My name is Alex, and I’m a Freshmore destined for the Engineering Product Development pillar. I’ve been given the incredible opportunity to fly to Zhejiang University (ZJU) under the Temasek Foundation International Leadership Enrichment and Regional Networking (TFI-LEaRN) Programme – it’s similar to the Asian Leadership Programme, but comes with a few more opportunities during and after the exchange. Over the course of the next 100 days – about 14 weeks – I’ll be posting about my experiences here and the various things I’ve learned. Should my schedule permit, I’ll be posting new content weekly, and with such an exciting schedule ahead, I’m quite sure there’ll be plenty to talk about. For today, however, I’d like to talk about why I joined this programme.
While I might be an engineer-to-be, geography and politics are both topics I hold close to my heart. There was always a thrill in comprehending and appreciating the whats, hows and whys of different nation-states, and field work – that is, actual on-site research and study – is essential for any geographer to fully appreciate and contextualise their knowledge. What value, after all, was there to textbook knowledge if we could not truly understand and apply it? My interest in China, as a country and a culture, started from my human geography lessons back in National Junior College, and was further fed when I began reading Henry Kissinger’s On China (fantastic book, would recommend). Yet, my understanding seemed, in a lack of better words, sterile and outdated. To breathe life into my understanding, I too needed to breathe in Chinese air. In my future posts, I may mention things that I find interesting, and compare that to the state of things in Singapore – indeed, just within the last three days, the differences are plenty, and plenty obvious.
So here I am now, on my third day in Hangzhou. There are close to 40 SUTDents already here, and we’re all frantically trying to settle in. We’ve yet to start our lessons at ZJU, but already there’s so much to learn. Simple things like setting up a bank account have to be re-learnt from scratch because of differences in administrative requirements, and learning to work with the ubiquitous cashless payment systems is an uphill, but rewarding, experience – Alipay is an absolute godsend (Paylah take note!). These troubles are further compounded by the language barrier – I am as proficient in speaking and reading the Chinese language as I am capable of writing with my toes (ie. not at all). I’d like to think of these as growing pains, however, and that there’s going to be a lot more I can take away from this.
Now that I’ve started writing, my pot of thoughts and topics is has started to boil and bubble over – there’s so much that I’d love to say, but alas it’s only the first week, and I shouldn’t show all of my cards this early in the game. Plus, it’s better that this post be brief than burgeon into something quite burdensome, and so for brevity’s sake, I’ll bid you adieu.
Here’s to a great exchange ahead!
Onward to the next post! – Week One