Being able to visit a city in China, as part of an exchange program, was extraordinary. Everything I came across was the most unexpected in a splendid way and taught me much about this intriguing country. Each day was filled with different activities, which aided in our learning of the culture. It was nerve-wrecking at times, exciting and mesmerising. Working together in a small group was wonderful and we all got to know one another in such a short amount of time as we were all from different courses. The exchange with Chinese students was of course memorable and tremendous; I have returned having made some long-lasting friendships and I know that I will see them again in Chengdu. It was fantastic working together with Sichuan University and visiting their many wonderful campuses.
Most memorable moments
Every day was unique and special, but I know that I will always immediately think of the day we visited one of the peaks of Qingcheng Mountain. We started off as a group walking up the never-ending steep steps and eventually each took our own pace, and I found myself walking beside Fionnuala. It was strenuous and hard, but the real difficulty was when Fin felt sick (the blame is entirely on altitude!). Bearing in mind we had little time left, there was only one way to go and that was up. We both helped each other and it was the best moment when we reached the temple, only to realise we still had some way to go yet as we had not reached the top temple, but we were not far and this kept us going. The summit was absolutely breath-taking and was worth every step of the way, and we would have done it again. The vast mountains, endless skies and the immaculate temple will always be remembered. Another particular moment is when we visited one of the university campuses, Jiang’an, and it was simply stunning, with its own lake and countryside feel. However, none of these days would feel special if it was not for the Chinese student guides who were excellent and made it all the more exciting. Forming this friendship with them will always be memorable.
What I have gained
To begin with, I have gained deep-rooted friendships stemming from China to America, and of course within the Bradford team too. I have been able to experience and engage in so many aspects of Chinese culture, continually finding similarities and differences between China and UK. This remarkable opportunity has developed several of my skills in such a unique setting, such as: teamwork, responsibility, time-management, confidence, project management and cultural awareness. Before the physical journey to China began, we were already starting on projects and ideas, and this was very new to me but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Being exposed to Mandarin was equally satisfying and has driven my desire to study the language further. I wanted to step outside of my intellectual comfort zone and embrace learning beyond my degree, which I believe this journey has fulfilled.