Shanghai University Engineering. Winter ’19

On June 30 2019, 24 UTS Engineering students commenced a brilliant two week course at Shanghai University. With classes in the morning and city exploration in the afternoon, their fortnight abroad went by in a flash!

Here are some short reflections from a few of the students who recently embarked on this terrific overseas experience:

From the 30th of June to 13th of July 2019, our daily schedule consisted of lectures lead by industry professionals from 8:30-11:30am. The content covered a variety of engineering related modules ranging from advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, and city infrastructure which transferred to concepts and trends taught in my own mechanical engineering degree. After lunch, we’d assemble at 1pm for site visits to relevant companies and the opportunity to discuss issues and concerns with international experts in industry. The UTS x SHU trip provided an invaluable academic and cultural experience. I am looking forward to partaking in more BUILD programs and I have been raving to other students to get involved too. – Anika Wenceslao

The comprehensive program enlightened me to a side of China not often conveyed in the Western world and has left me longing to return there and explore outside of Shanghai. I can’t help but smile when reflecting on the entire experience and was genuinely sad to return home after spending two weeks with some truly great people who I got to share the experience of a lifetime with. – Lachlan Derrig

I hadn’t travelled outside Australia in more than ten years. Going to China has been one of my favorite things I have done. Exploring new cities, meeting people, creating memories, sharing moments with strangers and friends, eating, learning. That’s how I would summarise my experience abroad. There was always something to do, to seek, to learn. I’ll admit that I was scared. Scared to leave home, scared to not know anyone, scared to navigate alone. But all things exist in contradiction. I was excited. I was excited to leave home, excited to not know anyone, excited to navigate alone. It was liberating. – Kassem Safwan

Visiting Shanghai was a very insightful and culturally eye opening experience. It was quite amazing to see a city that is almost completely cashless rely on payment methods such as WeChat and Alipay which are phone based applications in which you use QR codes to scan and then pay via an account. The best way I would be able to describe the atmosphere of shanghai, is that it is one giant factory. – Will Lazaris

Despite spending my first night sleeping at Pudong Airport, I only had good moments in Shanghai. From learning some mandarin, walking around the city and making friends with the locals, I had so many eye opening experiences. Everyday became exciting. Shanghai is an incredibly exciting and lively city. From how cheap the cost of food and living is, to how densely packed the cities of China are, you’ll never run out of things to do. I can’t wait to come back! – Nicholas Lukito

Shanghai has been an absolutely unforgettable experience. I was blown away by how much I was able to learn and experience in as little as 2 weeks. Admittedly, I was incredibly nervous before departing. I was about to embark on a trip with people I had never met, in a country I had never been. But as soon as I landed in China, that very quickly changed. From enriching cultural experiences, exploring sites such as Yu Garden and Tian Zi Fang, to insightful lectures paired with relevant company site visits, for example touring FANUC, a global robotics and manufacturing company, I can honestly say this trip had everything and more. I’m beyond grateful that I was fortunate enough to have such an incredible experience with such an incredible group of people. This program has truly exceeded my expectations and I strongly urge for students to take this rare opportunity to experience a BUILD Abroad program for themselves! – Brigitte Zappia

The key thing that I learnt through this BUILD trip is that there is a big wide world out there and that in order to understand and comprehend it, you need to see and experience it! From my journey I had the chance to experience different societal views of government and how different governments influence the lives of the people. This was something I found confronting, especially when I asked some Chinese citizens about their freedoms they either responded with “I’d rather not comment” or “It’s complicated”. All in all, going to China was an experience I will never forget, which has taught me and exposed me to so many new and exciting things and given me a desire to further travel through Asia to countries rich with culture and history. – Callum

Before I left for my trip, I set myself the goal of attempting to make my first video to capture my emotions and experiences of the trip. There aren’t many more words that I can say to do both my trip and Shanghai its true justice. However, I hope that this video does. – David Pangna

Before I left for Shanghai many of my friends and family would ask me, “Are you excited?” I often answered with an uneasy “yes” or a truthful “I honestly don’t know”. As absurd as this sounds, I was truly quite anxious to travel to China as it was my first time travelling alone to a foreign country. To save all the suspense, I had an amazing experience! Looking back on it there was no single factor or event that made this an unforgettable trip but a magical and rare combination of everything. The friendships and lessons I have learnt on this short two week trip will stay with me forever. – Veronica Gorgi

