Dual degree broadens horizons
By Caitlin Dawson
Adam Bolding-Jones is determined to live life without regrets. When he moved to China in 2012 to study computing science with SFU’s dual degree program (DDP), he spoke no Chinese and had never lived abroad before. But what he lacked in experience, he made up for with enthusiasm.
“The program was an opportunity to do a bunch of things I’d always wanted to do all at once,” says Bolding-Jones.
“I wanted to do something computing science-related and I wanted to see the world and really experience life in another country, not just for a few weeks but actually living there.”
The award-winning dual degree program, a partnership between SFU’s School of Computing Science and Zhejiang University (ZJU), gives students an opportunity to spend their second and third year studying in Hangzhou, China, culminating in a dual degree from both universities.
The adventure also afforded Bolding-Jones the fresh start he needed after a difficult time in his life. He had been sampling various programs at SFU for three years, looking for something that “lit a spark,” when his mother passed away. He was forced to “re-evaluate everything,” he says.
Determined to live life to the fullest, he enrolled in the DDP and began two months of intensive Mandarin classes at SFU, which continued when he arrived in Hangzhou. Soon, he could chat to his new friends in Mandarin and navigate the bustling city on public transit. Another perk: ordering food in Chinese, including a local delicacy called stinky tofu, a “horribly fermented tofu” that lived up to its name.
“It smells like a toilet, but it tastes really good,” he says. “I learned to stand downwind while eating it.”
It was one of many new experiences for Bolding-Jones. One day, he and a friend hopped on their bikes and rode to Thousand Island Lake; a scenic spot located about 150 kilometers from the city.
“Travelling through the countryside is a totally different experience from living in the city,” says Bolding-Jones of the two-day journey. “You become completely immersed in the culture, staying in tiny hotels and interacting with the locals.”
Most of all, he relished the chance to soak up the atmosphere far from his Burnaby born-and-bred roots.
“You could spend your entire life just exploring China,” he says. “That was really what I wanted from this experience—to expand my world. You get an appreciation for fundamental similarities between people, and you realized that cultural differences are just superficial.”
Bolding-Jones says the DDP experience taught him to “be proactive, roll with punches, and fake it until you make it.” To anyone considering the program, Bolding-Jones says: “just do it.”
He continues: “It will change your life. If you’re one of those people who always wanted to study abroad, and if you want to have an adventure, it’s an amazing opportunity. I would say it’s the best choice I’ve ever made.”
Bolding-Jones even found love thanks to the experience— he met his now-girlfriend, a fellow international student from Korea. This summer, she hopes to start her master’s degree at SFU, while Bolding-Jones completes his final year of study.
After that – the world is their oyster, says Bolding-Jones. “Our plan at the moment is just to work hard and do well,” he says. “All possibilities are open to us.”