In July 2016 I was lucky to take a summer exchange subject at Peking University (PKU) in Beijing. I strongly encourage any interested engineering student to apply. The course content is excellent and Beijing is a great city to experience! This post is about the process of getting there, what it is like studying in Beijing and finally some tips and tricks to get the most out of the experience.
The Application Process
Each year in July, PKU’s College of Engineering holds its “Globex Julmester” Program where it runs 12 three-week courses on a variety of engineering topics. The university is on a large campus in northwest Beijing with a beautiful lake and surroundings. PKU is considered a very prestigious university in Asia and it is generally thought to be one of the top two universities in China.
I found out about the Globex Julmester program in April when a New Columbo Mobility Grant was advertised through the Faculty of Engineering mailing list to support students who wanted to study there. The email was a final reminder to apply (hot tip – check your university scholarship page regularly for opportunities!) so I applied that afternoon. I am a student at UNSW and the process will vary from uni to uni. For me the process involved sending through a resume, academic transcript and a short essay about why it was that I wanted to study in the Globex Julmester program at Peking University.
About a week later I got a email response saying that I had been accepted and the university would provide me with $2,000 New Columbo Plan funding to study there. The course fee itself goes directly onto your student loan as normal courses do in Australia, so the $2,000 is untied funding that can be used to pay for flights and living costs in Beijing. From this point on, there was a long process of getting approvals from my Faculty to study my chosen course (Financial Decisions in Engineering Project Management) and enrolling in the course at PKU. This took about 1 month to complete. In May, PKU sent my university the paperwork I needed to take to the Chinese embassy to get approval for my student visa. With my paperwork in hand, it was very simple and quick to get the visa. The rest of my time in the lead up to departure was spent researching interesting things to do in Beijing!
The Course Itself
The PKU Globex Julmester runs for 3 weeks each year from approximately 1-30 July. Lecturers from all over the world fly into Beijing to teach approximately 12 courses. The courses are all in English. The courses are on a wide variety of subjects. In 2016 these subjects were offered:
- China Economy
- China and the World
- Compliant Robotics: Humanoids to Soft Robots
- The Materials Genome Assessment
- Computational Multiphase Flows for Engineering Applications
- Financial Decisions in Engineering Project Management
- Entrepreneurship: New Venture Creations
- Cross-cultural Design for an Eco-Responsible Business Model
- Microfluidics and Biological Fluid Dynamics
- The Future Electric Power Systems
- Photovoltaics: Solar Energy
- Technology and Business Alignments for an Effective E2B Information Exchange
- Neural Prosthetic Engineering
There are over 400 students from all over the world distributed into these 12 classes. The main draw-card universities are National University Singapore, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, University of Austin Texas, Griffith University, University of Melbourne, University of Sydney and University of New South Wales. There is a large Australian student representation. This large mass of international students makes for a lot of fun and socialising!
Classes generally taught at a fundamental level and suitable for students from year 1 to final year. Course content is light on – there is not the volume of content in the lectures that there would be if you squeezed a conventional 12 week course into 3 weeks. Similarly, assessment is pretty simple as well. Most subjects had three assessments, each at the end of the week. It is possible to do two courses for the two weeks (i.e one from 8am-1pm, then 1-4pm). Quite a number of the Australian students were doing this. Personally though I think it is better to do one subject as doing two significantly limits the amount of time available to enjoy exploring Beijing.
Some of the other Australian students were also on the same New Colombo Plan scholarship as me, but there were others who were on different funding arrangements. Most students had some type of funding to support their study.
- Take time to sight see! Beijing has thousands of years of history and there are many many places to see. A typical day for me was class 8-11am, 2 hours of study, then on the metro off to some part of Beijing to sight see for the rest of the day. Some must see places are: Summer Palace, Panjiayuan Antique Market, Wanfujing Street, National Museum of China, CCTV Tower (if there is little smog), Forbidden City, Hou Hai, 798 Art District, Ghost St and the Sanlitun district.
- Always travel with toilet paper on you as the toilets very rarely have any.
- Go to Wudaokao District near Peking University for awesome nightlife.
- Learn some basic Mandarin before you go. Once you leave PKU campus, very few people speak English. Speaking Mandarin will greatly increase how much you can experience in Beijing!
- See if someone from your class who speaks Mandarin can help you get a SIM card for international students – it is VERY hard without Mandarin!
- Go sightseeing on weekends to another part of China. Inner Mongolia and Shanghai are popular.
- Get a VPN in advance. The Great Firewall of China is a formidable opponent!
In sum, studying in the Globex Julmester program is a fantastic opportunity. I highly recommend you apply!
For more info check out the website or feel free to ask me questions via my Twitter handle sjohnson1B
Read about one Asia Options reader’s Top 8 Tips for Applying for the New Colombo Plan