Me, Jakeb, Jess and Kassem right before getting on a Ferris wheel

As part of our program, we had the opportunity to visit many popular cultural sites. The Bund was one of these. It is a waterfront area in central Shanghai which consists of buildings that light up at night, creating a beautiful view which cannot be described with words – you just have to be there to absorb its magnificence. We also had the chance to participate in a sight-seeing cruise along the Huangpa River which exposed us to breathtaking scenery. Along this cruise we saw the Oriental Pearl TV Tower which is an iconic tower seen in many western and eastern movies, and we were given the chance to go inside it to see Shanghai from above! – Kelvin Luong

Before visiting China I always had a negative perspective of China and what they have done to the world. But, after this short program I got to listen and learn from the people there and my perspective has changed. I now look at China with an open mind. – Synat

At first I was a little nervous, I have always had a distaste for travelling in groups. There’s always the bickering and the squabbling, trying to decide where to go. But thankfully, once we started the course, our days managed to stay teetering perfectly between everyone’s preferences. One of my favourite days was when went down to Shanghai Pearl Tower. The tower gives a panoramic view of the city, where you can stare down at the people on the city floor below and watch them going about their lives. Overall the trip was super enjoyable and I hope to go on another in the future. – Nadav

International Legal Internship: Hui Ye in Shanghai

July 2019 – one of the most riveting months of my entire life so far… was spent doing a legal internship in Shanghai! I certainly didn’t expect to feel this way when I first started my program.

On the night of Thursday 27 June 2019, I arrived in Shanghai after a 10.5 hour flight from Sydney. As I lugged my huge suitcase into my single-bed hostel room, it really dawned on me that I would be spending an entire month in a foreign city with no one by my side. One reason that I chose a hostel to stay in was so that I could meet other travelers like me – so I could feel a sense of familiarity in what was a month of anything but familiar.

Although I had a decent grasp of Mandarin thanks to my parents, I saw it more a curse rather than a blessing. I wasn’t able to express complex thoughts or string together long sentences. Although I was able to ask for directions or order food at restaurants without issue, ‘Add me on WeChat’ and ‘I want to open a bank account with a debit card’ were slightly outside my vocabulary bank. I also felt distinctly like a ‘foreigner’ – I couldn’t even order KFC at one particular restaurant because I didn’t have WeChat Pay, which unfortunately required a Chinese bank account. Paying for things in cash just wasn’t a thing in Shanghai!

As I started with the internship the following week, I slowly but surely began to find my feet. By that point I had secured a Chinese bank account and was living and paying like a local! At Hui Ye Law Firm, I was introduced to the craze that is ordering milk tea (or bubble tea) using delivery services straight to the office. Can you imagine using UberEats or Deliveroo to send a coffee up to your office! I discovered that napping at work was entirely appropriate given Chinese business culture and the expectation to work long hours.

Progressing with the internship, I began to appreciate Chinese cultural values such as ‘guanxi‘ (the relationship) and ‘mianzi‘ (the concept of ‘face’). This meant not approaching shy colleagues for a conversation until they were ready on their own terms to have a meet-and-greet. It similarly meant not bothering my supervisors for more work until they were ready to provide it. Overcoming these initial barriers in understanding a foreign culture was one of the major successes of this internship.

Substantively, I was tasked with drafting various research papers, presenting on ‘Investing in Australian Real Property‘ to my Chinese colleagues and visiting both the Shanghai People’s Basic Court and the Shanghai Commercial Mediation Centre. In the final week, there was a brief change of scenery with a visit to the Nanjing office! None of it felt like I was doing things for the sake of an internship – it truly felt like each task was provided so that I would better understand Chinese culture, Chinese commercial law and Chinese working habits.

Having stayed in a hostel, I looked forward to chilling out in the rooftop bar every evening after finishing work. Unwinding after a long day with a beer and some international friends – I couldn’t have asked for more! In my spare time, I visited the nearby city Suzhou (the ‘Venice of the East’), did tourist-y things around Shanghai and even sat down for a dumpling class! An honourable mention definitely goes to the unforgettable KTV (karaoke) nights!

