This summer I was really fortunate to be supported by the Santander Award fund who helped me to visit Suzhou, China. I was invited by the INCiTE summer school to spend 2 weeks learning about intercultural competence and entrepreneurship alongside students from all over the world. We were put into teams of around 4 or 5 with students from Edinburgh, Australia, Singapore and Suzhou to build a business model which focused on solving a global challenge. At the end of the week we were then expected to pitch this idea to a panel of judges. My team considered the problem of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials and our idea tackling paper wastage actually made it into the final round!
One thing I was worried about prior to my trip was the language barrier as I speak no Chinese! Instead I found that many people were patient and that there were a multitude of apps that made it easier to communicate when out and around Suzhou. Another thing I was worried about was travelling alone and not knowing anyone else on the trip. However, I shouldn’t have worried about this as nearly everyone else was in the same position and was keen to make friends.
My time with INCiTE in China taught me a lot about communication across and between cultures. Working in an international team introduced me to the different cultural ideas and contexts which should be considered when exploring a global problem, if we hadn’t had the diverse team that we did our product would have maybe only worked in a western context and not a global one.
Ultimately the Santander award allowed me to experience a country and culture which I may not have ever been able to experience otherwise and introduced me to a whole network of new friends.
This was my team – we came from Australia, China, Ecuador, Poland, Scotland and Singapore!
This is the Gate to the East, the tallest building in Suzhou. It’s a great example of China’s increasing modernity. And below I’ve also included a picture from Tongli, an ancient Chinese water town which is known as “the Oriental Venice”. These two pictures really show the contrast between traditional Chinese culture and the rapid modernity China is experiencing.
We were treated to a traditional Chinese banquet on our first night. Featuring Chinese delicacies such as duck tongue!
I ate some amazing food, my favourite being traditional Chinese dumplings.
We even got to make our own on our final evening.