An exchange to the UK

Zhenhe was an exchange student studying her final year in the UK in the EESE department at the University of Birmingham.

Great Wall group photo Zhenhe

I’m from Wuhan, China. I’ve been in Birmingham for five years. Before coming here, I was studying in the HUST (Huazhong university of science and technology) in Wuhan during 2007-2010. In 2010, I joined the exchange program between HUST and UoB, coming here as a direct-entry student studying the final year in EESE department.

The motivation that drove me to travel abroad to study was my curiosity of the world outside China. And I wished to broaden my horizons and look at the world from a different perspective. Also, the experience of studying abroad alone provided me with the chance to challenge myself to be an independent grown up.

The first year in UoB was my most difficult year. In that year, I had the problem of getting used to the independent life in the UK, the English taught lectures and the pressure from the further study application. After the tough one year, the four years’ research life in UoB became far more enjoyable.

In my spare time, I’m crazy about sports, especially badminton. I went to the University Badminton Club B-level team (the second highest level) trial last year, but didn’t join in it because I was not capable to attend the regular training session every week. I played in the badminton No-string club, and Badminton Bear badminton club which are organised by the people outside the university. Now, I just book the court in the sports centre and play with my friends.

I quite enjoy socializing with my friends around the campus as well. Joe’s bar in the Guild was my favourite. Now I’m going to the bar at the student centre a lot because my PhD colleagues like this place.

With respect to my experiences in the UK, the most different and outstanding experience compared with the other Chinese international students was the three years’ “China Trip” with Professor Clive Roberts and a group of EESE first year students. My responsibilities in the trip was to assist the professor with the academic collaboration in China, play the role of a local tour guide for the group of British undergraduates, and supervise the group of students. In 2015, we were invited by the new British Consulate General in Wuhan as an excellent model in enhancing the collaboration between the UK and China. 

Working for UoB as a supporting staff on the “China trip” allowed me to exercise my organization skills, and helped me develop new strategies to work within various working arrangements, with various individuals from vastly differing backgrounds. This experience also raised awareness of international education, and has successfully increased the amount of Chinese students enrolling in UK education. During the “China trip”, I also managed to successfully advise students on aspects of Chinese culture, allowing them to maximize the enjoyment of their trip and protect them from any difficult situations.

Looking forward

My short term ambitions are to continue enhancing the excellent relationship between the University of Birmingham and China. Ultimately, I would like to represent the direct entry students from Hust as an example of academic excellence, to show what is possible to achieve abroad. Looking to the future, it is my ambition to stay in the UK and contribute to frontier railway engineering science.