Striking a balance between work and play was perhaps one of the most enriching aspects of the internship. In some ways, I felt like I was truly an adult managing my own time, relationships, work and travels. Navigating the challenges, highs and lows of Shanghai, I feel like I have taken positive steps to becoming a Global Leader. I have found mentors from Hui Ye and friends across the world that I no doubt will keep for life.

Jason Wang

Shanghai Adventures

This UTS BUILD short-term program at Shanghai University was definitely an unforgettable experience. The whole trip was a mixture of feelings as I was challenged to become more independent, but also experienced the amazing culture, people and food of Shanghai. Through this trip I was able to meet and create lasting friendships with different people from not only UTS but also from other countries.

My two week experience in Shanghai was filled with spontaneous trips, eating street food, shopping and lots and lots of walking. Our days usually started off with Chinese class in the morning where I was able to learn basic mandarin which came to be useful during my stay. We would then have our business class where we were taught about the Chinese economy; incubator tours were provided in the city vicinity to further our understanding of how business was done in China. This was an eye-opening experience as we were able to understand the differences in dynamics of doing business. After our tours was when we would be let off on our own to tour the city ourselves. This challenged our skills of language, navigation and planning of what to do each day, where although it was definitely tiring, it was not something I regretted.

Each day after our tours we visited various places which required a lot of walking. With the help of our buddies in Shanghai, we went to the infamous Bund, went up Shanghai tower where we saw the beautiful city and its water and infrastructure from up high. We also went to both East and West Nanjing Road to enjoy the shopping especially at H&M and Zara and also various markets to enjoy the cheap but delicious street food.

With the program we were able to also visit the Yu Gardens and also experience lunch inside a Shanghai family home where we also visited the neighbourhood. We got to see a tea ceremony performance and also try out Chinese calligraphy and watch Chinese opera.

Overall, Shanghai has been an amazing experience! Especially its culture and food, I definitely would love to come back and visit.

Suugloria Tun

Shanghai: An immersive cultural experience

On the 1st of December, I packed my bags ready to depart Australia for the first time and undergo a two week BUILD Abroad program in Shanghai, China. This was my FIRST time travelling overseas, and it got my parents a little bit worried as to how I would manage my safety and communicate in a country that I was not yet fluent in. Regardless of these issues, I was excited to move out of my comfort zone, and explore a new culture that had given rise to my curiosity. While Trump, Australian politics and the media have painted China in a bad light, I was determined to embrace what China has to offer. With an expanding influence in the world, China was a country that I needed to see.

Chinese language and business classes

As part of our program, we were given classes in the morning where we learnt basic mandarin phrases for everyday use. As I have already been undertaking Chinese language studies I found these classes to be more of a revision of what I’ve already learnt. Despite all of my preparation and studies, I still found that my Chinese was lacking, evident through my inability to understand the salesperson or the waiter. There were times when I was alone, where my inability to communicate or understand, caused frustration within me. But, I understood that being in a foreign land, English would obviously not be the first language spoken here, so I still made an effort to speak some Chinese, even if it sounded off. Despite the communication barriers, I found myself lucky to have a friend who could speak Chinese. She became our interpreter throughout the trip, and made this experience far less stressful.

Moving on…

Our Chinese classes were accompanied by business classes which delved into Chinese culture, entrepreneurship and logistics. Although business is not my cup of tea, I appreciated the insights as it broadened my global knowledge. Out of all of the topics studied, I found Chinese business culture the most interesting. It confirmed how influenced I have become through my Asian upbringing as I found myself aligning with the cultural patterns of the Chinese.

Cultural and business trips

In order to engage with the local culture, we were taken to the ancient town of Suzhou. It was breathtaking and aesthetic. I loved everything from the traditional gardens, the alleyways, and the silk stores that lined the streets. Plus, who can forget the canals that make you feel like you’ve riding through Venice, but without the singing. One of the gardens we visited was the Lion Grove Garden. It was fascinating to observe the architecture and interior of a wealthy home that was adorned with spiritual meaning. The garden itself, was beyond describable. It had its own pond, a mini waterfall, and huge rocks that you could climb in a maze-like labyrinth. While Shangahi offers a city landscape and towering skyscrapers, Suzhou offers a quiet retreat into the past. Definitely worth a visit.

