By Ollie Jarvis, BSc Finance & Investment Banking student.
During my first year at University of Reading, I was looking to explore as many opportunities and experiences that I possibly could to enhance my employability later on down the road. I came across a placement that was being advertised on a student newsletter from the university – a 12 day academic and culture programme with the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, based on their campus in Nanjing, China. I completed the necessary application form and almost forgot about it until I received an email containing an offer a few months later, one I gladly accepted!
Having been lucky enough to have visited China with friends the previous summer, I had different expectations and ambitions for this time around. I was eager to: explore how the education experience in China would differ from that of the UK; pick up more of the language; and, if the opportunity arose, I was quite keen to explore the business & financial areas of Nanjing’s city. One thing I wasn’t too excited for was the sheer humidity and scorching weather that the country had to offer, that was something I don’t think I will ever get used to.
We landed on a Sunday, meaning I got to experience almost 2 full ‘working’ weeks at the university. The standard format for a day focused around an academic lecture in the morning (due to students on the placement coming from different academic disciplines, the lectures were focused around Chinese history, language or similar topics) followed by a lunch break and then a cultural activity in the afternoon. This could be anything ranging from Chinese pottery making, to martial arts. I enjoyed this contrast of activities as it let me experience lots of things that I potentially wouldn’t if I was on a more ‘standard’ placement in the UK, whilst still completing many of the more conventional aims that I would have if I was to attend a ‘standard’ placement, such as developing my personal skills or enhancing my employability by networking with people. The first day started with an opening ceremony with some speeches and gift exchanges, and I was fortunate enough to play guitar for the students attending.
On the Friday and Saturday, I was privileged enough to be able to attend a two-day city tour of Nanjing, which gave me an insight into the rich history that the area holds. To hear about some of the more recent historical events that I wasn’t as aware of, such as the Nanjing massacre of 1937-38, was very interesting to me.
Sunday was a free day, so myself and a few others took a train to Shanghai. Having previously visited Shanghai, I decided that this time I would like to explore the more business side, particularly financial areas, that the city had to offer, particularly as I hadn’t been able to in Nanjing. I was also quite surprised at how much more developed China as a whole is when compared to the UK. To the point that they had facial recognition cameras at traffic lights when crossing the street!
The following week was of a similar layout to the previous, but with some more difficult topics like philosophy and calligraphy. Some of the teachers were quite surprised to see that I was left-handed, something that is viewed as ‘impractical’ over there, and to be honest I can’t say I disagree either!
The two weeks concluded with a cooking class making dumplings, something that I wasn’t very good at, although it was quite fun to do! I would greatly encourage any student who is eager to gain some extra skills to apply for this opportunity, should it arise again. Not only is it fun but it allows you to see a country that many people would perhaps never get the chance to see! I’d also like to extend by gratitude to the sponsors that made this whole experience possible.
Find out more about the Undergraduate programmes in Finance here.