I applied for the Renmin Summer School due to my strong interest in learning about politics from a variety of perspectives and my extensive desire to travel around the world. Being a Politics with International Studies student I quickly seized the opportunity to go to a part of the world which is of growing importance in world politics so that I could understand China’s rise from a Chinese outlook. Renmin University is in fact China’s top university for studying social sciences and its political science department ranks first in the country. Situated in the university district, Haidan, in northwest Beijing, Renmin is in the heart of student life in Beijing near other highly esteemed universities such as Peking University and Tsinghua University. I therefore enjoyed a month in a stimulating academic environment, and had the chance to interact with some of China’s brightest students and learn from some of the most well-known professors in China.
The courses I took at Renmin University were an extremely beneficial supplement to my degree at Warwick. I took three relevant classes: Chinese Experience Compared to Developing Countries, China and the World in the 21st Century, Urban-Rural Development in China. The international summer school offered many other interesting courses in the field of politics and development, alongside courses from a variety of different departments. I highly appreciated the invaluable opportunity to discover Chinese professors’ and students’ ideas about China’s role in the world, and the chance to ask highly esteemed Chinese professors about their views on Chinese politics and other controversial issues. The teaching style and content were similar to courses at Warwick however more participation was expected in the lectures. The classes were not only a great opportunity to meet Chinese students, but enabled me to meet both undergraduates and postgraduates from all over the world who shared my interests. Taking three courses allowed me to get the most out of my academic experience in China without limiting time to explore the city.
Through the layers of smog hanging over the city, Beijing is an energetic and fascinating city rich with history and progress. Whether it was dodging the traffic, struggling to communicate in broken Chinese against broken English, or getting hauled into pictures with enthusiastic Chinese tourists, there is no room to get bored in Beijing. I greatly enjoyed the chance to explore Beijing through the old Hutong streets, in its various parks – safe havens in such a busy city – where people come together to play music and dance, and the intriguing temples and palaces. Eating the Chinese food was an experience in itself; trying the famous Peking duck, eating scorpions and starfish at the Beijing night market or craving a safe meal in McDonalds after a bad food experience. Beijing is a great city for a student and my experience opened my eyes to another part of the world which is of growing international importance and is evidently the centre of progress and change. What especially fascinated me was the conflict between the traditional and modern which was vibrant throughout the city, a concept which cannot be fully grasped until you physically move through the streets of Beijing. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to explore the city as a local rather than a tourist and thereby fully experience Beijing life. My experience in Beijing helped me appreciate the centrality of that part of the world to my degree.
After my incredible experience I would recommend the Renmin exchange to anyone with an open mind towards Asia, China and appreciative of its growing importance. The general atmosphere at Renmin is very welcoming and warm, a great place to meet people from all over the world. The Chinese students I met grasped every opportunity to take me out to show me the city and let me taste typical Beijing food, and I am very grateful for their hospitality. The campus is fantastic and offers everything you need. I think it is important to take any chance you are given to explore the world, meet different people and study in new environments and I therefore encourage students to apply to this exchange, not only as an opportunity to visit Beijing, but as a chance to learn about China and fully immerse yourself in the society you are studying.