The SWUFE student experience in Chengdu, China
Honour Israel-Schuchardt - July 2018
Bachelor of Management Studies (Finance and Strategic Management)
I can honestly say that I have never learnt so much in two weeks as I did over 14 days in Chengdu. I highly recommend the SWUFE Summer Camp experience to everyone studying a business degree, especially if you are interested in China.
However, you simply cannot make the most your time if you are not willing to exit your comfort zone. As an example, personally, I hate needles; but that didn’t stop me from volunteering as a demonstration for acupuncture! It’s made that fear a tiny bit less present in my mind and I gained an interesting new experience in the process.
Fair warning, the food in the Sichuan province is much spicier than we are used to, so I recommend learning the Mandarin translation for “a little” (bit of spice), and the different types of meat! You can get by ordering food with that vocabulary; though, noodles, rice, dumplings and soup are also good words to add if you’re feeling keen.
A typical day during the programme goes something like this:
- 7:30am: Wake up for a buffet breakfast in the hotel. In China they don’t really have 'breakfast foods' in the sense that we do (though those are provided in the hotel); everything is just food (what we would have for dinner). I recommend trying the local dishes they prepare for you because there is so much choice. Why would you want to have some budget toast?
- 8:30am: Leave for the morning lecture, which is 3 hours, but most of the speakers are interesting and discuss a diverse range of topics that you have probably not been exposed to so the time flies by.
- 12:00pm: Lunch, which can be eaten in the university canteen or bought in the streets.
- 1:30pm: Afternoon lecture or cultural activity. Questions are encouraged at the end of every lecture and you can learn a lot from other students’ thoughts. Don’t be overwhelmed at the depth they go into; many of them are postgraduate students and it accelerates your learning exponentially.
- 4:30pm: Cultural activity (if there was a lecture before), or free time where you can explore the city or relax in your room. You will find yourself exhausted after the first few days; I’m of the opinion that you are only there for two weeks so you should make the most of it now and sleep when you come home, but it’s up to you. I did drink up to four coffees a day to achieve this, but it was worth it...I never drink coffee.
- Evening: If there is a cultural activity you might not get home till 8pm, but otherwise the rest of the afternoon/evening is free time. I highly recommend doing some exploring and finding the ladies dancing in the square, it’s so much fun to join in and they love it when you do!
The SWUFE Summer Camp has been the highlight of my degree and I hope I have encouraged you to apply!
Garth Tunnicliffe - July 2018
Bachelor of Communication Studies (Public Relations and Leadership Communication)
Returning from Discover SWUFE and Chengdu, I put off writing this review of my trip. Why? Simply put, it was too fantastic to articulate and I felt I couldn’t do the experience justice.
If you get the opportunity to apply for this scholarship, do it. The trip is a once in a lifetime experience. You will meet a multicultural community from all walks of life and create an invaluable network of contacts from across the globe.
What management degree you are studying doesn’t matter - the vast range of expertise from the international students only contributed to the learning experience.
Exploring the city
The city, campus and heritage of Chengdu all contributed to an amazing experience. The sheer size of the city with 14 million people is an experience in itself. The organised trips are excellent; make sure you plan your weekend too though – I recommend Mount Qingcheng.
For getting around, the subway is highly effective. Didi or taxis are great (get a local to help you) or ask a fellow to unlock a bike for you. Embrace the culture, barter, enjoy the people, explore.
Meeting new people
The 'fellows' - 20 Chinese students from SWUFE who acted as our guides for the two-weeks - are phenomenal, so get to know them if possible. Being local, they have a lot to share and are wanting to enjoy the summer school as much as you.
Interact with your peers as much as possible, being part of such a diverse multicultural group is enlightening.
Food and eating out
Knowing where to eat can be tricky. Talk to the fellows, try the canteen (if only once or twice) and explore – if a cafe/restaurant looks busy, it’s probably good. Willingness to try new foods is a must; your palate will be in for a treat. When the food is good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s really bad!
Most importantly, go with an open mind. You will not be disappointed. Panda panda!
Codi Merito - July 2017
Codi Merito (Ngati Awa)
Bachelor of Business Analysis (Economics and Agribusiness)
Day 1 - Tuesday
The day began with some untraditional food for breakfast - from fried rice to spicy noodles that made the whole body burn! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and made two new friends; Charlie from England and Ben from Germany.
In class, we started with lectures on the Belt and Road development. China is aiming to move products to Asia and Europe by land, as it reduces the travel time from two months to 11 days. These routes have been around for thousands of years, but the next leap is for China to heavily invest with other countries to create a highly efficient rail system.
