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Summer school in China: extreme heat and the Chinese Silicon Valley

Going to school during the summer holidays? Some of our students accepted the challenge. And they didn’t do that just around the corner. During their holidays, students bio pharmaceutical sciences and computer science visited special summer schools in China. ‘China is a global player that we should not underestimate.’

Pharmacy and culture

Biopharmaceutical sciences student Nikki Duijnisveld visited the China Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing. She and her 18 fellow students followed the Pharmacy Experience Program. ‘We learned about research at the University, the healthcare system in China and the focus of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry,’ says Nikki. ‘But we also learned a lot about the rich Chinese culture.’

The group of the LACDR

During the two-week programme, the Leiden students slept in dormitories on the campus. In the morning they attended lectures, in the afternoon there were classes about Chinese culture. They also visited Nanjing Baijingyu Pharmacy Co., a large pharmaceutical company. ‘This visit gave me a good idea of the differences between our country and China. It was interesting to see that those differences are quite large, for example between regulations in the two pharmaceutical industries. What is normal to us here in the Netherlands, is not always self-evident in China.’

Language barrier

Nikki’s interest in China was sparked by the international excursion to Shanghai and Nanjing of her student association Aesculapius in April 2019. ‘However, it remains difficult that you don’t understand the language, the characters and some of the customs,’ she says. ‘It was also very hot. The extreme heat made it difficult to walk the streets in the afternoon. I’ve never experienced such heat. Yet she looks back on a beautiful journey. ’It is an experience that will always stay with me. I can recommend everyone to take part in a summer school, because you learn a lot from it.’

Chinese Silicon Valley

For computer student Kylian Kropf, the language barrier was less of a problem. In the Netherlands, he has been taking Chinese lessons for six months. Kropf travelled to travel to Beijing and Shenzhen for the Seeds for the Future talent programme of telecom multinational Huawei. Ten students from five Dutch universities were given the opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture and the latest technological developments. In order to qualify, students had to have an average grade of eight or higher.

During the closing ceremony Kylian gave a short speech on behalf of the Dutch students.

The programme started in Beijing, where we took Chinese lessons and also visited some cultural highlights, such as the Chinese Wall and the Forbidden City,’ says Kylian. ‘We also visited the Dutch embassy. After the final exam we flew to Shenzhen, the Chinese equivalent of Silicon Valley. All major technology companies are represented here. We spent a week and a half here and were taught about 5G technology, among others. Because Huawei has been in the news a lot lately because of an accusation of espionage, there was also the opportunity to ask questions to the head of the legal department.’

World player

Kylian studies Computer Science and Economics at Leiden University and at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. During his studies, little attention is paid to hardware he finds. ‘Through this visit, I realise that hardware is perhaps even more important than the software that runs on it. Practical exampled from Huawei also confirmed once again that mistakes are made even at a high level, because the different disciplines within the company are not on the same wavelength.’

Back in the Netherlands, Kylian is not yet finished; with the knowledge he has gained, he now has to work out a special business case. In addition to gaining new technical knowledge, Kylian found it extremely exciting to see 'the country that he normally only sees on TV' with his own eyes. 'China is a world player that we should not underestimate, the country is in many fields already much further advanced than "we" are in the West. For example, you can only pay with your phone in many places and in Shenzhen there are only electric taxis and buses. The inhabitants really appreciated it when we started a conversation with them in Chinese, which was nice to see. I found the Chinese very nice and helpful people.'

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