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Monday 23 November 2015

Solent's Shanghai Summer School

Ever wondered what it would be like to live and learn in another country? How about another continent? This summer a handful of Southampton Solent students were given the opportunity to experience just that, spending two weeks at an international summer school programme in Shanghai.

Shanghai is home to the tallest building in China.

We spoke with Louise Davidson, one of our fashion PR students, who decided to take up the offer. As China is a global centre for fashion and technology, she went on the trip hoping to find ideas for her final major project.

The culture shock was huge, not least because of the lack of social media or Google in Shanghai. Imagine life without Facebook or Twitter! In addition, it was the first place she had ever been where she couldn’t communicate, as hardly anyone spoke English. She had to stick with the other international students and get the translator to write down phrases for her before she went out. She feels much more sympathetic and understanding towards Chinese students in the UK now!

A light show on the side of the famous Citigroup tower.

The work-life balance in China is also very different. The school ran a packed timetable, working from 9am to 6pm every single day, with an hour for lunch and a strong emphasis on punctuality. Everyone was tired, very quickly! Chinese students must think our pace of life very slow in comparison: we do work hard, but it’s a different way of working.

The main emphasis of the trip was to master the four learning skills, or the four ancient arts, that have been considered essential to the development of a successful person for centuries. These are calligraphy, painting, guqin (an ancient stringed instrument) and Wei Qi, also known as the Chinese game of ‘Go’. The disciplines were practiced every day and were all much harder than they first appeared.

The exchange students had a chance to do some traditional sightseeing.

Louise quickly felt out of her depth, particularly with playing ‘Go’. When they competed against six-year-olds, all the western visitors were swiftly and comprehensively defeated. Both a board game and an art form, it’s a complex game of strategy that only ends when both players agree it should end. The children took it very seriously and were no match at all for their opponents!

They even went on a sightseeing trip to a Wei Qi hotel, based entirely on the game. The towels were decorated with Wei Qi symbols, the floor pattern mimicked the board and there was a museum dedicated to the game next door. There is simply nothing comparable in British life in its importance.

It was a great trip and Louise came back brimming with ideas and inspiration for her final major project. If an opportunity like that ever arises in the future, the message from us here in the learning skills team is to grab it as fast as you can!

Be sure to find out more about exchange opportunities here at Southampton Solent University.