This course was a series of lectures on a range of topics from fields such as IT, Business, International Relations and Engineering. The aim of the Summer School was to provide the student with a wide range of topics open for research and business opportunities. The focus of the lectures was high tech research for next generation business. Think industry 4.0, intelligent sensor networks and novel real-world applications of research.

On arrival, the organisers gave quick rundown of events and presented everyone with the Summer School materials, this included a pen, hat, shirt, Summer School details and some information about the university. Attendees were divided into groups and partnered with a local student from Xi’dian University. One of the organisers was also staying at the hotel so help was at hand for any communication troubles with the hotel staff or general advice. The university provided a cash card for use in the university canteen, which by the way served excellent food for a great price! For other meals, the university provided a cash stipend that would be able to cover most of the meal on the trip. Lastly, they organised 3-4 group meals that were paid for that included some interesting dishes.

In addition to the lectures, we were required to give a cultural presentation on our country/culture. UOW was the only university from Australia, so we did ours alone but some other countries had multiple universities so they were able to join up. Also, during the graduation ceremony the groups that were allocated on day one was required to give a presentation on the Summer School, not necessarily about the content but maybe some cultural appreciation or interesting insight. Finally, completion of the Summer School required a short report entailing what you had learnt, some insights for the organisers on what to keep and what to change and additional comments.

Xi’dian University provided a hotel room for the duration of our stay, and once we arrived they provided a wealth of information on where to eat and what to do during the night. The hotel for this year’s summer school was Tang Cheng Hotel, Xi’an. These details were sent to me in advance and I recommend researching how to reach the hotel from your intended arrival point. I suggest bringing the address of the hotel written in Chinese since it is rare that the taxi drivers speak English.  Alternatively note down the local subway station and catch the subway if you are coming from the High-speed rail or sleeper trains. However, they did have students waiting to meet new arrivals at both train stations and the airport. As of 2017 there was no subway/train from the airport but due to the extreme rate of development in Xian I would think that they will have one soon. Currently there are 3 subway lines under construction in Xian!

On arrival, you can use ATM’s to get some cash, however be warned that towards the end of the day ATM’s located in tourist areas generally run out of cash and you may need to go searching for another. I found the withdrawal fee for my bank to be quite reasonable compared to a cash exchange.

To catch the subway, you will need either 1-yuan coins, or 1, 5 or 10-yuan notes for the machines. All the machines have an English option. Also, all station signs also have English text. I found there were many offline app’s available to download to help you with planning a subway trip. All the trips I took on my trip cost 2-5 yuan.

The food in China is cheap and plentiful, with most dinner outings organised by the students. The typical cost of a meal when eating in a group was 50 yuan, including a drink or 2. Sometimes one of the organisers joined or lead a group for dinner. When ordering in large groups it is best to pick a selection of meals and then call the waiter. Sometimes it was very confusing when done otherwise and many incorrect meals were delivered. Also, if the waiter tries to offer an alternative to a dish – I found it usually indicated the meal was interesting and could be local delicacies of pig intestine soup, offal stir-fry and brain soup. So, if you fancy trying those, go ahead.

The hotel was in a central spot, close to a subway station. One stop away was a modern mall and 2 stops away was the historical Giant Wild Goose Pagoda that we visited at night for the fountain show. A few days later they took us on a field trip to see inside the grounds. Some popular sights that we saw were the Terracotta Warriors, Drum and Bell Tower, Ancient City Wall and the Muslim Quarter.

It is important to note that the tap water is not safe to drink, all water should be drunk from a bottle. I also advise brushing teeth with bottle water as well. The hotel provides a token amount of bottled water each day. The hotel also has a shop that is reasonably priced and will sell your standard corner store items.

If you intend to use laundry while staying at a hotel you will be charged roughly 20 yuan per PIECE, as such it is best to bring or buy some hand washing soap when staying in the hotel. This is a stark contrast to my stay in a hostel the week before the summer school where I could get 1kg washed for 20 yuan.

The weather during the Chinese summer is very hot. Generally, the temperature was around 40 degrees during the day with very high humidity. I recommend taking electrolytes tablets since after a day sightseeing it is very easy to have sweated immensely and only have drunk water. Generally, Australians fair better than others due to our hot climate. I understand many of the Europeans had a hard time in the heat.

I also recommend organising extra travel while in China. Accommodation and food are cheap and most of the sights cost 30-60 yuan. If planning on travelling within China, the easiest method is via high-speed rail, the network is constantly expanding and much easier to use than planes. Tickets can be purchased online and sent to you hostel / hotel, usually only taking a day or 2 for express postage. Express postage is very cheap in China due to the plethora of express delivery companies. I managed to organise 10 days in Beijing and Shanghai. These cities provided a wide range sights with significant contrast. Shanghai being the modern business precinct, whereas Xian and Beijing providing many historical sites to see.

When travelling in China it pays to be aware of the various scams that target foreigners, I personally experienced 3 unique scams in 10 attempts. The three scams I encountered started with an offering of a taxi ride from the high-speed rail or airport to my hostel/hotel. Never accept an offer for a taxi ride, these are generally illegal taxi’s and will charge you large sums of money (+650 yuan) for a relatively cheap trip. All transport hubs in major cities have a designated taxi stand. Fellow travellers that fell for this scam said if you refuse to pay they will drive away from your destination and drop you off. The second and third scam are similar, one was 2 young students (typically 2 females) from rural areas studying in the city and wish to practice their English and learn about different cultures while partaking in a tea ceremony. If you accept they will gladly take you to a tea house and you will have a personal tea ceremony with them, afterwards they will leave and you will be given the entire bill amounting to 1000’s of yuan since you drank “very special tea”. You can personally have a tea ceremony for 100-150 yuan if not less. The final scam is the art teacher and student, they will approach you for conversation and mention that they have a show on currently and take you there. They will guide you around the show and then request a large sum since they gave you a guided tour. Again, these tours can be requested from the art galleries for a fraction of the price if you approach them.

It is important to note that a Chinese visa costs about AUD$150 and it is recommended that you organise the visa 3 months to 6 weeks in advance. To obtain a student visa appropriate documentation needs to be sent, a letter from the university will suffice. The organisers are aware of this and will provide this on successful application.

Below are some images from the trip:

Macleay Stephenson

Macleay is a current student from the School of Computing and Information Technology at the University of Wollongong.