Study trip to Beijing, China
Saturday 18th – Tuesday 28th March
A whirlwind of 10 days, experiencing another world; which China really is. A culture so different from what we’re used to, so many things we experienced were so far from our western life. With our BIFT student buddies beside us, we took on what Beijing had to offer and fell in love with it – excluding the toilets of course. We saw so much in a matter of days, including the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China as well as experiencing student life at BIFT university. Beijing was such a busy and vibrant city, with the architecture heavily influenced from communism and only snippets of traditional Chinese buildings. It’s a rich city and there was little sign of poverty – which I’m sure would change if we went further out of the city.
We experienced the teaching style at the university which I learned to be strict and that ‘happy accidents’ most certainly do not exist, after having my work taking of me a couple of times and being told it was wrong. I did become more thankful for the kind of teaching we have, the fact that we don’t have to strive to be perfectionists and we can be really playful with our work. BIFT campus is an incredible space; a fashion show was taking place it it’s own assigned room and huge exhibition spaces on the ground floor. And the students certainly knew how to dress, can’t imagine it’s ever a jeans and baggy jumper day for them. The canteen reminded me of the ones you see on American films yet the food was far from it – the best ‘school dinner’ meal you could have ever tasted. The food really was amazing out there. Eating at a different restaurant every night we really experienced what they eat in China. It’s such a social occasion, with all the food placed as a buffet in the centre of the table – rolled back to the hotel most nights. The week we were with BIFT university we had the most amazing people take care of us – Robin, Edward, Dave, Dylan and Chris – and they showed us their view of Beijing. They all had hearts of gold, really looked out for us and showed so much commitment to what they do. They respect their education and teachers so much that it really puts a lot of Brit students to shame. They all have curfews in their dorms: they’re not allowed to shower after 9pm and even when they do shower it has to be public (no curtain) and they have a curfew of 11pm every night so if they’re not back by then they are locked out of their room. This was a complete shock to us, to think these guys were 19/20/21 and were stuck to a curfew by their university. While we were there though that didn’t stop them from taking us out and making sure we were having fun, which included a couple nights at Karaoke – and they knew how to party.
Hebei Academy of Fine Arts
Whilst being in China we travelled to Shijiazhuang, Hebei where we visited Hebei Academy of Fine Arts – quite possibly the most bizarre university I’ve ever seen. It was like a cross with Chinese traditional buildings and Hogwarts – however on their website they stress that it was not built to look like Chinese Hogwarts, instead “the castle serves as an animation studio for students and is called “Cinderella’s Castle” and is designed in the Gothic style and modelled on castles of medieval Europe”. We met the Dean of the school as well as the owner who showed us the university and the plans and building work of what it were to become. Turns out we were the first group of international students to visit the university which explains why they were so excited about us being there. It was a beautiful campus, the architecture was so picturesque. We stayed in a hotel which was on campus which I thought was amazing, such a nice hotel too.
The university really was bizarre though because the ‘Hogwarts’ part was so modern, very grand and beautiful, yet they showed us classrooms which were literally falling apart. Wires all over the floor, broken floor boards, just generally dirty and could do with a bit of TLC. I found it very odd that so much money was being put into this new build, yet there was a building that was still being used, that could do with a revamp. Despite all this, we did get a taste of true chinese culture which I loved. We got to wear Chinese gowns, which we wore for the ceremony of Cardiff Met signing an agreement with the Hebei Academy of Fine Arts. We were taught Chinese calligraphy which I was really excited to do because who doesn’t want to learn how to write in Chinese? We also did a workshop with the Hebei students that Olwen ran; basically a game of pictionary, which was an experience to say the least because the students could speak as much English as I could Chinese. Though we were only at the university for 2 nights, it was a beautiful campus to experience and so so different to anything we have in the UK.
Overall, I had the time of my life on this trip and learned so much. Being alongside the amazing BIFT students during the week was such an eye opener to see their life and what their university was like, as well as get to know them and become a great group of friends. Coming back, I have so much more drive and motivation for my work now. To see what these students that are the same age as me are achieving, really makes me want to push my work further and always try to make it as good as it can be. I’m so incredibly thankful that I got to take this opportunity and I will certainly be going back China again soon.
I took videos on GoPro throughout – video of trip to be uploaded.