We had lunch at the campus canteen - 10 yuan (NZ$2) for more food than you could ever imagine. It was going well until one bite lived up to the spicyness of Chengdu cuisine, making my mouth water and my eyes burn.
In the evening we had an ice-breaker session to get to know everyone. In my group was Aizad from Malaysia, Petroulla from Cyprus, Virginia from the United States, Anfaal from Scotland, Randa from Egypt, and Flora and Shirly, who were both from China. After this we listened to everyone’s presentations about their home countries, and I learnt so much.
After dinner we headed out to the local karaoke bar, with many people unleashing their wild side! It was a very enjoyable night.
Day 2 - Wednesday
Today we headed to class for a lecture on the Chinese health programme, which made me realise how different countries’ healthcare systems and health insurance schemes can be.
After lunch we had our second lecture on the Chinese capital and stock markets. It was amazing to learn that before 1990 there was no stock exchange in China, yet now they have two; the Shanghai and the Shenzhen stock exchanges.
In the afternoon we caught a bus into central Chengdu to see the Jingli street markets. It was very wet, as summer is the typhoon season in Chengdu. We ended up trying lots of the foods on offer, including rabbit head and squid. Rabbit head is actually quite tasty!
When we saw a shop offering 'live fish pedicures', where you dip your feet into a tank of water, we couldn't say no! This was a very ticklish, weird experience. All in all, it was another awesome day in China; bring on tomorrow!
Day 3 - Thursday
We began the day with another session on China's Belt and Road economic development, focusing on the industrial revolution of China. One key message I took away is that artificial intelligence is the future. I also learnt that to invest in China, it must be a joint venture, with knowledge and technology-sharing being a requirement of the deal.
After lunch we headed to calligraphy class and learnt the art of drawing Chinese characters. We drew on our fans, with one side being Chinese characters, while the other side represented the panda and bamboo; both very important symbols in China, particularly within the mountainous Sichuan province.
We followed this with a trip to a hot-pot restaurant; ten of us around a table, with a cooking pot in the centre, where we cooked a variety of different foods: mushroom, black chicken, squid, lotus, octopus, and lots of Chinese vegetables and spices.
After dinner a group of about 20 of us, all from different countries, decided to play soccer at the local stadium on campus until 10pm - it was not your typical football match!
Day 4 - Friday
Today's class was all about Chinese culture. We learnt about Confucius; the educator, statesman, and thinker. One quote that stood out for me was: "Heaven does not speak in words. It speaks through the rotation of the four seasons and the growth of all living things". Confucius believed that setting a goal is not as important as enjoying the process of achieving it.
In the afternoon I bought my first Chinese book, and I can't wait until the day when I can actually read it - life goal!
Day 5 - Saturday
It's Saturday! We jumped on the buses and after an hour’s drive ended up at the Sichuan Panda Sanctuary. What an awesome place! The Sichuan province is one of three lucky regions in China that have giant pandas, and Sichuan is famous for them.
Then we set out for Chengdu, where the streets are filled with market stalls selling everything you could imagine at very cheap prices. One interesting part was the fish market. There were live fish in all the tanks, ranging from catfish, to eels, to frogs, to who-knows-what kind of fish!
Day 6 - Sunday
Today we visited the Dujianyang irrigation system and Mt Qingchen. We arrived at Dujianyang and were stunned by the amazing views of the mountains; flowers were everywhere.
These man-made canals are a truly remarkable engineering feat, with millions of litres of water flowing through them. They allow the city of Chengdu to be more resilient to the floods that used to hinder its growth, and ensure enough water is provided for agriculture.
In the mountains surrounding the canals are many beautiful temples and bridges, all symbolising Taoism. Ben and I walked up to the highest temple, looking across the vast landscape, and felt as if we were kings.
After this we headed to Mt Qingcheng. We began our journey with a boat across the lake, then took a cable car up the mountain. The views at the top were truly amazing; cliffs that looked like the Grand Canyon in one direction; and forests that looked like a rainforest in another direction - all while standing in a giant temple.
Day 7 - Monday
Today we visited a local Chinese cooking school, where we watched a Chinese chef cook the four main classical dishes in Sichuan cuisine. This was exciting, as we got to taste-test the food after each dish had been prepared.
Back at the hotel, my group gathered to practise for our class presentation on investment, consumption and mobile devices in China.
Day 8 – Tuesday
We began the day with a trip to the Sichuan Museum, which has a collection of ancient weapons and cooking items more than 2,000 years old.
Then we met up at the Big Panda and visited a local branch of Credit Ease, a leading Chinese fin-tech company that provides peer-to-peer lending. It was a very interesting presentation.
