Challenges and opportunities when traveling to China by Eirik Lund

Hi, I’m Eirik, a 5th year student of computer engineering at NTNU. This semester I’m doing my master thesis, and through the IPIT Network, I got the opportunity to go to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. 

Tsinghua is considered the best university in China, and among the best in the world overall. As such, it’s a nice opportunity to get to go there. Additionally, their department of computer science is currently considered by some to be the very best in the world. 

For me personally, it was a very good chance, as there aren’t that many professors at NTNU who specialize in the topic of my thesis. At Tsinghua, however, there is a proper research committee. Since it’s such a prestigious university, there are lots of resources available. 

But it’s not all perfect of course. Getting accepted to Tsinghua as a student at NTNU isn’t too much of a problem, but the application process in itself is quite long and at times annoying. The best example is the physical examination they require. On their own websites it says that it’s only for students staying for more than half a year, but out of the blue we get the message that it’s mandatory for everyone. However, as it turns out, it’s not something you really have to worry about, and it’s fully possible to simply wait with doing it until you arrive in China. 

Which brings me to my next point: getting to China. You need to get a visa in advance in order to go to China. This requires you to fill out a long form online, before you book an appointment at the consulate in Oslo. You then need to go to Oslo to hand over your passport and get your fingerprints taken. After a few days you’ll then have to go there again to pay and get your passport back. After all is said in done, it’s not that it’s a very difficult process, but it’s time-consuming. 

With all that said and done, actually being in China is quite fun. Once you get to Tsinghua and you get your dorm room, you’re pretty much set. It takes some time to get oriented, partially because the campus is absolutely enormous; it takes around half an hour to walk from one end to the other. The dorms are fairly nice, but I would recommend against getting a double room, since you share your bathroom with the entire floor. 

Since I’m doing research and writing up my thesis, I’m not attending any classes. However, from what I’ve heard from others, signing up for them is a real chore. The schedules are also different from Norway, with some classes being held in the evenings, and even during the weekends. As with everywhere, there is a big variety in quality and workload, so it’ll probably be a good idea to ask people for recommendations. 

Life in Beijing can be a lot of fun. There is a lot to see and there’s something to do for everyone. The only problem is that getting around the city is time-consuming and at times difficult. Public transportation stops early at night and taxis can be hard to come by. 

The Chinese society is, of course, different from the Norwegian in various ways. One thing is that they’re very dependent on smartphones to do everything. Everything from shopping to getting official information from institutions is done using WeChat, which is also the app you use to communicate with everyone you meet. There are many small differences like this, but as long as you keep an open mind, it’s just a fun experience. 

Overall, China is an interesting country to experience, although there is some overhead to getting here. Tsinghua seems to be a good university, at least from a thesis point of view. There are of course some challenges to overcome, but it’s a learning experience. You’ll learn a lot, both about China, but also about how to deal with new situations. If you have any questions or doubts, feel free to contact me and ask!

– Eirik H. Lund