Attending Australia Week in China as a New Colombo Plan student delegate

Liam D: Bachelor of Business/Laws – New Colombo Plan mobility student to Zhejiang University, China

I was recently fortunate enough to attend Australia Week in China as a New Colombo Plan student delegate. Australia Week in China, or AWIC in short, constituted Australia’s largest ever trade mission to China, with over 1,000 delegates making the journey, each with the aim of strengthening Australia’s business ties in the Middle Kingdom. Business cards were exchanged, deals were made, and the week’s events put to rest any question of the significance of Sino-Australian business relations.

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Meeting with the Minister for Tourism and International Education, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, at Australia Week in China 2016.

 

Held in the heart of Shanghai’s scintillating Pudong district, AWIC’s proceedings afforded me an invaluable opportunity to network with some of Australia and China’s most influential businesspeople and learn more about the trends shaping today’s international business landscape. As an NCP student delegate, I was able to attend several networking functions, the AustCham Westpac Australia China Business Awards Gala Dinner and participate in a site visit to the cutting edge Zhangjiang Technology Precinct. Through these events, I was given the opportunity to meet professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds, including senior lawyers from top tier international firms, executives from multinational banking institutions, Chinese ecommerce marketers, and representatives of leading educational institutions. Gaining exposure to these professionals afforded me hugely in depth insights into the nature of the opportunities emerging in China and Australia today.liam china2 jpg

In addition to the business networking opportunities the week provided me, being an NCP exchange student in China has allowed me the unique opportunity to develop professionally in a way I am sure would be impossible outside of Asia. Through the program, I have been able to secure employment with National Australia Bank in Hong Kong, and in July I will commence a three month internship with the company’s institutional banking team.

Not yet even two months into my exchange, I can say confidently that the opportunities I have had made available to me will account for some of the most transformative, inspirational and exciting moments of my university experience to date.liam china

First Impressions in China

Liam D: Bachelor of Business/Laws – New Colombo Plan mobility student to Zhejiang University, China

Around ten months ago while at having dinner a sushi restaurant, I made the decision on a whim to go on exchange to China. Not knowing what this impulse decision held in store for me, I was elated to be putting a plan in motion to spend time in China after aspiring to visit for so long. Nearly a year later, I’ve touched down in the renowned city of Hangzhou and have commenced my studies at Zhejiang University.

Acclimatising to China’s vastly different culture and settling into my new home can thus far only be described as a fantastic learning experience. Exhilarating, exciting, demanding, stressful and awe-inspiring are all adjectives which aptly describe how my experience of moving to China has felt so far.liam8

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Arriving in the dead of night at Hangzhou Airport, I had ¥200 in my pocket, bank cards that weren’t cooperating with the local ATMs, a phone incapable of contacting anyone without Wi-Fi, and a meagre vocabulary at my disposal. liam1After a lengthy cab ride into town spent anxiously glancing at the ever rising fare meter, I arrived at my hostel with ¥25 to spare, only to find the ’24-hour check in desk’ seemingly closed up shop for the night. Just when I had resigned myself to sleeping on a stone bench by some pot plants outside the establishment, I was rescued by my girlfriend who had woken the innkeeper and in turn let me in. Following this bumpy entry, I had to wonder whether the remainder of my time in China would be so turbulent.

 

Fortunately, the mishaps of my first night in China haven’t followed me past this disastrous arrival, and I’ve since had the opportunity to make some early reflections. Being in China as a Westerner, one feels a long way from everything familiar. The people are different, the customs alien to outside eyes. The pace of life is accelerated, reflective of a country in motion with aspirations to reach the pinnacle of the international order. But to generalise or make broad statements about China is to err grievously; under each unturned stone lies something new to learn, a new insight into a society rich in history yet transforming more rapidly with each passing day.

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Living in one of China’s vast metropolises, one is immersed in a constant cacophony of noise, embedded within a kaleidoscope of over 1.37 billion people, each with a different story to tell. Sirens and car horns blare endlessly, and every street corner has its merchant vying for the attention of all passing by. Visit tourist streets in Hangzhou and you’ll be beckoned to purchase a handful of the city’s famed Dragon Well Tea. In Shanghai, street merchants peddle counterfeit watches and designer bags. Here, the nights come alive in a blaze of neon lights accompanied by a chorus of cuisines sizzling in woks and frying over grills. The air becomes thick with the heady smells of mutton charring on the flame, egg noodles colliding with spring onion and spice, and ears ring with the sound of voices shouting, laughing, and bartering.

In just over a month, I’ve visited the glass waters of Hangzhou’s West Lake and witnessed the monolithic spires of Shanghai’s Pudong district. I’ve travelled to tea villages in valleys underneath mountains ensconced in thick forestry and shrouded in mist, and climbed the winding stairs of ancient pagodas and temples. Despite this, it’s easy to feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this dynamic country has to offer. With close to five months remaining in my stay, the clock is ticking, and the dilemma I face is deciding how best to make use of the time I have left. Regardless, I can take comfort in the knowledge that however I choose to devote my time, every day will bring with it a new opportunity to learn and discover more about this eclectic and fascinating country.

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