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Studying in an ultramodern and traditional China

More and more Leiden students are studying in China. Two of them talk about their summer course there. 'Now I understand better the kind of country Chinese students come from who are studying in Leiden.'

Chinese Silicon Valley

Physics student Joris Carmiggelt and three other Leiden students were invited by Chinese telecomms giant Huawei to spend two weeks in China during the summer. In the first week they had a course in Chinese language and culture in Beijing. After that they had lectures and were given a practical assignment at the headquarters of Huawei in Shenzen, the Chinese Silicon Valley. 

Joris Carmiggelt: 'I'm thinking of learning Chinese. It adds a whole dimension if you can talk to ordinary Chinese people.'

What did you learn?

‘I learned and did so much, those two weeks felt more like two months. I learned to build a network in a test environment.  We also had lectures about the latest developments, such as the internet of things, where all kinds of equipment such as fridges can communicate with one another via internet. I'm not sure whether I want to work in the business sector later, but it's good to know how a major corporation works. The pace is really fast and everyone works towards the same goal. In science, researchers are more involved in their own individual research.’ 

The Leiden students who took part. From l to r: Joris Carmiggelt, Erik de Vos, Lars Suanet and Lars Koekenbier.  

Were there things that surprised you?

‘The contrasts are enormous: China has an unusual mix of ultramodern and very traditional and poor. One day I ate in a hip restaurant in a skyscraper on a revolving plateau. Later in the week I went into the countryside, where time seems to have stood still. People live in very simple huts and for days I didn't come across anyone who spoke English. I'm thinking about learning Chinese because it gives you an extra dimension, and you can talk to ordinary Chinese people. I also want to be able to talk to Chinese students here in Leiden. Now I understand better what kind of country they come from.'

Mandarin in practice

Hosang Wu has just earned his bachelor's diploma in China Studies. He and seven other Leiden students took the University Immersion Program at Sichuan University in Chengdu last July. Wu explains why he returned to his parents' home country.

Hosang Wu with a fellow student

What did you learn?

‘I visited China - Guangzhou to be precise - several times when I was a child. I thought this summer course would be a good opportunity to find out about another part of China and it also gave me the chance to practise Mandarin, the language I learned during my studies. I didn't understand the local Sichuanese dialect; it's nothing like Mandarin or Cantonese. Sichuan University organised visits to museums and cultural parks and we learned about the university's archaeological research. We also had lessons about Chinese wine and tea. Having taken part in all these activities, I feel I know more about Chengdu.'

Were there things that surprised you?

‘Chengdu seems to be a very modern city, which I hadn't expected. The image of modern urbanisation is typical of cities in the eastern coastal area but things are very different in the west of the country. Chengdu was an exception. It also surprised me that new technologies are sometimes adopted more quickly in China than in the Netherlands. Students use Uber and Didi Chuxing, the Chinese version, all the time and they use Wechat app, the Chinese Whatsapp to pay. It made me realise that new technologies are accepted and applied at different speeds in different societies.'


More than 20 Leiden students from different faculties took part in Summer Schools in China, as part of Chinese or Dutch scholarship programmes. The schools were organised by Leiden's partner universities Tsinghua University, Shandong University and Sichuan University and the Chinese company Huawei. Information about these scholarship programmes can be found on the Facebook page: Study-Abroad / Studeren in het Buitenland and on the Leiden University website.

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