Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sii Inn’s Adventure in Chengdu

One thing I appreciate about being an NYP student is the abundant amount of opportunities we are given.In March this year,  I had quite an adventure when I went on a 13-day overseas trip to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province. I went on this trip as part of two General Studies Modules (GSMs) I was taking: Environmental and Conservation Issues, and Understanding China’s Business & Culture.

Aside from fulfilling the requirements for these modules, I have also gained first-hand experience of the Chinese’s way of life, culture, technological innovations, education system, and made friends with students from Chengdu Polytechnic.

Indeed, it was an experience, or an adventure, of a lifetime.

Upon arrival at the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, we took a bus to the Han Yun Hotel, a Han Culture inspired luxury Hotel, which is located right outside Chengdu Polytechnic. The hotel, which was where we stayed, provides internship opportunities to the students from the Polytechnic’s School of Tourism.

 The influence of Han culture can be seen in its architectural style, with each room named after a palace from the Han Dynasty. The room that was allocated to my roommate and I was “Zhong Shi Dian (中室殿)”, one of the eastern palaces where a prince once  lived. The theme of the room was poetry and calligraphy, and there were replicas of poetry and calligraphy all over the r room such as the Wen Fang SI Bao (文房四宝), which literally means the Four Treasure of Study, and a scroll of Di Zi Gui (弟子规), which means The Standards of Being a Good Student and Child.
Visiting the Wu Hou Shrine
We also visited the Wu Hou Shrine (武侯祠), also known as the memorial temple of Marquis Wu. It is dedicated to Zhuge Liang (诸葛亮), a famous military strategist of the state, Shu Han(蜀汉), during the Three Kingdoms period. It is also the most influential of Chengdu temples, being the first batch of the national key cultural relic’s protection unit’s work, and it possesses the reputation of The Three Holy Land.

To be frank, I was more interested in immersing myself in the atmosphere of Jinli Street (锦里), which is a part of the shrine. The green flagstone-paved street was lined with stores, tea houses and hotels that are modeled to look like the traditional buildings from the Qing Dynasty, retaining the old world charm of ancient China. There were stores that sold local snacks, handicrafts, traditional musical instruments, sugar figurines and Shu embroidery. The part I admire about Jinli is that it is an eclectic mix of modernity and tradition! Modern elements such as cafes and bars are well blended into the old town harmoniously - they even have Starbucks!

Visiting Chengdu Polytechnic
On the second day of our trip, we visited Chengdu Polytechnic’s School of Software and the School of Finance and Economics to familiarize ourselves with their courses, programs and their students’ works. Even though, we were informed beforehand that all subjects are taught in Chinese, it still amazed t all of us, the SIT students,  when we saw how they taught programming in Chinese. The logic was similar and the codes were in English, but the actual content and software language were in Chinese. It was a familiar but alien feeling. 

Learning to program in Chinese is strange, yet familiar.
I was particularly interested in the School of Finance and Economics’ Currency Display Room, where different currencies from countries and dynasties were exhibited.
We also went to the School of Tourism, which is located at the Huayuan Campus (花源校区). At the Huayuan Campus, we participated in some cultural activities such as the partaking of tea ceremony and napkin origami.

One thing that I really appreciate, about China, is that the students take great pride in their work. The students in the tourism course are also determined to provide quality service and pay particular attention to details in order to make their guests as comfortable as possible.

Technology Innovation

As our next stop, we visited the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a non-profit organization engaged in wildlife research, captive breeding, conservation education and educational tourism. The place was really beautiful with the bamboo-sheltered walkways and vibrant flowers. There were many lazy giant pandas and adorable red pandas lounging around.

These pandas look kind of skinny,  I wonder who's been stealing their food...
I was also hoping to interact with baby pandas but unfortunately, it was not the season.  Just like any other attraction, there were souvenirs stores that sell giant pandas and red pandas clothes, bags and accessories, which was at least twice as expensive when compared with the flea market directly outside the research base.
...culprit found!
On the seventh day, we went for a “company visit” at Tianfu Software Park, NCSI (Chengdu) Co., Ltd. The person-in-charge, who is a Singaporean, told us that NCS is a multinational information technology and communications engineering company that has been a wholly owned-subsidiary of the SingTel Group for more than a decade. He also shared with us his working experiences and the competitive advantage of working in China as a Singaporean with a bilingual background.

After the visit, we went to the Chengdu Planning Exhibition Hall, where we learnt about the development plans for Chengdu over  the next two decades. Chengdu is well-known for its rapid expansion and was dubbed the ‘Fastest Growing City ‘by Forbes in 2010.

As we toured the Planning Exhibition Hall, I was most impressed by the exhibition zone at the third level. There was a cinema and a large model that showcases the overall location of the modern garden city in urban and ruralareas. The cinema screened a 3D movie about the future of Chengdu, depicting the outlook of Chengdu in 2030, giving us an insight into the future of the city.

I appreciate how they are trying to strategically position this city as a new hub for technological innovation, development and production, and a gateway to draw investment from around the world.
However, while chatting with some Chengdu Polytechnic students, I realized that most of them are not as excited about the development as they prefer a more laid-back, social lifestyle.

The People We Met in Chengdu
With our friends from Chengdu Polytechnic.
The people in Chengdu are really very warm. During our stay, we felt welcomed and we enjoyed ourselves. They are also very well-mannered and matured for their age. Some of the students I spoke with were already deciding on their career paths and things that they would like to do after graduation and how they want to settle down in life. The students also keep abreast of the current affairs in China. They are knowledgeable and independent, but they are also close with their friends to the point that they feel like a family.

Three things about these students surprised me. Firstly, the students are very outspoken and most of them have no issues engaging the audience when they give presentations.  They are also very proficient in bargaining. In fact, a girl once helped me to slash the price of an item to one-third of its original price, leaving my jaw dropping in amazement.

