I was given the opportunity to join a research group in the Department of Materials at Tsinghua University in Beijing. The research team members were all very friendly and helpful, which allowed me to integrate into the team in a short time. I also felt very welcome into the group. They would kindly invite me to go out with them after labs or during the weekend they will also take the time to show me around the city and different attractions. The research allowed me to experience a new culture and gain an understanding of a different kind of society.
The members showed me the projects they were doing and the different lab equipment I could have access to. The supervisor let me choose freely what I wanted to do so I could plan and schedule my own experiments. I was given the permission to operate advanced expensive apparatus and machines after a quick induction. Being able to work independently as a research member made me feel like a valuable member of their team. My working hours were flexible, normally from 9am to 5pm but many of the students worked beyond these hours. The fact that the students were so motivated had a great impact on me, as it made me realise that if I don’t work hard enough, I would be left behind.
Living on the Tsinghua campus was very different to Imperial. The campus is huge and it would take approximately 20 minutes to cycle from north to south of the campus as well as east to west. There are a lot of outdoor facilities on campus such as tennis, basketball courts, three outdoor tracks and football fields. However, the air pollution varies from time to time in Beijing, and this is something that needs to be considered.
During my time of research, I had the chance to visit the Great Wall and other magnificent historical buildings, which showed the power and wealth of ancient China. The food in China was also very different from what I was used to, campus food in Tsinghua was inexpensive, and the variety of food choices from different areas of China.
I had been thinking about working in China in the future for quite a while and the placement has certainly given me the chance to understand the culture and the working environment. After 8 weeks of research in China, I am now able to start seriously planning to work over there. I believe the research experience at Tsinghua will now stand me good stead for job applications, especially within Asian labour market.
Being able to work independently as a research member made me feel like a valuable member of their team"