On the second week, we visited a local neighbourhood community. We were given a tour of their local museum where we revisited its modest beginnings. There was also a small cinema inside, where we watched an unforgettable and cringey short film. Following the museum we were taken to what seemed like a community centre, and listened to the beautiful old choir sing. It sounded like heaven. We then saw some old people play tennis table in a very competitive manner which I have never seen before. My passive tennis table skills were no match for them. Afterwards, we were taken to a local home where we learnt how to fold a dumpling and eat a massive meal. Overall it was a good experience to quietly appreciate local life.

Bao Steel Company

To experience a local business industry, we were given a tour of the Bao Steel Company. It is the leading steel manufacturer in China, and is the 5th largest steel producer in the world. The production of steel was fascinating to watch, and seemed to run smoothly through the machines. Unfortunately, I can’t really explain the process, but there is a lot of fire and water involved. There is also a small zoo nearby, which is used to test the air quality so that the company is conscious of any pollution to the environment. While this trip was interesting, it wasn’t as fun as the other trips.


China has been an exciting journey filled with friendships, shopping, exploring and lots of food. Immersing in Chinese culture through archery, martial arts, calligraphy and painting was an exciting way to enjoy what China has to offer. I fell in love with the huge metro stations, the huge shopping malls, the cheap food and the nightlife. It is such a different landscape from Australia, and I took every scenery with interest. Certainly, this experience has fuelled my curiosity to travel the world, and gain global knowledge and cultural awareness.

Yaminn Oo

China: A Landscape of Cultural, Geographical, and Authentic Beauty

“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” – Tom Stoppard

Since I set foot out of the taxi from the airport, Shanghai immersed me in its great abundance of culture present on every street. Shanghai a city likened to a relatively clean and amazingly safe ‘Asian New York’, is usually bustling till late (bar Chinese New Year) and always ripe for exploration.

Going from 30 degree beach days to a city where evenings can be 1 degree, was not easy, you’re constantly in consideration about the summertime fun your buddies at home are having. (but) The considerably meager cost of living in China for necessities sprinkled on top of the main course of the rich and inviting cultural experience China has to offer had me feeling at home within my first few days.

The delicious hot noodle soups, freshly made dumplings, and hot tea warmed me right up every day. And though I usually say I’m not a winter person, I learned to enjoy the cold as I found it great to cycle and walk around in, whilst snug indoors.

Contrary to expectations, Chinese workplace culture is relatively casual and relaxed, however, people are less ‘lively’ and more focused on the task when inside the workplace. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the company of the various personalities at my workplace and spent many a lunchtime with them.

During Chinese New Year I went on an eventful 3-day hiking tour to a rural tea farming town, called Suichang with a fellow Australian student from Melbourne. And then traveled to Beijing on China’s bullet train system.

By the end of my trip, I became accustomed to Shanghai as it was starting to feel like a second home. I had spots where I was a scheduled regular and haunting grounds where I’d go for certain bargains; had made plenty of brief friendships with those ranging from work colleagues to other international foreigners along the way. My most significant take away would be an appreciation of the strong pride and love for heritage and nation the people of China have with one another, which became somewhat contagious.

Manish Seneviratne

Huawei’s ‘Seeds for the Future’ in China

New Opportunities Abroad

Never did I imagine that my first trip to China and first study abroad experience would be under Huawei’s awesome global initiative: Seeds for the Future (24 November – 13 December). With the support of the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan, it was an invaluable unique experience of Chinese culture, ICT education and fun — with 28 other selected students from 6 Australian universities, as well as 10 Finnish students.

As an Australian-born Chinese-Korean it was a great opportunity to engage with my Chinese culture and thus understand myself better while expanding my worldview. From the standpoint of a B. Science (Mathematics)/B. Creative Intelligence and Innovation student, I applied for this program online in order to network, gain insight into emerging ICT technologies and Huawei – one of China’s most successful international enterprises.

Climbing to Great Cultural Heights 

From climbing the Great Wall of China in Beijing on day 1, to sightseeing from the top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong on the final day, we reached great heights of Chinese culture, immersed in foods, music, education, the language, and cultural heritage sites.  In the bulk of the first week of Seeds for the Future we studied Mandarin and calligraphy at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). But by night we visited Olympic Green and Tiananmen Square via the efficient subways. 

Our language studies were useful when it came to ordering food at the hectic BLCU cafeteria and haggling at the world’s greatest electronics markets in Shenzhen. Even the songs we learnt in class were practical, including ‘Péngyŏu’ (‘Friends’) which we sung at karaoke in Shenzhen and video recorded to send to our Mandarin teacher through WeChat.

