Last summer I was chosen by Newcastle University to participate in the International Summer Programme at Xiamen University and I’d like to share my experience.
I started my journey to Xiamen by arriving in Hong Kong. The highest city in the world amazed me by its magnitude. I spent a couple of days there visiting places like Mong Kok– the busiest place on earth for photogenic housing estates. However, the most rewarding thing I did was the hike to Victoria Peak with an iconic view of the whole bay area.
A week later, I crossed the border and entered mainland China using the most advanced metro in the world. I arrived in Shenzhen, one of the technology capitals. I instantly experienced a language barrier as I had trouble finding anyone who spoke English. A dictionary was useful when I had to buy a Chinese sim card to be able to reach my family and friends back home. After visiting Shenzhen, I took a train to Xiamen. Xiamen is one of the five special economic zones in China and developing at a fast pace. It is a place of cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world.
Arriving at Xiamen University gave me a chance to rest a little bit after the journey, as I did not have to plan anything. Everything was organised by the University. We were given dorm rooms with a stunning view of the campus. On our first day, we had a group activity – treasure hunting, where we had an hour to photograph different objects on campus. It gave us a chance to get to know each other, discover the campus and understand why it is renowned as China’s most beautiful university.
Xiamen Campus is so popular that tourists must book a tour a couple of months before to even enter it! It has got 2,6 square kilometres and it is more like a small town. There are many dorms, cafes, eateries, a stadium and many wonderful looking buildings in styles I haven’t seen before. There is also a lake and a huge amount of greenery that reminded me of summer resorts!
We were given cards to buy food in a local eatery. The prices were really affordable, and Chinese food is truly delicious. However, we were not expecting that the organisers would take us to the best restaurants in town. Being in Chinese restaurants at their origins were unforgettable experiences.
As the topic of this programme was ‘Grasping the Economic pulse of China’ we had a series of lectures with the experts which helped us understand this huge economy. We also took part in seven field trips, including visiting local Supply Chain Enterprise and visiting another booming city – Quanzhou. That allowed us to see the rapid economic growth there.
The programme was an opportunity to get to know other participants both from China as well from other places around the world. Thanks to that, I’ve learnt a lot about other cultures. As we got to know ourselves and became friends, we started spending more time together. We tried an authentic Hot Pot, and we had a wonderful night out in a huge club in Xiamen! Moreover, we participated in different activities varying from a Martial Arts workshop to making dumplings. Playing golf, one of the activities, is harder than one may think!
During the last day, we gave presentations about different aspects of the Chinese economy and we summarised the program during a farewell dinner. There was even more food, and it was even more delicious! Each group presented a short talent show and the whole evening was really fun!
Looking back at this now, it was one of the best experiences in my life and I totally recommend taking advantage of the mobility opportunities that the Business School offers.