This is a guest post and part of our ongoing Student Life series

By Elena Cabello, Bachelor of Computer Science, Westpac Young Technologists Scholar

As a Westpac Young Technologists Scholar at the University of Wollongong (UOW), the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation gave me the opportunity to participate in a week-long leadership experience alongside their Westpac Asian Exchange Scholars in Shanghai, China. Thanks to support from UOW, I was able to take up the offer and I feel privileged to have been given this memorable and formative opportunity.

I will forever treasure my week in Shanghai. In that one week, the importance and relevance of my studies and career choice in computer science was confirmed and I was able to combine this with fun opportunities to enjoy the local culture. I was able to listen and learn from experienced industry professionals who told some wild stories, ate more food then I could handle, stayed up later than I thought possible and fell in love – with the train system.

Over the week, I attended seminars where we were introduced to different leadership styles, responsibilities and real world examples of Australia-Asia working relationships.  As I listened to a variety of professionals from Huawei, Euclidean and Westpac China Executives, I came to realise the real value of my degree and interests as themes of computer science and technology were constantly referenced.

I also began to understand the importance of being a ‘transformational’ leader and how if I wanted to succeed in working with organisations in China, I needed to be flexible in my thinking and approach to developing future products and solutions, as market needs and appropriate solutions can be drastically different to what might be acceptable within an Australian context. I learned how to work with different people from different fields of study and different cultures. I didn’t realise how lacking I was in the breadth of my experience within this field and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been given such an eye opening experience.

The experience was not all about hard work, I was also given the chance to get to know some of my hosts, form friendships and enjoy the cultural delights of Shanghai. I could’ve stayed up all night, every night with 24hr dessert restaurants. Even the rain didn’t stop us, as my new friends and I explored East Nanjing Road, a massive strip of shops and restaurants.

For a girl from Wollongong – their shopping centres are beyond belief. We walked through a park that at first reminded us of our own Botanical Gardens but on closer inspection turned out to be an entire children’s theme park, with train tracks running through the trees. I tried traditional Shanghai breakfasts and free desserts (from the friendliest dumpling house ever), ate my first hotpot, tasted bullfrog (an experience), saw the Pearl tower, watched kids at a hip hop dancing school (so cute), got lost in taxis (Didi is best app) and so much more.

By the end of the week I didn’t want to leave. The experience has inspired me to work in Asia, especially in the tech fields which is booming there right now. Westpac Bicentennial Foundation gave me an experience I will forever treasure, and I can always count on UOW for support.

I hope to take the things I learned on the Study Tour into my future career and become part of growing the Australia-Asia industry and commercial partnerships. Best of all I made some really nice friends and memories I won’t give up any time soon.