In June 2018, I went to Tianjin University, China, to perform chemistry lab research for one month. I chose this opportunity since I would learn Chemistry on the other side of the world; it was laboratory experience mixed with travelling, which ended up being a great summer.
I departed from Geneva airport on the Friday 8th June and flew to Beijing. After spending a day visiting the capital, I took a 30-minute bullet train to Tianjin, the fourth largest city in China in terms of population. My Chinese student ambassador greeted me at the station and showed me around the university campus, where I would be spending the month. In the mornings I attended Chinese classes which were fun and interesting, but very difficult. In the afternoon, I worked with a team of PhD students in the pharmaceutical sciences school. I was mostly working alongside two students who showed me what they were working on and let me perform their experiments. The chemistry I saw was new to me and very interesting; it was medicinal chemistry which involved trying to make a cancer drug more body soluble. The whole experience was extremely rewarding: not only did I learn so much chemistry, I also had time to travel on weekends. I managed to visit Beijing, the Great Wall of China, the Olympic stadium and the whole of Tianjin, which despite its size, is not very well known. This surprised and still surprises me since it is such a lovely city and by far my favourite place in China, I guess it’s because after a month, it actually started to feel like ‘home’.
Before departing on this trip, I was very nervous. China is a very big country and the culture and language is so different to home. The truth was I was worried for no reason, things were different, but I embraced every single aspect of Chinese culture (except for squatting toilets). Everyone was very friendly, and even though few people spoke English and my level of Chinese is below beginner, I managed to communicate with people through signals, pointing and acting (but mostly Google Translate).