Well yeah… practically speaking it’s on the other side of the world; it took me 10 hours of flight from Amsterdam just to get to Shanghai and that does not include my flights to Amsterdam. But good news! China is a modern country, full of potential, easy to explore and although mysterious from its nature, the Chinese culture challenges you to explore it.
That was my aim for the 5 weeks I spent there along with 19 UoE students. My home base was NUAA, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. I have to admit, the lifestyle was very different to what we are used to back in the UK. Different cuisine, different language, different mentality; but thanks to technology and some hand gestures we managed to move around!
The main reason for my visit to China was to take part in the 4-week long scheme which included 2 weeks of Chinese speaking, culture and painting lessons and quite a lot of trips around the city during weekdays. The other 2 weeks we were tasked to design and build a mini-vise in order to improve our engineering skills; that included using CAD software, CNC machining and 3D-printing.
The students at NUAA were very friendly and always willing to help around. Additionally, 3 more universities were part of the scheme so we got to hang out and collaborate with people from Ireland, Sweden and Korea making the whole trip a more universal experience. There is nothing to worry about; yes, Mandarin and Cantonese are hard languages, especially for Europeans. But China is a tremendously technologically advanced country! Everyone uses a smartphone, everywhere the words are also written in Pinyin (Romanized Chinese) and the metro systems are incredible and very easy to use. So my initial concerns of getting lost in China were fortunately never fulfilled.
Of course, during our visit we didn’t limit ourselves to one place. Every weekend we ended up visiting another part of China: Shanghai (more than twice since it is close to Nanjing), Beijing, Huangshan (Yellow Mountains) and the Autonomous region of Hong Kong. We got to try local dishes and more exotic ones; I personally had snake, frogs and lobsters… And rice, lots and lots of rice. I have several valuable memories I will never forget from those trips, such as sleeping on the train on a 6 hour ride, playing guitar with a local man in a hostel, meeting people at the hostel and ending up travelling around Shanghai and Beijing with them, and of course climbing a whole mountain which took approximately 4 hours just get on the top!
It was definitely an experience I will never forget; it pushed me to the limits of my comfort zone, I made great friends with whom I will meet again soon and I learned a lot of engineering related techniques used in the production lines. It’s a trip people should have at least once in their lifetime!
The Forbidden City in Beijing
On the steps of the NUAA School of Engineering Building
Hong Kong at night
Last day in Shanghai-Lujiazui region
Climbing the Yellow Mountains