Adapting to china and its technologies

Since Google and social media like Facebook are blocked in China unless you have a VPN, WeChat was our main form of online communication and came in handy for translating Chinese text in images like the app ‘Dear Translate’. China’s e-commerce is widespread such that some places are cashless — some vending machines only accept WeChat (pay) or Alipay. For future BUILD Abroad students, especially those interested in bargaining at shopping markets, I recommend downloading a currency converter calculator app.

Huawei Factory Tour

Another way we adapted to China was by drinking bottled water rather than tap water to avoid diarrhoea although Shenzhen particularly and Beijing were cleaner than expected. It was noted how ubiquitous security cameras with facial recognition technology were. We even saw their represented dots dispersed all over a map of Shenzhen at one of Huawei’s exhibition halls. At Huawei’s HQ we learnt more in lectures about emerging ICT technologies (i.e. 5G, Cloud, AI, IoT) from the second week onwards in Shenzhen.  By gaining VIP access to Huawei’s factories and R&D centres in addition to visiting BYD with informative tour guides, we were exposed to a snapshot of Huawei’s business and work environment, the production of technologies, and the future of public transport.

Highlights in Beijing & Shenzhen

Although we consumed much food for thought envisioning the future of Australia’s ICT industry, one thing I’m sure we all miss is the communal dining and buffets offering various authentic Chinese dishes while we got to know each other better. A favourite was a hot pot place in Shenzhen where we ordered noodles, plus an unexpected performance of a handmade noodle dance. Simultaneously, there was a costume clad performer that changed masks to the beat of instrumental music.  Another highlight was the Shenzhen Civic Light Show which was a spectacular colourful light show forming animations across buildings for 15 minutes, ending with the bright phoenix representing the innovative city. Other hotspots we explored included Forbidden City, Oct Bay and Splendid China Folk Village.

Yet what stands out are the small moments of kindness and friendly interactions with the Chinese locals and my fellow Seeds for the Future participants and staff: helping a Chinese woman with directions prior to the Melbourne debriefing although neither of us could speak the other’s language so we used a translating recording device; a couple of Asian-American exchange students showing me how to use a cashless vending machine and shouting me milk tea; the Mandarin teacher translating my given Chinese name to ‘Grace’/kindness/mercy; our group musical performance of ‘I still call Australia home’ at the closing ceremony; and at the hotel watching ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ as well as playing cards with peers whom I’ve befriended.

Cheers to hot pot!

Connections make the world go round

Throughout the program I formed new valuable friendships and fond memories with like-minded passionate people I’m glad to have met. Through my cultural and study experiences in China and exposure to Huawei’s business and innovative ICT technologies I have developed skills that I can apply to my university studies and gained insight into the nuances in Chinese culture and capabilities of the ICT industry. Thanks again to Huawei for this amazing unforgettable journey that has opened up more opportunities for me and encouraged me to continue to challenge myself and expand my worldview.

Cassandra Phoon

B. Science (Mathematics)/B. Creative Intelligence and Innovation

Pandas, Needles and Chilli

This was my first time going to Chengdu. I was born in Guangzhou, grew up in Shanghai and spent the last forty plus years in Sydney. And so, having spent more of my life in Australia than China, the chance to go back to China to study Traditional Chinese Medicine was a dream come true for me. Visiting Chengdu and getting to know the locals & members of the university there a humbling and inspiring experience. We were fortunate enough to be able to learn from world-class professors in their specialised fields. We found the locals there friendly, welcoming, honest and kind.

This is one of the famous night views of the Anshun Bridge

In addition to having the opportunity to hone our acupuncture, Tui Na (pressure point massage) and herbal medicine skills for six weeks, we also managed to enjoy the unusual local delicacies and visit, among many other places, the Panda Sanctuary that saved the Pandas from extinction.

A rather happy Panda at the Panda Sanctuary

Now, for the local delicacies: the Sichuan region, in which Chengdu sits, is (in)famous for their spicy “ma-la” food (literally numb-spicy in Chinese). Ma-la food almost always contains two ingredients: fiery dried chillies and Sichuan peppercorns which have a numbing effect on the tongue (but not for long). For a person who is unable to eat even the slightest hint of spice, I imagined that this would prove rather difficult in terms of finding restaurants that did not lace almost everything with chilli.

