sure that the students access health care services at some chosen hospitals and clinics. So a student was to carefully read the policy and comprehend what it covers plus the settlement process and limitations if any. Me, I had just carried with me the prescriptions of my allergy medicine knowing that that was all for my well-being in my study in China. I laughed at myself and questioned my attentiveness if at all, my mentors had mentioned this and I failed to write the notes properly.

Orientations came and the university put a lot of emphasis on the importance of preventive healthcare stressing the need for regular check-ups. We were encouraged to utilize Nanjing University’s medical facilities to curb potential health concerns early enough to be sure of our well-being in all our studies. So, after the orientation, I came to realize that China’s healthcare structures were very convenient. The hospitals and clinics were many with both and private public options. Pharmacies were all over offering varied over-the-counter medications for minor ailments. I remember taking my allergy medicine from these pharmacies and the customer service was very great. However, despite this great healthcare service provision, l realized that the language barrier was a big challenge because several healthcare professionals were not proficient in the English language. This made communication difficult for those who had limited Mandarin proficiency. As such, I learned that having a good mastery of basic medical terminology and carrying a translated medical card was very handy, especially during emergencies.

One critical resource that I learned during my study in China is the university’s International Student Affairs Office. This office was a bridge between students and the local healthcare system by giving them support and guidance. In case a student has challenges with insurance claims or needed trusted healthcare providers, they used to recommend those they see as great in service delivery. I recall a time when they even accompanied a Pakistani colleague to her medical appointments to assist her with the translation to get proper medical attention. Considering my case, there is a time I approached them having the severe flu and they promptly directed me to a nearby health center that was famous for handling new patients very well. The care I received spoke all about their capable and sensible treatment.

Another thing that I noted that seemed strange to me is the absence of the long queues that I was accustomed to in my homeland. I was amazed at the speedy medical services that I got. The health facility had organized processes that ensured patients were attended to quickly without delays. Additionally, I noted that the cost of their medical services was surprisingly lower when I compared them with those charged in most Western countries. Maybe this was a welcome relief to new patients in China.

However, in major cities, I noted that the public hospitals were overcrowded possibly due to the dense population. So if you opted to go to these hospitals, you must be ready to bear with long waiting times and the potential challenge of a language barrier challenge. As such, it was good to know the nearest international health care centers with staff who are mostly English speakers and can save you in such situations.

The study in China experience I got on health care systems has never faded. I always reflect on my journey and the learned lessons and find myself smiling. For an international student, resilience, adaptability, and an openness to understanding cultural nuances were key in navigating China’s healthcare system. It was unbelievable that the healthcare system that I perceived as hard to navigate at first proved to be the easiest. Thanks to Nanjing’s International Student Affairs Office who made it easy for international students to get appropriate prescriptions and good medical attention overall.

In a nutshell, China’s dedication and commitment to preventive healthcare, accessible medical services, and affordable treatment for international students was amazing. The extraordinary features of its health care system ensured the well-being of students allowing them enough study time. For me, China’s capable health insurance, language proficiency, and the good university are just memorable.

To any future international student considering studying in China, I encourage him/her to grab the opportunity to immerse himself/herself in another culture but never disregard the meaning of his/her health. By understanding what China’s healthcare system entails, one can navigate unfamiliar scenarios with confidence to ensure a successful and healthy study in China experience.


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