Secondly, the ladies are very conscious of their appearance. They are always well-dressed wherever they go, even if it’s just the minimart located right outside their hostel. In Singapore, using t-shirts as casual wear is the norm.  But in Chengdu, the girls told me the last time they wore t-shirts was in the elementary school, and nowadays, they wear t-shirts only when they are at home or playing sports. They have good posture and dainty gestures. My impression was reinforced when we made our way down to Chunxi Road, a contiguous shopping district, where beautiful Chinese ladies with neat hairstyles and immaculate make up flooded the street.

Thirdly, the guys we met are gentlemen. This is a general feeling the Singaporean girls from my group had. Initially we felt a bit weird, but after a casual discussion about the courting culture, we found out that due to the the one-child policy and the cultural preference for boys, there are proportionally more guys than girls, so it is not easy for a guy to find a partner. Thus, a guy has to put in much more effort, show that he is very capable of taking care of people, and be really nice to court a girl. It has eventually become a norm in Chengdu for guys to treat their female friends well and pamper the girls they are courting.

What about the less appealing aspect of the people? To my dismay, it seems to be a common practice for the locals to spit and litter. We were told that many cleaners were hired to sweep the ground regularly to maintain the cleanliness of the street when it caught my attention that the streets are clean despite the undesirable habits.

Conquering the Heights
Climbing a mountain is easy when you have friends like these to lean on!
I’m not sure how many calories were burnt from climbing steps to the peak of three mountain—Leshan (乐山), Mt. EMei (峨嵋山) and Qing Cheng Shan (青城山), but I’m pretty sure I left Singapore with a pair of flabby calves that are transformed into a more muscular pair when I took the flight home from Chengdu. Of course, I didn’t hike from the foot of the mountains, as there were bus and cable car rides, but the duration of the walking spells ranged from about thirty minutes to slightly more than an hour.

I am not  a sporty person and my stamina has always been an issue whenever it comes to jogging. I even used to have problems passing my NAPFA because of the 2.4km run. Furthermore, I hadn’t trained or exercised regularly months prior to this trip. Reaching the peak of the mountain, or rather, climbing the seemingly endless flight of stairs is  really difficult for me. In fact, it wasn’t easy. There were many times I wanted to just simply give up and find a place to sit down while waiting for others to come back, but I still managed to make it to the top, with a few things to keep me going on.

One of these things was the realization that it is ‘now or never’. I was  halfway through the journey when exhaustion set in. But then I thought ‘I endured terrible motion sickness from the plane, the buses and the cable car rides and came all the way from my comfy bed in Singapore, and it is unlikely I will come back here again,’ so it would be a pity to give up since this will be my only chance to make it to the top. The journey of the stairs is also much shorter than going from Singapore to Chengdu. So, I told myself to ‘Do it once, do it well’.

The beautiful environment also gave me the motivation to keep going. Seeing the adorable dogs, monkeys and squirrels also diverted some of the attention away from my fatigue. Along the steps of Mt. EMei, there were several stalls selling souvenirs and snacks that gave me a much-needed recharge. The support of my friends also kept me going. Even though some of us very tired, we did not leave anyone behind. We took things one step at a time and we were able to persevere throughout the journey.

When we finally reached the top, I was moved by the spectacular view. I was surprised that my legs could take me this far. Reaching the summit may not mean much to the countless people climbing these steps every day, but it meant a lot to me.

When I reached the top, I had an epiphany.  I’ve come to realize that some opportunities will only come your way once in your life, so it is important to take them when you can. Like my ascent to the mountain, I realized that skills and knowledge need to be acquired one step at a time.

The same is true for accomplishing things. Whenever life overwhelmed me with more than I could handle, I took things one step at a time. I’ve discovered that you need to know where your destination is, and take that all important first step.

Coming to this realization while enjoying the beautiful scenery, was the ultimate reward for a tiresome trek.


Aside from the amazing experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life, I am also grateful for the friendships I have forged with the students from Chengdu Polytechnic, as well as with my fellow NYP  students from the School of Information Technology (SIT) and School of Business Management. The Chinese students were really warm, helpful and sweet and they had put in a lot of effort in organizing the games and performances for us.

Even during their breaks, the Chinese students would bring us around the school and the neighborhood. Most of these Chinese friends came to bid farewell on our last night and we exchanged contacts.
Even now, I still keep in touch with some of the Chinese friends I have made even though I left Chengdu six months ago, and I still meet some of the friends from SIT and SBM.

On a personal note, this 13-day trip had a big impact on me. I made friends, took lots of photos and learnt about Chengdu’s business, culture and environment.

Visiting Chengdu taught me how to persevere in the face of tough issues and difficult times. I also discovered my interest in translation when trying to bridge communication between the Chinese and non-Chinese students. This trip, to me, is not just about gaining exposures and knowledge; it is also a journey of self-reflection and self-discovery.  The Immersion programme  ended long ago, but the lessons and experiences I gained on this adventure will stay with me for a lifetime.

Sii Inn is enjoying her adventure in NYP. What’s yours? Come choose your own  adventure at NYP Open House from 9 to 11 Jan 2014!

By Chua Sii Inn, Diploma in Business Enterprise IT , Year 2
Sii Inn is a Year 2 Business Enterprise IT student who enjoys detective fiction and mystery novels. She enjoys picking up new skills,learning new things and feels that food is the most primitive form of comfort. She also loves to indulge in the best entertainment and appreciates idiosyncracies, theatre performances, martial arts and piano melodies. Her dream is to go on a backpacking journey around the world to meet people from all walks of life and understand their cultures.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ginny,
    Wow,its good see you that you had a good time at Chengdu,
    Happy New Year
    and I like your article
    nice one