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Students get crash course in IT in Chinese Silicon Valley

Learning about the newest communication technology in China and solving a business case at telecom giant Huawei. Four Leiden science students get to know China's Silicon Valley.

Honours students

The four honours students and fifteen other students from Malawi, the Netherlands, Spain and Tunisia will be following the educational programme 'Seeds for the Future' in China from 8 to 23 July.  They were selected on the basis of their excellent performance, their letter of motivation and an interview at Huawei. The Leiden students are Lars Suanet (IT), Lars Koekenbier (Maths and Physics), Joris Carmiggelt  and Erik de Vos (both Physics). 

Historic locations and the latest technology

They will be spending the first week in Beijing, where they will have lessons in Chinese language and culture and visit historic locations, such as the Great Wall of China. To give them greater insight into the relations between China and the Netherlands, they will be talking with staff from the Netherlands Embassy. The programme for the second week includes a training course on the latest trends in ICT in Shenzhen. Shenzhen is  one of the fastest growing technology cities in China and it is known as the Chinese Silicon Valley. It is also where the headquarters of Huawai is located. The students will study a business case on the most up-to-date telecoms developments and will present their solution when they are back in the Netherlands. ‘We are asking a lot of the students, but that's what they want, too,' says Ka yee Lam from Huawei. ‘It's exactly this kind of practical case that gives them a better understanding of developments in the telecom and IT sector.'

Getting to know China

Why is Huawei offering this broad orientation visit? Lam: ‘The ICT sector is growing very rapidly, but the number of ICT professionals isn't increasing at the same rate. We want to make young people throughout the world more aware of the developments and opportunities in this sector. Not only that, Huawei is an ambassador for Chinese business life. We want to remove the stereotypes about the country and let students experience the real China.'  IT student Lars Suanet comments: ‘Huawei is creating goodwill for the company.  We are still students for the time being, but later we will all be working in the field of science or in the business sector and then we may well come across the company again.'

Be modest

In preparation for their adventure in China the Leiden students had a lesson in Chinese culture at the end of June. Yun Tian, China consultant at the Faculty of Science, gave them some tips on how to avoid misunderstandings. For example, in China you should never finish all the food on your place, she warned them. If you do, your host or hostess will keep on putting more food on your plate until you leave some. She also advised the students to be modest and to avoid confrontations. 'In China you are not expected to brag about your achievements. It's better to stress that you are there to learn.'

Physics students are similar to Chinese students

The opportunity to learn is exactly what the four Leiden students want. They're not afraid of culture shock. Physics student Joris Carmiggelt commented: ‘Physics students are generally very modest and try to avoid conflicts, just as the Chinese do. In that respect we have some similarities.' He is very curious about what it will be like in China in reality. ‘I often speak to Chinese students at the faculty here, but they are busy with their lives here and don't really say much about what it's like in China. Not only that, it's a great opportunity for a student to take a look inside a major international corporation.'

Exploring the job market

The same applies to the other students. Physics student Erik de Vos: ‘Budapest is as far east as I have ever been and I think it's great to be going to a completely different country from the Netherlands. A telecoms company like Huawei also employs physicists so it's a good opportunity to explore the telecoms market.'

Huawei is deeply embedded in the Netherlands

Lars Koekenbier, a student of maths and physics, remarked, 'They have a very different culture so we will all gain some very different impressions. The whole stay, including  travel and accommodation, are all arranged for us. Why wouldn't you want to go?'  Lars Suanet said: ‘Huawei is one of the biggest telecoms giants in the world. Before this I didn't know that they do so much in the Netherlands. They seem to be deeply embedded in our communications systems and were even involved in installing the KPN network, for example.’ He is also looking forward to making contact with students from other parts of the world. 'I'm treating this trip as one big networking event.'


Leiden University is pleased to work together with companies such as Huawei in offering students interesting opportunities to explore the job market. Interested companies can contact Lilian Visscher, head of  Alumni Relations & Fundraising.

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