Story by Engineering student Yi Ming Lu, as part of our student life series.

From the 1st of July – 15th of July 2019, a group of 14 students from the University of Wollongong attended the Summer School organised by the Central China Normal University in Wuhan. We were joined by 7 students from Xidian University in Xi’an and 8 students from CCNU. The Summer School was on machine learning and big data and enabled students to have an introductory understanding of its applications and how to write code for these applications. The students from UOW came from a wide variety of engineering backgrounds such as Civil, Mining and Electrical, where as the students from the Chinese universities came from mainly a computing background which enabled the two groups of students to share knowledge from their different domains. The program enabled all the students to learn more about life in China, Chinese culture and food and also learn about machine learning and big data.

Wuhan

We arrived at Wuhan Airport on the 31st of July and we were met by two volunteers doing their masters degrees at CCNU. We had to wait at the airport for a few hours as we caught different planes to Wuhan, some of which were delayed. There was a coach organised for us to get us to the hotel on campus. For breakfast, we went to the nearby convenience store to get some buns and noodles. For lunch, we had a selection of food available from the Cafeteria which was all really cheap – like 2 dollars for a meal, so a lot of the trip turned into more of a culinary experience. We went to a few street markets as well to eat food and also went to a few higher end restaurants with people from China where the food was delicious.We also did a few fun activities around Wuhan on our own. This included doing karaoke, going to the city to walk alongside the river at night, where we got to see the city skyline at night, and we were also able to experience some Chinese culture such as joining dancing on the streets with the locals. Some of us also went to the Yellow Crane Tower by bus which provided a nice panoramic view of the city. It was tiring climbing all the stairs in the heat though. A few of us also went to a concert performed by a Chinese band Vox Livehouse. That was a really awesome experience being in the mosh pit and talking to some of the band members afterwards. We then proceeded to a bar downstairs to experience the after party.

CCNU also organised a few trips in the city of Wuhan, such as going to East Lake. Most of us rented bikes and rode around East Lake. A few of us climbed a temple which allowed us to get a good view of the city as a whole. The east lake was pretty massive and it takes around 2 hours to ride around the whole lake non-stop by bike.

The weather in Wuhan was usually very hot and we had to carry water with us all the time. It also rained a little bit but the rain never really got too heavy.

Presentations

We received several presentations and lectures throughout the trip. This included a presentation related to machine learning and an introduction to the projects that are available and provided a few tips in terms of how to get started. There was also a great big data lecture provided by a passionate Asian-Canadian Academic who provided insight in terms of the misconceptions of big data and distinguishing big data from data analytics and machine learning.

 

Field Trip

We had one major field trip to the Three Gorges Dam as well as the nearby town of Yichang.

We learned about the engineering of the Three Gorges Dam as well as a little bit of its history. Most of us from UOW had some trouble understanding them because the tours were in Chinese. We also took a few river cruises, and climbed a couple of mountains to see the surrounding scenery. We also took part in a few of the cultural activities that were present including participating in Chinese weddings. We also played Chinese card games such as Beat the Landlord in the hotel at Yichang and we also had dinner with one of the chinese students’ uncles which consisted of spicy skewers.

Cultural Classes

We also participated in several cultural classes in addition to the academic work that was provided by CCNU. Activities included calligraphy, tai-chi, flour molding, fan painting as well as paper cutting. The range of activities were quite wide and involved both physical and mental exercises. It was an enriching experience in Chinese culture.

The activities were well organised and were taught by professional instructors. We also played basketball with some of the tutors and some of the students that attend university.

It was also a good way to interact with the local Chinese students that were with us helping each other out and being able to ask them to explain some of the instructions in English as most of the instructors only spoke Chinese.

Evaluation

All of us from UOW really enjoyed the experience of being in China. For a lot of us, it was the first time in China and for some of us, it was the first time overseas. The accommodation provided was more than adequate and everyone we met was very welcoming, accommodating and understanding (especially when we sometimes showed up to class late).

We were able to learn something new about China and/or programming and machine learning, and we were able to form lifelong memories. We would recommend this trip to all of our peers.

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank a number of people for allowing me to have this experience at CCNU.

On behalf of the students from UOW, I would like to thank CCNU for organising this program and all the activities that took place over the two weeks. It was evidently well planned and well thought out. There was a good balance between academics and cultural activities. I would especially like to thank the volunteer mentors who were able to provide assistance when we needed help academically, providing advice in terms of where to obtain sim cards as well as recommending dishes for us to eat. They also helped to ensure that we were happy on the field trips and made sure that no one was left behind.

Furthermore, I would like to thank UOW for providing this opportunity. I would like to especially thank Liju Dong for organising this event on the UOW side including help with visas and applications for funding.   I would also like to thank the Australian Government for providing all domestic students with NCP funding which helped aid us financially while overseas so we were able to experience China with little budget limitations.

Lastly, I would like to thank those who went on the trip with me-including those from UOW, Xidian, and CCNU for being great companions throughout the trip. It’s been a privilege to be able to share these experiences with all of you.