In the afternoon we headed to the local theatre to watch some traditional Chinese Opera. This was an awesome show with lots of amazing performances; combining magic and entertainment.
Jack Montgomerie - July 2018
Bachelor of Business Analysis (Finance and Economics)
I had the privilege to attend the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) for two weeks during the 2018 semester break. The trip involved me partaking in a course on fintech and Chinese culture.
SWUFE is a leading Chinese university and is situated in Chengdu, one of China’s fastest growing cities. Chengdu is a city that is increasingly becoming a hub for finance, science and technological innovation. I would like to thank both SWUFE and the University of Waikato for the opportunity.
Highlights from the 14-day trip:
- My realisation that no amount of research/study etc into China can come close to preparing someone for the Chinese experience;
- Experiencing the madness of the roads and its users;
- Enjoying the excitement and energy of a truly large city and the friendliness of the locals;
- Making friends from across the globe.
The culture shock
I left Chengdu’s airport in a taxi with a fellow Waikato Management School student, Alice Drake. The taxi driver spoke absolutely no English so we presented him with the address of our hotel in Chinese.
The drive was starkly different to any driving I had ever experienced in New Zealand. Seat-belts were not worn and the driver swerved continuously between lanes to avoid rickshaws, pedestrians, trucks and slower cars, all while using his phone for directions.
It became obvious that sounding a car’s horn in China is far more a means of communication than of expressing road rage, as may be expected in NZ. No words or level of description can accurately depict the driving and its exhilaration and one really needs to travel to China (or perhaps any developing country) to experience the chaos first hand!
This taxi trip was my first glimpse of the sheer amount of construction currently under progress in China. High-rise apartments ruled the sky, many under construction and supported by bamboo scaffolding. The number of luxurious European cars was also noticeable. The taxi drive cost 200 RMB and both Alice and I suspected we had been ripped off given our foreign status and inability to speak Chinese.
When I got to the hotel, Alice, a few others and I went out to explore the nearby shops and buildings. The hotel was in the newly developed Wenjiang district of Chengdu and was a fair distance from Chengdu’s CBD. Because of this, the area was scarily like a ghost town.
Building after building marked the landscape, construction was everywhere but very few people and shops could be found. What had previously appeared as shops were actually just empty buildings with images printed by the owners proposing potential business ideas (for example, hairdresser, supermarkets and restaurants).
I will admit that the emptiness of the nearby surrounds and the tax drive were daunting and initially made me miss NZ. Chengdu’s CBD, on the other hand, was definitely a contrasting experience!
View from my hotel room
The Chinese were very warm, friendly and eager to attract our attention. I lost count of the number of photos that were taken of me and it was hard not to feel like royalty. From the flight attendants to the Chinese shop owners, members of the public and our Chinese volunteers organising the trip, the Chinese service was exceptional.
My particular summer camp included around 30 other students from around the world. In the group, there were 14 Swiss students. In Switzerland after finishing high school, students typically study part-time and work part-time. The Swiss students were all employed in banks and all had hands-on industry experience. It was great to become friends with the Swiss students and I am sure they will be Swiss banker contacts in the future!
The other students were from other countries around the world and it was great to make many international friendships and connections.
Photos: Chinese hot pot (left) and pig's brain
Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province of China. Sichuan is renowned for its spicy food, so I travelled to China eager to experience the spicy food and broaden to my food horizons. The spicy food did not disappoint.
A dinner that particularly stands out was the night we went to eat Chinese hot pot. Chinese hot pot is a simmering pot of soup stock mixed with all types of meat, vegetables and spices. Cow stomach, intestine and pig brain were included! The food was incredibly spicy and left my tongue and lips numb. Combined with the Chengdu heat and humidity, I was left sweating profusely. It was a great experience and over time I did acquire a taste for the spiciness!
Eating is very much a social occasion. You don’t just sit down with your friends and talk while eating from your individual plates, rather you generally share one large plate or a mixture of plates and different dishes.
In my opinion this symbolizes one of the key differences between China and countries such as America, those in Europe, Australia and New Zealand: Chinese way of life is focused on the wellbeing of the community, while typical westernised countries are far more focused on the individual.
While I have described cultural aspects of China, the culture shock and the friendlessness of the people were also evident in the Chinese business and financial environments. Chinese business is unique but represents great opportunity.
Natascha Levande - July 2018
Bachelor of Business Analysis (Accounting)
I attended SWUFE Discover Summer Camp in Chengdu, China in July 2018. What an amazing experience!
