Fifth year Bachelor of Engineering student Michaela Gilchrist had always wanted to study overseas, so when the Globex Summer Exchange program at Peking University caught her attention, she didn’t hesitate to apply.
Within a month of applying, she was landing in Beijing with fellow engineering students Danny Chak and Shanae King.
“China was so different to Australia. I didn’t really know what to expect from it but it blew my mind, in a good way! There were lots of different things to adjust to, like the culture, road rules, the food (which was great and cheap!), language and the climate.”
While it didn’t take long for her to settle in to her new surrounds, during her adjustment period Michaela said the locals were lovely, and always ready to help.
“There were a number of funny conversations I had trying to negotiate the language barrier, turning what could have been a 30 second chat, into a 5 minute jumble of English, Mandarin, hand signals, laughter and finally some sort of result.”
“I really enjoyed this, as difficult as it was, I found that I came away knowing a bit more about that person.”
The Globex program is an intensive exchange opportunity for engineering students. Running from 7 July - 26 July the program offered nine engineering courses, allowing students to learn from leading professors in their field.
Michaela’s classmates were also international students, from countries such as Canada, France, Chile and Japan.
“It was exciting to meet all of these different people, hearing about their experiences with their studies, travel and the cultural differences and similarities. We all stayed at the same place and became really good friends in just a short period of time.”
Michaela took a course on Smart Materials and Adaptive Systems, and much like the students, the Professors were also from all around the world.
“My Professor was from the United States. He was so enthusiastic and exciting, there was never a dull moment in the class. Classes for me were Monday to Friday for three hours in the morning so this gave me the opportunity to go and explore Beijing in the afternoon.”
Everywhere Michaela went in Beijing was different, which is something she really enjoyed.
“There was always something new to discover and explore in this massive city. The total population is greater than that of the whole of Australia! There were more developed areas and ones that weren’t so much. Beijing was always buzzing, day and night.”
Another highlight of living in Beijing for Michaela, was the food.
“The food was great! I had mostly Chinese food when I was there, but occasionally I craved a pizza. I even braved the street food stalls and honestly this was some of the best food I ate.
Michaela thoroughly enjoyed her time in Beijing, and has a few words of advice for anyone thinking of travelling overseas to study.
“I learnt that you just have to put yourself out there and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Not to miss out on experiences because you may never get that again.”
“Travelling can teach you so many things and I think travelling for study was even better. I got to meet so many likeminded and different people and this is what made the experience for me.”
“I absolutely loved my time in China, my studies, the university, the city, the people, the culture, the food, the chaos, all made for an experience that I will never forget. I would definitely recommend for students to take part in this program as well as others that are similar.”
Learn more about the exchange programs available to engineering and computer science students.
Main image copyright to Danny Chak.