China Australia Millennial Project: Aspiring environmental engineer Kate Smith shares her highlights

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Alice Slevison from Asia Options sat down with Beijing-based aspiring environmental engineer Kate Smith to have a chat about her experience as an inaugural China Australia Millennial Project (CAMP) delegate, and her tips for those applying for CAMP next year.

The China Australia Millennial Project (CAMP) is a world-first project uniting top young leaders (aged 18-35) from China with their Australian peers for a bilateral business incubator across a broad range of industries, peaking in a 5-day summit during the Vivid Ideas festival in June 2015.


About Kate

For the past two years, Kate has been researching water supply and the water-energy nexus as part of her Master of Environmental Engineering Program at Tsinghua University, which has been supported by her 2013 John Monash Scholarship. Kate has indulged her passion for China through working as an English Teacher in China’s “Green City” Nanning, Guangxi, and has undertaken intensive Chinese language studies in Taiwan.

A key impetus behind Kate’s decision to study her Masters in Beijing was her awareness of the parallels between North China and Australia when it comes to water scarcity, and in September she will commence her PHD studies in Beijing. In her spare time, Kate volunteers at water-related projects organised by the Tsinghua University School of Environment.


What inspired you to apply for CAMP?

Last semester I finally decided to get a hold of this thing called LinkedIn. After spending time writing my profile in English, I decided I couldn’t live in China and not have it all written in Chinese. Since I’m not a fan of torturing myself, I decided to contact a new translation company called SeekPanda. It was one of the founders of this company, Matt Conger, who told me about CAMP after taking a look through my profile.

I thought it was worth a shot, in particular, I thought it was cool how CAMP would be held as part of the Vivid Ideas festival in Sydney. I felt as though it was the chance to do something not directly related to my studies, but totally related to the kind of things I’m interested in and a chance to learn something new in a completely different environment: I have certainly never done something quite like CAMP before.


Can you tell me about a highlight you have experienced as a CAMPer?

My team is the highlight! I’m very lucky to be in a motivated team of 5 people with different skills and slightly different backgrounds. Another highlight is learning about the world of civil engineering, tenders, infrastructure and China-Australia relations.

I am learning so much about these topics that I didn’t know previously. There are so many aspects of the CAMP program that are cool and innovative.


What part of the CAMP 5-day festival are you most looking forward to?

I feel like a real tourist because I’m most excited about the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. That’s on the first day at about 6.30am in the morning. I’ve never had the chance to do this before and it’s the first thing that we will do as a whole CAMP group and as a team. Preparing for CAMP (as well as writing my thesis) keeps me so busy that I don’t have much time to think too far past that.

Shupei Chen
Meetup with some of the Beijing CAMPers in the first week of the online program. Including fellow CAMPer Shupei Chen who works at the Australian Trade Commission as a Business Development Manager.


Can you tell me about any interesting people you have met during the process?

In fact, the people that I have talked to through Skype are the ones I feel I know the best. My teammates have a lot of useful knowledge to share and this makes the process so interesting. Also, our team mentor has put us in contact with very knowledgeable people who deal with various aspects of infrastructure in Australia and Asia, and speaking with them has been great.

Outside of my team, I’ve also had the chance to meet up with a lot of the CAMPers in Beijing who are all in different think tanks. We met up at the very start of CAMP and so it will be interesting to see how they have come to understand their think tank topic and generate something great out of it.


What do you hope to get from CAMP?

I feel like I have already got a lot out of it. For me, the great thing is being exposed to topics that relate to what I am interested in but aren’t covered in what I research or study. I also get to learn from the work experience of my teammates, which is really valuable because I am often only surrounded by people in the academic world.


What advice would you have for future applicants?

I suggest that you put a considerable amount of effort into your application. If you begin writing your application before the deadline then you will have ample time to think about all the different things you have done (other than perhaps work or study) that will set you apart from other applicants.

As part of the application you must record a short video, so to ensure that you don’t leave this part out as it is integral to the CAMP process. I really enjoyed being able to watch my teammates videos as it allowed me to familiarise myself with them before I met them on Skype.

Meetup with some of the other Beijing CAMPers in the second week of CAMP.
Meetup with some of the other Beijing CAMPers in the second week of CAMP.


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Alice Slevison

Greater China Country Coordinator
Alice's fascination with the Middle Kingdom has led her to undertake long-term study in Hong Kong, Xiamen and Nanjing.

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