International Relations Office

Updates on the University's global engagement activities

Topic: Culture

Visiting our Study & Work Abroad students in Asia

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📥  Announcement, Culture, Development, Mobility, Visit

Kirsten Brown, Placements Manager in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, tells us about her experience of meeting our Study & Work Abroad programme students in Hong Kong and Singapore.


The beginning of September saw me visiting the first cohort of Economics students studying on the Study & Work Abroad programme. Six students, two at each institution, are studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS).  To say our students were having a great time is rather an understatement; never have I seen such happy and enthusiastic students, brimming full of confidence and waxing lyrical about their experiences so far.

First stop: Hong Kong

The chaotic but vibrant city of Hong Kong offers an intense experience for our students. CUHK, however, is based 45 minutes out of the centre of Hong Kong, close to the Northern Territories. Surrounded by views of islands and green hills the campus is a haven, perfect for study. Francisco and Alex, our students based at CUHK, took me on the short, minute walk to their college.

Part of the charm of this university is that it is based on the collegiate model popular in the US; both Alex and Francisco share a room with other students, local and international. Although not an experience they are used to, this is very common in Asia. Both are embracing the opportunity to live dorm style and build strong new friendships. The international student community is very active and CUHK offers a comprehensive and, most importantly fun, two- week induction for their international students. Alex and Francisco appeared to know everyone, and so far had managed to climb (yes, climb!) to the top of The Peak, sample the local street food and travel for a weekend to Thailand.

Students have a wide array of courses to choose from, including learning Putonghua (Standard Mandarin), and Chinese History. There are also courses offered by the Centre for China Studies, including ‘Chinese Business and Economy’ and ‘Investment and Finance in China’. Both Francisco and Alex were extremely keen to attend all their lectures, whether or not they were graded. The opportunity to study with such a multicultural community, located in a stunning setting and embracing the cultural experience through extra-curricular activities made me wish I had this awesome opportunity.

Although Hong Kong is as expensive as London, probably more so if you take in account the size of accommodation you get for your dollar, living at CUHK is cheap, and the students had already learnt how to budget. Your room for the entire semester is approximately £600, and you can eat at a wide variety of campus canteens for just over £5 per day; the sports facilities are free! Travelling on the MTR is super cheap, fast and efficient, and many bars in Lan Kwai Fong, the Soho of HK, offer happy hours most evenings. Hong Kong living is not for the faint-hearted; the heat in the summer, the grey drizzle in winter, the overwhelming crowds of people day and night, close-packed tower blocks and little space make for an intense experience. But, if you like buzz, raw culture, bright lights and skylines that take your breath away and the sense that you are part of a dynamic visionary city, then this experience is for you.

Second Stop: Singapore

NTU and NUS are two of the highest ranking universities in the world, both based in Singapore. Both of these institutions are the size of a small town, to the extent that it can take half an hour on a bus to travel from one end of NUS to the other. Senior Lecturer Dr Maik Schneider joined me in Singapore as he was on a two-week trip as a visiting scholar at the Department of Economics at NTU. Working collaboratively, between us we:

·         presented to groups of potential incoming students at NUS representing the university

·         visited students on the Study Abroad programme from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science, on behalf of the IRO.

Maik led a research seminar at the Centre for Economic Growth (NTU) attended by some of our Economics students and also presented at our other partner university located in the centre of Singapore, NUS.

Arguably, I had the more enjoyable task of spending time visiting our students on and off campus, and finding out more about the nitty-gritty of Singapore student life. Gabriele, Rodolph, Elanor and Jeremy, our Study Abroad students in Singapore, met me at one of the numerous eateries at NUS. Like Hong Kong, if you live and eat on campus it is as cheap as chow mein. There are differing standards of accommodation, with UTown being the highest standard of luxury student accommodation. From SGD2800 a semester (£1563 per semester/£520 a month) you can stay in a four-bed apartment; bearing in mind this doesn’t include food. Some accommodation you have to pay extra for air con (worth considering when the average daily temperatures tops 30 degrees!).

Something else to consider is how long it may take you to adjust to the heat and humidity. All students told me this was something they hadn’t anticipated; it can affect your sleep, your skin, and make you much more tired than normal. It takes a few weeks and then you will be back to using the free sports centres with aplomb, while visitors like me break out into a sweat just walking outside. This also applies to the change in a diet that is different to home - all that spicy food can take a little while to adjust to.

