Jerry Chen

What does a day in the life of Dual Degree Program student look like in China? 

A day in the life of DDP students isn’t much different from the life back in SFU. I still mostly spend my time in lectures or studying for my subjects. One thing that is a little bit different is that I spend most of my spare time on student organization and student clubs’ activities instead of hanging out with friends. ZJU has a lot of school events hosted by student organizations or student clubs during the school year, so our campus life becomes very rich and colourful. This is one thing I like about ZJU the most and it is definitely a great way to fit into the new environment when students first arrived in ZJU.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced when studying abroad? How did you manage to overcome it?

The biggest challenge I have faced is academics. People might think that fitting in is the biggest challenge when studying abroad, but that is not the case for me, instead academics is the real challenge. It is probably because of the different education style between China and Canada. I found that courses at ZJU requires students to self-learn some parts of the course material. Sometimes you need to roughly self-learn some software language for the labs. So we are not entirely taught step by step in details anymore like the courses back in SFU. This was a tough challenge for me and it really hit me hard. But as I started to have self-learning as a habit, I resolved the problems and eventually overcome the challenge. Although it has been tough for me while going through this challenge, I appreciate that this challenge brought me the self-learning habit. Now I am definitely more confident in learning.

What surprised you the most about your Chinese experience, if any?

The most surprising part about my Chinese experience is the differences of the education system and campus life between ZJU and SFU. For example, we usually enroll into 3 or 4 courses each semester at SFU, and they are just about the right course load for one semester. But in ZJU, students tend to enroll into about 8 courses or even up to 10 or more courses including electives each semester. This really surprised me when I arrived there doing the course enrollment the very first time. After spending my first year in ZJU, I also started to realize that a lot of Chinese students are so aggressive and so well planned about their future careers. This is one thing I didn’t see around my SFU peers and friends. I can already feel the competitiveness we will be facing in the future international job market.

What was the best, memorable moment of your experience so far?

The best memorable moment of my experience in ZJU is my participation at a schoolwide singing contest and my own band’s performance at SAOE Music Festival! I took the opportunity to be part of the ZJU’s annual Top 10 Campus Singers Competition; it is one of the biggest events on campus. I was thrilled that I made into the second last round to be one of the top 24 singers among the 300 participants at the competition! The Best thing from this experience was that I learned various different technical singing skills and the correct way to sing throughout the competition, plus I met a lot of great friends who are also enthusiastic for singing or composing. And then soon or later, these friends of mine and I thought to form a band ourselves to do covers and such during our spare time, and we decided to name ourselves, Versatile. Meanwhile, a school club called SAOE was hosting a music festival on campus having local and international student singers and bands to perform on stage. It seemed to us that the event appeared just about the right time for us to show people what we have worked on so far, so we decided to perform our first live cover at SAOE Music festival. It was honestly one of the best moments of my entire life.

What are some must-do things in Hangzhou?

There are definitely a lot of must-dos in Hangzhou! First of all, the number one must-do is to travel to all five ZJU campuses in Hangzhou together with your cohort peers. Secondly, another must-do is to hang out with friends around the scenic attractions in Hangzhou such as West Lake, He-Fang Street, and downtown Hangzhou. Last of all surely is to travel to as many places as you can around China and of course there are a lot more other things you can do over here!

What advice do you have for future Dual Degree Program students?

I would suggest future DDP students to start self-learning as a daily habit.  Even a habit of reading a book or learning a little new thing each day would be helpful. It does not only make you feel more productive, but also make your learning in ZJU easier. Another suggestion is don’t be shy to take initiative to talk to people. Don’t let the language barrier be your excuse to not make friends. Even if you aren’t comfortable enough to talk to people in Chinese yet, you still can communicate with Chinese students and other international students from different countries on campus, because they can speak at least a little bit of English.  So, go out, make friends and enjoy your two years at ZJU.

How did this international experience shape your outlook about your career and life in general?

I believe that the international experience I gained from the DDP really does shape me into a more multicultural person who is also independent and more reliable in many ways. Studying abroad isn’t a choice everyone would take. It takes courage to leave the place you were familiar with and the comfort zone you grew up with, and of course your family and friends whom you are always close with. The experience of living by yourself in a new country will progressively shape you into a more independent person. It seems quite natural that you become more capable. You will have the potential to accomplish diverse tasks from different areas. You will be able to undertake all the responsibilities. Therefore I would say that my international experience definitely shape me into a better person in all area, not only about my career and life!