Reflecting on all the adventures of the past university break, I could not believe how blessed I was to have had the opportunity to study and travel in China. As part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), ANU students have the chance to study at a partner university during the Australian winter. In July, I was one of 8 students lucky enough to spend a month in Beijing studying at Peking University. I chose to take two courses, one on the Chinese Economy, the other on the Rise of China and Change in World Politics. Learning about the economic and political rise of China as well as China’s recent history has given me a newfound appreciation for this country. One of the most surprising things was how progressive our educators were. Having experience both teaching in China and the United States, our lecturers provided interesting perspectives on their relative subjects and managed to balance Eastern and Western approaches in an open-minded manner to provide students a holistic understanding of development and growth in China. In this way, it is evident to see why Peking University is considered one of the world’s top institutions.
China is an incredible country with such a rich and diverse background. Despite my Chinese heritage, this was my first time visiting China. It was wonderful and so insightful learning more about China's history and political and economic rise. The courses and travelling around Beijing has enriched my understanding of China, and spurred an interest in further studies on China. Before this trip, I had not yet had the chance in my PPE/Law degree to study more in-depth into a region or country. The four weeks I spent studying and travelling in Beijing were no doubt jam packed with activities, studying and immersing myself in new experiences. Studying in-country is an experience I highly encourage all students to consider, whether that be through a short course like I did or through a longer exchange. Being immersed in a space where you are learning about the political, economic, cultural and historical context while living in that region is a priceless experience. The IARU courses I studied enhanced my studies in PPE and allowed me to see how my degree could be applied in the international realm and to evaluating and understanding current affairs.
Additionally, there was plenty of down time to experience all the wonders Beijing has to offer. From visiting the main historical sites such as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Summer Palace to wandering the traditional hutongs in the city and gorging on Chinese cuisine such as Peking duck and dumplings, there was always plenty to do. The Peking University IARU program convenors also organised experiences for us including a visit to the formidable Great Wall, eating hotpot at a popular Chinese restaurant and watching a traditional performance and dance show at the Laoshe Teahouse. The University and local students were always happy to help us out and share their culture with us.
Finally, meeting people from across the world, and sharing classes, travelling and sightseeing with them was an experience I will be forever grateful for. The people I met along the way made this trip even more special than it already was. I met students from across the world, studying from different schools of thought and from different backgrounds. Together, we spent time both in the classroom in in-depth debates about China, but also just hanging out being tourists in Beijing and having fun exploring the city. Despite being such a short time period that we spent together, I believe I will maintain these friendships for years to come.
Overall, the PKU IARU experience was an unforgettable journey and I cannot wait to continue learning and travelling to more parts of China in the future. Before applying for the IARU program, I was unsure whether this was the right plan but after encouragement from previous ANU-IARU scholars and my own fascination with travelling and studying, for anyone even slightly considering short-courses or exchanges to China, I would tell this is a decision they should not think twice about. What you get out of this experience is what you make of it. As long as you jump aboard with enthusiasm, an open mind and a willingness to learn, this opportunity will expand your horizons and is a great way to enrich your understanding of the world and university studies.
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