Super spicy “ma-la” soup for dipping skewers (chuan chuan) with meat and vegetables in

Much to my surprise and relief, there was a small restaurant not far from the university that served a large variety of traditional dishes that were not spicy.

During the final week of our program we also found an incredible Buddhist vegetarian restaurant that does two different kinds of buffets (one vegetarian dishes and the other was a vegetarian hotpot) on the ground floor and a la carte on the top floor. This restaurant is situated right next to the Wenshu Monastery which worth visiting even if you don’t eat there.

Vegetarian food at the Wenshu Monastery

Apart from gorging ourselves on the local delicacies, I also gained a deeper understanding about the importance of food as a medicine. As the climate in Chengdu is rather wet and overcast, the consumption of large amounts of chillies helps to offset the effects of living in high humidity. All in all, words are insufficient to express how much I would recommend anyone thinking of undertaking an exchange program to do so. As Nike so succinctly puts it: “Just Do It”.

Myself in the Taoist temple

Rosemary Yim

Spending Summer in Shanghai

Through Immerqi and UTS BUILD I was given an opportunity to undertake an internship in Shanghai, I had family in Shanghai, so this trip would cover multiple bases.

My flight arrived in Shanghai early which was nice but when I came out of the airport it was sub 10 degrees which was quite a drastic change from the 30+ degrees weather I had experienced before I left Sydney.

The next day was orientation at Mandarin House, where I’d be taking Chinese classes twice a week for the next 6 weeks. Since I wasn’t staying at the university accommodation this would also be the first time meeting the Immerqi staff and the other UTS students who took this summer program. The orientation was a briefing of each company, the methods of transport to take, etiquette in China, protocol if anything went wrong and Chinese class timetable.

After the orientation we went to have lunch at the Shimao Festival City, a large shopping centre on the famous Nanjing Road. There was a 30-40-minute wait for the restaurant we went to, but it gave us an opportunity to explore the shopping centre. When out table was ready it was in a boat, it was a cool concept however it was a tight fit with 8 people. The food was good delicious and quite unique, hadn’t seen most of the dishes before.


Following lunch, we went for a walk down Nanjing Road exploring a bit and taking some photos, it had been raining so it was still a bit wet and the weather wasn’t too great. The end of Nanjing road was The Bund where Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai Tower resided, however due to fog the view was obstructed, the view of the bay was still quite nice, and the area was quite packed with tourists.

foggy SH

During the weekend I would just prepare for my first week of my internship, as I was unpacking I realised I had forgotten to pack my laptop charger, something that would be vital during my time in China. Luckily, I saw an Apple Store on Nanjing Road, so I headed there on the weekend.

The Immerqi program consisted of interning Monday-Friday from 9:30am to 6pm, and Chinese classes on Monday and Wednesday classes, with the weekends free. Waking up early and working 8 hours a day made me appreciative of the weekend. I was fortunate to have a friend from Australia who was in Shanghai when I was, he was able to show me around to new places, we had a fancy hotpot afterwards walking to West Nanjing Road where we went to the biggest Starbucks in Shanghai which was connected to a major shopping centre in the area.

I was there for Chinese New Year, which in China is a public holiday for the whole week. The briefing suggested that many people left the Shanghai to go overseas and it would be like a ghost town, I didn’t believe this until I saw it, a busy street crowded with cars and people was deserted during Chinese New Year. There was a lot of celebrations and promotions that week, it felt like an Eastern Christmas which lasted the whole week.


The internship was good experience and was able to learn a lot about the marketing industry and working in China, I was also able to improve my Mandarin through the Chinese classes. It was definitely a good way to spend the summer.


Kuang Wu

Beijing: learning the language and discovering the old and the new


I participated in the January 2019 UTS intensive language course at Beijing Institute of technology. Having just finished Chinese 4, I wanted to go on an intensive language course that enabled me to put into practice what I’ve learnt from my Mandarin classes and gain new cross-cultural skills.

Intensive language classes took place every day for 1.5 hours in the morning. Our teacher was excellent and despite the challenges of all the UTS students having different language levels (from absolute beginner to Chinese 4) I felt that my speaking abilities improved. The language courses covered critical vocabulary and skills for our time in Beijing. I have learnt some of these grammar points and words already during my Mandarin classes at UTS, but the themes included ordering food, seeking help, sightseeing, directions and describing our trip.  The cohort also took part in culture classes every afternoon. During these, we learnt about traditional Chinese culture practices such as the tea ceremony, calligraphy paintings and, thanks to our visit occurring just a few weeks before Lunar New Year, we were also taught about the cultural significance and practices of the Spring Festival.

