Your article: Student gains ‘unique insight’ into student life in China

Florence Judge-Clayden during her trip to Beijing.
Florence Judge-Clayden during her trip to Beijing.

This summer I went to Beijing, China for 11 days on the Ameson Chinese Elite (ACE) Summer Programme which I had applied for at Easter time.

It brought together around 250 Chinese students with 19 international students from the UK, USA, France and the Russian Federation.

The programme was run and funded by Ameson Education and Culture Exchange Foundation, with the aim to enable more cultural interaction and understanding between the five permanent members of the United Nations. 2014 was the first year that France and the UK were invited to participate so it was a great honour to be among the first UK students ever on the programme,

There were many activities over the two weeks which included interesting presentations on ‘Superconductivity’ from Professor David Cardwell (University of Cambridge, UK), ‘How to be Successful’ from Ron Byrne (Mount Allison University, Canada), ‘Marine Energy in Scotland’ from Professor Tom Bruce (University of Edinburgh) and ‘School of the Future’ from Dr Marina Polovkova (Russia).

The lecturers then moderated several panel discussions. There were two general ‘Culture Summits’ where each country had five representatives and shared one main aspect of their culture, for example, China showed what its regional dishes were. The audience could then ask questions or comment on similarities and differences compared with their own country.

In addition, there were two themed discussions with a panel consisting of one representative from each country. I was lucky enough to participate in both discussions on ‘Energy Solutions of the Future’ as well as ‘Stories of Dreams and Inspiration’.

I was an audience member in the first one and I contributed my thoughts on why we currently rely on non-renewable fossil fuels as well as the difficulties in trying to introduce widespread renewable sources.

In the second discussion I was part of the panel on stage and revealed who I was inspired by and why. The discussion then went on to the audience sharing their inspirational figures and looking at the differences between the collective dreams of China compared to America. We then looked at how collective dreams may reflect or influence individuals’ dreams and how they fitted together within individual countries.

Individual workshops in the form of presentations were given in the evenings from selected Chinese and International students, including me. I gave an idea of how British education worked, which led to a very interesting discussion on how all the other countries’ education systems worked.

Chinese calligraphy classes, food tasting sessions, sports activities and two evening shows were also held. Everyone sang their national anthem, including the Brits with ‘God Save the Queen’. One particular highlight was the Russians’ national dance which they performed and then invited the whole audience on to the stage to do it with them. It was rather magical and brought us all together on the penultimate night.

Before the ACE programme began, the international students had three days of sightseeing around Beijing, so I got to know the 18 other international students really well. We packed a lot of sights in such as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the 2008 Olympic Park, the Temple of Heaven and the Hutong area, which we navigated on rickshaws.

I really enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to anyone as I now have many new friends from all five countries. I have gained a unique insight into student life in China as well as trying lots of new food to perfect my chopstick skills. It has really opened my eyes and has given me the travelling bug to explore other countries.

Many thanks go to the Ameson Foundation for funding the venture and to school, for discovering the programme and encouraging me to apply.