This year I ended my first year on a high and kick-started my summer in China. I went to study for two weeks at The University of Nottingham Ningbo campus as part of the China Summer School programme. And as I sit here now writing this blog I can confidently say it was one of the best things I have done yet. Prior to university I was a volunteer and lived and worked in South America for six months, so as soon as I started university it was safe to say the travel bug had truly sunk in. And when I first heard of the summer schools available at Nottingham University they could not have appealed to me more. I have always loved to travel to different places and discover and meet new people but most of all experience other cultures and there diversity from my own perspective.
The two weeks went by in a flash with intense but compelling lectures in the morning followed by cultural activities in the afternoons. The cultural activities consisted of Mandarin followed by either Tai Chi or Calligraphy. These were a great way to spend time with the other students but also to learn from really enthusiastic teachers and understand about their culture and way of life. Each week was split up by a day trip mid-week and a weekend trip to Shanghai. From day trips to the sacred beauty of Hangzhou to Shanghai and just living in the province of Ningbo, China fascinated me everywhere I visited. The Ningbo campus had a surreal feel to it as you felt at times you were in Nottingham with its similar architecture. However the backdrop of the increasingly industrialised city and development of buildings and skyscrapers served to show the booming economy of China.
Our first trip was to Hangzhou, where I immediately fell in love with the other side to China and the beauty of its natural scenery. We visited The Tea museum that showed off the work of rural communities and the simplicity of their life in such a peaceful setting surrounded by tea fields. The charm of Hangzhou was shown in the West Lake and architectural styles of the iconic Lingyin Temple & Peak Flown Afar. The importance of the past history and culture contrasting with the contemporary China was something that was very clear in the people’s lives and every part of China. For instance a visit to the Classical Gardens of Yu in Old City of Shanghai was contrasted by the financial modern heart of the city, The Bund.
The vibrant culture shone through in every part of Shanghai from the heart of the city to the backstreets. Hidden in the downtown side streets of Shanghai we visited the flourishing centre of Shanghai’s vibrant art and design scene known as Moganshan Road. The small galleries and exhibitions surrounded by vibrant street art showed the emerging artistic community with a lot of young artists attracting people from around the world and was just one of the highlights of the trip for me.
On reflection, I could not have asked for a better two weeks in China and as clichéd as it may sound they were the best two weeks of my life and turning twenty in the middle of it all wasn’t too bad either. I had a new adventure, met new people, made new friends and witnessed a culture through my own eyes. The timescale of two weeks to study such a vast country was inevitably not enough time to gain a full understanding however a glimpse was such a rewarding experience. If you are student reading this I hope you have been encouraged to make the most of your next summer. So take this opportunity to embrace a new adventure!
Sherri Rastegar (BA Art History student)