Hello there, Alex here!

In case you missed the last post, here it is!

As I write this post, I’m on a train to Shanghai. It’s a K series train, so it’s not exactly quiet, and it’s somewhat cramped – my hands are scrunched up against my body, and my laptop balancing precariously on my lap as I try to type this. It’s part of the experience I suppose.

A handful of us, for a variety of reasons, decided it would be a great idea to take a short trip out of Hangzhou. For some, that reason is Disneyland (hello Dan!), and for others, it’s to play Maimai (some rhythm game, my compatriots tell me) that’s only available in Shanghainese arcades. For me, that would be food. We’ve planned to eat at Canton8, a two Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant, and with Cantonese food being quite a major part of my childhood, I’m looking forward to that. We’re also looking to eat as much 小笼包 (xiaolongbao) as we can to make the best of our time in Shanghai.

Anyway, it‘s the second week of the Asian Leadership Programme (ALP) , and work is starting to trickle in. We’ve met our theme professors, TAs and Zhejiang University counterparts, and classes are starting too. I’m part of theme 7, and we’re working on a data visualization project, developing a large screen display for Bank of Beijing that helps them visualise the torrent of data that they receive every second. At first, I admittedly thought the project was hardly serious – that it’d just be a bunch of students mucking about – until our professor-in-charge told us that we would have to meet executives from the Bank to understand their requirements. It dawned upon me that this project wasn’t some 2D project done overseas. We’d be doing real, honest-to-God work that had very real consequences. It scared me a little, but it also enthuses me to know that what I do in these 14 weeks could make an impact.

We’ve also started our classes. As part of ALP, we are required to take a course on Design Fiction, which was developed in ZJU’s International Design Institute (they’re the partner institute who are hosting us. The cohort has been split into two, with themes 1 through 4 taking the class on Wednesday, and 5 through 8 taking it on Thursday. To say the least, it’s quite the interesting course, and it equips us with skills that we wished we had back when we studied the Introduction to Design (3.007) module. Our theme professors and TAs also suggested a few theme-relevant courses that we should attend, and my theme teammates (thememates?) and I have already sat in for one such course. Supposedly these courses are bilingual – insofar that the slides are in English, and that the professor teaches in Chinese – but it so turned out that we sat in for the one course that was purely in Chinese. My proficiency – or lack thereof – in Chinese struck once again, and every two seconds I was consulting Google Translate to make sense of the lesson. To say the least, I doubt I’ll be attending those lessons again. There are still a couple of courses that we’re going to look at, and Professor Chen Wei and the TAs have given us a free pass to attend whatever course we wanted – all we had to do was to ask.

I’m excited to see how things turn out, but for now, 小笼包 awaits. See you in the next post.

Aaaand here’s the next post!

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