I would recommend this programme to anyone who wants to step out of their comfort zone, get into a massive group of international students and have experiences in the wonderful country of China. It was truly a memorable once in a lifetime trip that I will never forget.
Highlights of the trip
All the people were amazing for the whole trip. We had 80 international students from 28 different countries and everyone was so friendly and keen to get to know you. We were joined by 20 Chinese students from SWUFE who were our ‘fellows’ – tasked with organising us and being our guides throughout the two weeks. The fellows especially were so amazing! They made all the activities really fun and made a huge effort to make the program as enjoyable as possible for us.
The lectures were really interesting, mainly teaching us about Chinese economics. This is a subject outside of my studies in New Zealand, so it was really fascinating to get to know how Chinese became such a big economic powerhouse and how they compare to the USA. They brought in overseas professors as well as Chinese professors, which allowed us to have a view of China from the inside and out.
The food was CHEAP! So cheap! NZ$2-10 for full-sized meals from the street vendors or restaurants, or maybe NZ$15-20 if you are going really fancy.
Taxis are also really cheap, but we had a bit of trouble as the taxi drivers usually don’t speak any English. We ended up needing to get a translator (a Chinese student or an international student who spoke Chinese) to help ensure the driver was taking us to the right place.
The Panda Base was really cool! We got to see Panda babies that were just a few days old – but beware, the Panda Base had literally THOUSANDS of people so there was a lot of waiting around.
The Opera was really amazing. It was less about singing than about a performance and circus-type show, coupled with their famous face-changing performance. Really a memorable day!
Unless you have a decent grasp of Chinese, you will have some language difficulties. Almost no-one outside the campus speaks any English, as the campus is quite far away from the city centre. You need to rely on your Chinese students to translate for you, or get really good at miming and using your translate app.
You need to be really careful with what you eat, otherwise you might get a crook stomach. The tap water is not safe for drinking, and Chengdu and Sichuan province are famous for their spicy food. As long as you are careful and keep away from tap water, you should be fine.
Brittany Oliver - July 2016
Bachelor of Management Studies (Marketing)
I love little ol' New Zealand, but SWUFE enabled me to really see how small we are in comparison to the world out there.
On the camp there were around 90 participants from 50 different countries - Egypt, Cyprus, Laos, Uk, Croatia, America; you name it. Never before I have experienced such an incredibly diverse group of people. It was a privilege to learn about other languages, religions and cultural practices that had never been real to me.
I left China not only with a taste of Chinese culture, but with a taste of world culture. Knowing how differently the rest of the world lives is enlightening but also creates a sense of gratitude in me for the many privileges New Zealand offers. We are given freedom of speech, we are free of dictatorships, and we have one of the most beautiful countries out there!
There will always be something magnificent about being closer to walking in another's shoes.
Harsimran Mahal - July 2016
Bachelor of Management Studies (Hons) and an LLB(Hons) - Accounting and Law
In July 2016, I was given an awesome opportunity to travel to the South-Western University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) in Chengdu, China, on the Discover SWUFE Scholarship. The scholarship fully funded my flights to and from China, as well as my accommodation.
The SWUFE Summer Camp involved spending two weeks exploring Sichuan Province with about 90 other students who hailed from 38 different countries.
I’m deeply grateful to SWUFE and Waikato Management School for this great opportunity. Without their support, I don’t think I would ever have been able to explore such an interesting and important part of the world.
The trip to China broadened my horizons massively. It showed me just how big the world is, and that is there is so much to explore. The trip was simply a whole load of fun!
After a long flight we arrived at our hotel well after midnight. I didn’t know who my roommate was, and was a little worried about waking him in the middle of the night. I shouldn’t have worried though. The door was opened by a guy with a mildly American accent who turned out to be Egyptian. He was definitely one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. That set the tone for the rest of the trip.
Not only did I have the chance to make Chinese friends, but I met people from all around the world; Malaysia, Germany, Croatia, Brazil, Russia, Bulgaria, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Singapore, the United States, Morocco, Italy, you name it.
We had lots of things in common. We liked soccer (some of us), watched the same TV shows, participated in Chinese karaoke, and said bu la (not spicy) every time we got food. But what made the experience truly rewarding was that apart from the similarities, all the people I met also had differences. There were a huge number of different perspectives and personalities present, and the conversations were inherently interesting. I learnt as much about other countries and cultures in those two weeks as I think I might have learnt from a short world tour!
In those two weeks we learnt a great deal about China from a cultural and academic perspective. On most days of the summer camp, we had academic lectures. They covered a variety of topics, from 'Learning survival Chinese' to Chinese capital markets, Chinese history, and Chinese healthcare management. We learned from experts about the transformation China has undergone in the past few decades, and about the challenges presented by the future.
