China: if you get the chance, go!

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China was not somewhere I had considered travelling to; it just felt so inaccessible.  But, when the opportunity to get some practical engineering-machining experience was presented, I couldn’t say no. Now, I can’t wait to go back!

During the summer of 2016 I took part in a 4-week summer placement at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The placement included language, culture and machining-workshops. Not only was this a brilliant opportunity to gain some valuable (and hard to come by) machining experience, the placement also allowed me to travel and experience life as a student in China.

Before I left, I spent time researching the customs, traditions and politics of China today, as well as reading blogs from other travellers to the country. My research led me to form very inconclusive, mixed views on the country; I knew the language would be a problem, but research suggested people would be rude and unforgiving; I didn’t know where I stood when it came to the incredibly different political system; and they appeared to eat things I really couldn’t imagine considering food! This both excited and terrified me; I didn’t know what to expect.

I had an amazing time in China. Everyone was very welcoming, helpful and incredibly generous. And, although the language is very different, and is difficult to pick up, it is definitely worth making an effort to learn some basics; they really appreciate it.

China is an incredibly diverse country. There is so much to see, it was difficult to choose what to do. Instead of necessarily doing the top things from a guide book, I recommend you first decide on the things that really interest you: whether that is art, history, sport, or hiking; all are available. I did a range of day and weekend-long trips, which included travel to Shanghai, Hong Kong and the Yellow Mountains; and visits to The Confucius Temple, Suzhou and Nanjing Museum. I found the train the most efficient way of getting around, despite the long ticket-queuing times and the language barrier. It was also a great way to see the country’s diversity.

My time in China was brilliant and I am incredibly thankful to NUAA and all of its students for their help and generosity. I am planning to return to China sometime in the next couple of years as there is still so much left to see.  If you get a similar chance: go!

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Our view after the gruelling climb to the top of yellow mountain. It was worth it!

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Hong Kong Light Show

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Shanghai Old Town

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