We also went on several excursions, to places such as the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. During these excursions we were given free rein and just told to be at a specific meeting point at a certain time in order to be transported back to BIT. All these sights were remarkable in terms of their construction as well as their rich history, the immense detail and ornamentation were extraordinary and truly breathtaking.


There was also a lot of free time afforded to us due to the lack of classes which allowed for independent sightseeing. Initially the cooler weather was a fun change from the Australian summer heat, I found it impressive just how good the heating was in Beijing but also very odd at how hot it was inside buildings. I often found myself rugged up to combat the cold weather only to be sweltering once entering a building and having to strip off some of my many layers. With this free time, I was able to explore the more metropolitan aspects of Beijing as well as venture to places such as Longqing Gorge to attend the Ice lantern festival.


It was fascinating to see China’s rise and rapid development in person, and Beijing is the perfect metaphor for modern China – a contrast of the new world and the old. A highly developed and sophisticated subway system roars beneath old vans selling street food and the occasional scooter van. Soaring glass skyscrapers of unprecedented design and engineering feats tower over the hutongs – Old Beijing’s cramped alleyways, traditional houses and cultural centres.

Nowhere is this contrast perhaps more astounding than Tiananmen Square. The square, being the 4th largest in the world, is an ominous icon that celebrates the power and rise of the Chinese Communist Party. It is surrounded by imposing buildings of socialist realist architecture that symbolise the epicentre of communist China – the National Museum, the Great Hall of the People and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Many hundreds of people gather for a photo in beneath the Monument to the People – taking pride of place in the very centre of the square. Every sunrise and sunset, hundreds line up to see the impressive flag raising and lowering ceremonies. It is distinctly different civic experience to ours in Australia and it was good to learn about this different culture in person.


I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Beijing, study the language and learn more about the culture. In these times of rising international tensions, it is vital that people-to-people links are strengthened through educational and cultural opportunities, for we can all learn from others.

– Benjamin Blackshaw



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I was both excited and nervous about embarking on the two-week intensive language course in Beijing China at the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT). This was partly because I feared the course would be very difficult as it was supposed to equate to the subject Chinese 3 in just two weeks, and partly because I didn’t think my Mandarin was up to scratch for communicating with locals in everyday situations considering my lack of revision since finishing Chinese 2 last November.

I was disappointed with the language component due to the timetable and how the language classes were managed. There was a group of 15 UTS students who attended, and we were all placed in the same classroom despite our different language proficiencies, which ranged from never learning Mandarin before to completion of Chinese 2, and completion of Chinese 4. I greatly sympathised with our teacher Zhang 老师, as she was an amazing teacher and tasked with this difficult job. As well as this the course had an unfortunate lack of classes with only six 1.5-hour language learning classes in total.

The culture classes were interesting and enjoyable, and consisted of topics such as paper cutting, tea ceremonies and calligraphy. In these classes we learnt about the history and cultural significance of each topic as well as engaged in these activities ourselves. Additionally, these classes provided an insight as to the complexity of the many traditions and reasoning behind them.

We also went on several excursions, to places such as the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Great Wall of China, Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. During these excursions we were given free rein and just told to be at a specific meeting point at a certain time in order to be transported back to BIT. All these sights were remarkable in terms of their construction as well as their rich history, the immense detail and ornamentation were extraordinary and truly breathtaking.

There was also a lot of free time afforded to us due to the lack of classes which allowed for independent sightseeing. Initially the cooler weather was a fun change from the Australian summer heat, I found it impressive just how good the heating was in Beijing but also very odd at how hot it was inside establishments. I often found myself rugged up to combat the cold weather only to be sweltering once entering a building and having to strip off some of my many layers. With this free time, I was able to explore the more metropolitan aspects of Beijing as well as venture to places such as Longqing Gorge to attend the Ice lantern festival.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time in Beijing, and I am very grateful to have been given this wonderful opportunity. My interest in China’s language and culture has only increased and I cannot wait to visit China again and further improve my language skills.

Caro-Lynn Wong