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