Extra-curricular activities are a big thing at NUS and a must to get the most out of your time spent here. Societies and groups the students are members of ranged from football to boxing, salsa, climbing and Lindy Hop. This is how you meet many more of the local students and break down those cultural barriers.

All students agreed that the stand out benefits of living and studying in Singapore were the lectures and the travelling. The students were all enthralled by the range of subjects on offer to study and the highly engaged and motivated lecturers. Like Hong Kong, students are awarded an attendance mark of 10% to their final grade for attending all of their lectures, but the students enjoy the teaching environment so much they are eager to attend all lectures, seminars and tutorials even without this incentive. There is also the opportunity to switch courses within the first three weeks of the semester, which really helps if you start a new subject but don’t feel it is really for you.

Alternatively, you could front-load your week full of lectures so that you have a long weekend to travel around South East Asia. With Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia all within a two-hour flight, with airlines offering prices to go to Bangkok for less than a few pints and a burger in Bath, why not?

The trip came to a joyous end teaming up with Katie Calvert-Jones from the School of Management and hosting a drinks event in Clarke Quay on a balmy Tuesday evening. Katie, Maik and I met over 20 students on placement or studying in Singapore from the School of Management, and the Faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences Science.

It was a great opportunity to bring everyone together, many of them not knowing each other despite sharing not one but two universities! We were all so proud of our students and the global attitude they had already acquired, fully embracing life in this city far away from home. Each of us came away from that evening inspired by the students we had met and excited about the university’s partnerships in Asia, which are going from strength to strength.

 

My internship at Université Laval, Canada

  

📥  Culture, Funding/Scholarship, Research, Visit

I have recently returned from Quebec City, Canada after completing a six-month internship at the Department of Wood and Forestry Sciences, Université Laval. It was funded by the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship worth CAD $11,000. This scholarship aims to activate a dynamic community of young global leaders across the Commonwealth countries, creating an impact at an international level through inter-cultural exchanges encompassing international education, discovery and inquiry, and professional experiences.

Entrance to the Université Laval

Entrance to the Department of Architecture, Université Laval

The facilities were impressive in terms of a wide range of equipments available to carry out state of the art research and experimentation in laboratories. The lab staff were very helpful in providing training on new equipments, helping with experiments and making sure labs are running smoothly. The department staff members were also very friendly and I felt welcome throughout my stay.

The department laboratory

The CIRCERB department laboratory

I attended some departmental events such as the 'Summer School' and 'Direction de Bureau' nuturing networking opportunities with industrial partners who have collaborated projects running with the Department. The all-day event was packed with presentations by people from industry, poster sessions by students and group discussions.

I took part in the "Festival Forestier" with other Queen Elizabeth scholars. It was interesting to visit the countryside over the weekend and experience the artwork (wood, iron, farming and cultivation) of local Quebec residents during this festival. I also volunteered in the 'Fall Festival' event organised by the Voice of English-speaking Quebec. It was enjoyable meeting English-speaking families in Quebec City.

Volunteering at Fall Festival

Volunteering at Fall Festival

A view of Quebec City, Canada

A view of Quebec City, Canada

The internship was an overall good experience to work in a new environment and establish good networking opportunities for future. The work completed there is a substantial part of my PhD research contributing to scientific publications. Having the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II scholarship during the PhD would be a plus on my CV. Moreover, doing a collaborated research work opens new doors for my career by meeting new people in the field.

I would like to thank my supervisors here at the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, Dr Mike Lawrence and Dr Juliana Holley, who encouraged me to apply for this scholarship and guided me throughout the internship. I wish to acknowledge the BRE Centre for Innovation Construction Materials and the ISOBIO project for supporting my PhD research at Bath. Being the first student to go under this scholarship from Bath, it has been a highly enriching experience right from the application process till the end of the internship. Special thanks to Prof Pierre Blanchet and Dr Diane Schorr at the Université Laval for their support for the smooth progress of my research work.

Atif Hussain at the Department of Wood and Forestry Sciences

Atif Hussain at the Department of Wood and Forestry Sciences

Research trip to Stellenbosch University

📥  Conference, Culture, Research, Visit

In September 2015 I had the opportunity to travel to Stellenbosch University, South Africa, as one of the University’s strategic partners. I was presenting my research at a Newton Fund/British Council funded Early-Career Researcher Links Conference co-sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry on hydrogen storage at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria.