We also had a very interesting lecture on Chinese legal tradition, which is one of the oldest in the world. As a conjoint law and management student, it was fascinating for me to see the different needs that shaped it, which has led to a legal system that operates very differently from our own. For those with finance or economics-oriented minds, there were lectures explaining China’s political economy and the functioning of the Chinese capital and debt markets.
Visit to a local business
Another highlight was our visit to Credit Ease, a leading Chinese fin-tech company. Credit Ease facilitates peer-to-peer lending between wealthy individuals and salary workers, or small-scale micro-entrepreneurs. It was fascinating to hear first-hand from leaders of industry about how new technologies are changing financial services. For example, in China the 700 million users of the WeChat social media app can use it not only to send messages and make calls, but also to order coffee or pay for dinner! The data from WeChat can be used by Credit Ease to authorise a loan within 10 minutes. We also learned a lesson in Chinese hospitality, as the Sichuan regional manager, branch manager and many other top executives were present to receive us. Credit Ease was paying respect to SWUFE, and also to us, as guests of SWUFE.
Chinese calligraphy class
My favourite class was the one on Chinese calligraphy and brush painting. We learned the correct way to handle a calligraphy brush and the three fundamental calligraphy styles: Zhuan Shu, Li Shu, and Kai Shu. I also learned that it's a lot harder than it looks! Codi, Brittany and Kate were all very good, but I was terrible. I tried painting a panda, and was starting to feel good about it. Then, one of the fellows asked me, in a genuinely interested voice, whether what I had painted was a gorilla!
China is an amazing place to see. Apart from the sheer scale of the country, its rich history has also been well preserved. The city of Chengdu itself was very beautiful. It is situated in a valley and our campus had stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Chengdu’s damp climate made it one of the greenest places I had seen.
On the third day of the summer camp we visited the famous Jinli Street. It is built according to the Qing Dynasty architectural style and has a huge variety of shops. All sorts of local Sichuanese cuisine was on offer, from beef noodles spiced with Sichuan pepper (it numbed my tongue), to the more extreme rabbits' heads!
Sichuan cuisine - the famous hotpot
That wasn’t all for cuisine however. We later got the opportunity to cook our own Kung Pao Chicken and Mapo Tofu; two of Sichuan’s most famous dishes. There were some interesting approaches. Someone next door nearly caused a fire. In general, Sichuan cuisine was quite spicy and full of flavour. But there was a next level: the Sichuan tradition of 'hotpot'. Basically, hotpot restaurants serve diners a big pot, filled with spices and chillies. The diners then add the meat, vegetables or other ingredients themselves. All I can say is that, true to its name, the food is hot. Very, very hot. It made for an interesting evening as we made bets on who could stand the most spice, and then spent the next day feeling dazed or sick.
Giant pandas and Sichuan opera
Apart from food, Sichuan Province is also home to the world's most Giant Pandas. We visited Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base and got to see the famous Giant Pandas, and also the less well-known Red Pandas. Oh, and there were baby pandas too… As you can imagine, people were swooning. I also want to mention the Sichuan Opera, which performs a play that incorporates face-changing, fire-breathing and more. It was literally stunning! I still have no idea how they managed to change their face masks almost instantaneously and seemingly without using their hands.
Dujiangyan irrigation system and Mt Qingcheng
My favourite experience in China was the visit to the Dujiangyan irrigation system and Mt Qingcheng. The irrigation system is an ancient river diversion project aimed at preventing the Sichuan plains from flooding. It was built around 250 BC, and is said to be the secret to Sichuan’s agricultural abundance and prosperity. Since that time, the surrounding plains have never been flooded. The sheer scale of the diversion project was awe-inspiring. The river had been divided into smaller outlets by constructing artificial levees made from bamboo and a channel had been cut through a mountain without the help of gunpowder. This is estimated to have taken tens of thousands of workers and eight years to complete.
We also had the opportunity to visit the beautiful ancient temples on the river bank that have been dedicated to Li Bing, the man credited for creating the irrigation system. The icing on the cake was the trek up Mt Qingcheng. This is one of the most important centres of Taoism and is home to a number of historic temples. We went part-way up the mountain in the cable cars, and then hiked for a few hours to the top. It's definitely a place I’d go back to. The scenery was amazing, and the history associated with the place adds a completely different dimension to it.
Overall, I would highly recommend the Discover SWUFE Summer Camp; it was a great way to get a truly international experience. I learnt more about how Chinese people live and think, but also about the home countries of all my fellow students. The trip was simply a whole load of fun!