The conference was designed to enable early-career researchers in the UK to establish collaborations with other early-career researchers in South Africa and other newly industrialised and developing countries around the world.

Both Dr Valeska Ting from the Department of Chemical Engineering and I gave our talks to the conference delegates during the porous materials day of the conference. Other days focused on storage of hydrogen as chemical hydrides and hydrogen fuel cells.

Dr Robert Dawson presenting hydrogen storage in porous polymers

Dr Robert Dawson presenting hydrogen storage in porous polymers

Dr Valeska Ting presenting her work on characterisation of hydrogen storage in MIL-101

Dr Valeska Ting presenting her work on characterisation of hydrogen storage in MIL-101

The UK delegates were also lucky enough to be taken on a short sightseeing trip around the Gauteng area of South Africa including a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site the Cradle of Humankind where the fossils of a number of early hominoid species have been found, a lion park, the Voortrekker Monument and the statue of Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

UK delegates at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria (Dr Robert Dawson and Dr Valeska Ting back left and front left)

UK delegates at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria (Dr Robert Dawson and Dr Valeska Ting back left and front left)

Collaboration with Stellenbosch University

As I was already in South Africa, it was a great opportunity to visit Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape Province to further develop the collaboration already started by Dr Ting from the Department of Chemical Engineering. Dr Ting travelled to Stellenbosch last year on a Global Mobility Scheme award from the International Relations Office.

I was able to continue the collaboration with Professor Len Barbour in Stellenbosch looking at Metal-Organic Frameworks (highly porous crystalline hybrid networks made from a combination of organic linkers and inorganic metal centres) as potential hydrogen storage materials. Professor Barbour and his research group have developed a number of unique characterisation techniques coupling together traditional characterisation methods in order to probe what happens to porous materials when they are under high gas pressures.

In particular we were interested in looking at what happens to our materials when they are under high pressures of hydrogen gas. In the Barbour laboratory they have developed a system to directly measure the heat given off when a material is dosed with different gases using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). This technique enables us measure the enthalpies of adsorption over a wide pressure range and at different temperatures.

Exploring the town of Stellenbosch

While the experiments were running, I also had a little bit of time to explore Stellenbosch, one of the first European settlements in South Africa as well as its surroundings in the wine region with a short wine tasting session.

A church in Stellenbosch

The church in the centre of Stellenbosch

Street scene in Stellenbosch

Street scene in Stellenbosch

Wine tasting in Stellenbosch

Wine tasting in Stellenbosch

A South African wine farm

A South African wine farm

Having returned to Bath, our task is to analyse our data. The funding from the International Relations Office has proved invaluable to our research here at Bath and we hope to publish the results of our collaboration with Professor Barbour soon.

Dr Robert Dawson is a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Chemistry working on the use of porous materials for high pressure hydrogen storage tanks with Dr Andrew Burrows (Chemistry) and Dr Tim Mays (Chemical Engineering).

 

Incredible India

📥  Culture, Visit

Nervous students, worried parents, a difficult maths paper, and hot like an oven... All came together for one thing: the dream of studying at the University of Bath. As part of the IRO recruitment team, I spent a few days travelling around India to meet with new students hoping to arrive in September and, as always, India offered some memorable experiences.

A view of Bara Gumbad tomb and mosque, Lodhi Gardens, New Delhi

Bara Gumbad tomb and mosque, Lodhi Gardens, New Delhi

The main point of this trip was to reassure students that their results were enough to meet their offer and to reassure the parents that their children would have accommodation to stay in the UK. Over five days we met with over 200 students in agents' offices, education events and pre-departure evenings at all hours in both New Delhi and Mumbai. Parents are very keen to know the details of their children’s lives as students in the UK, from the dimensions of their rooms to what places they can go to eat.

It was a real treat for me to come and visit India again as I haven’t been for nearly three years. People are always so friendly – our alumni who insisted on taking us for a drink, the concierge who helped us find a suitable venue to enjoy the night life and the hotel driver who made sure I got to all my appointments on time. And of course, our agents who made sure we had everything we needed!

A view of taxi lane in India

Taxi lane in Delhi

India is all about the senses, the food, the colours, and the smells. One thing I particularly love about this place is the tea - being typically British I drink lots of it! India is a place where they know how to make a good cup of tea. I can’t wait to go back!

Delhi street view at night

Delhi street view at night