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Zihao Liao

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"When I first arrived in Italy, I kept repeating to myself: when in Milan, behave like a Milanese"

Zihao Liao participated in the double degree in Electrical Engineering and he was spending a year in Italy when the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world.

"My decision to participate in the Polimi-XJTU double degree program is somehow coincidental. I still remember the pride and happiness of one of my best friends when he returned from a summer exchange program at Polimi in 2016. I bet with him that one day I would visit the same university. Then in 2019 when I discovered the opportunity of a double degree at Polimi, I applied immediately. I was telling myself: “three extra semesters in Europe and one extra degree, why not?” It is not until I left Europe in 2020, and obtained my degree in 2022, that I began to realize: Italy to me was not just a country to enjoy, but a land that is hard to separate from; what I earned is far more than one university degree, but a treasure from which one benefits for the all life.

I have always thought that studying an engineering major is too technical and tough, but this university changed my perception.Maybe it is thanks to the students in design and architecture majors who bring diversity and creativity to this campus. For what concerns electrical engineering, as time went on I discover the joy and pride of understanding the theory, solving problems and developing ideas. During the lectures, professors at Polimi put a lot of emphasis on the theory, that is essential in order to deeply understand and master a subject. While working in the laboratory on the other hand I had the chance to cooperate with graduate students and PhD candidates in order to build a circuit board and verify the design. I used electronic components for the first time and I discovered I have a passion for it. The skills I got at Polimi are still having an impact on my career, in particular the attitude of continuous learning and researching on a subject that I love.

What impressed and influenced me the most, is what I call the “Italian philosophy of life”.When I first arrived in Italy, I kept repeating to myself “when in Milan, do as the Milanese do”. I was not as fluent as now in Italian language, but I was determined to speak only in Italian even when talking to myself. I was really eager to adapt to the new environment, but I would have never imagined that I could end up considering myself “Milanese” so quickly. I soon became friends not only with international students but also with some Italian students I’m still in touch with today. Having spent the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy, I felt a lot of love and hope for life. I remember the neighbors greeting each other from balcony to balcony at the sunshine, and sometimes even singing together. I will never forget an old man in Duomo di Catania, who wanted to shake hand with me, saying that Italy and China were good friends and that Chinese were welcomed regardless of Covid-19. I would like to thank him and all the other Italians who left to me a unique memory of a place that I could now call my “second hometown”, and for teaching me to be always optimistic and enjoy life.

Now it comes the turn to speak to the future generation of double degree students. There are three pieces of advice that I would like to share:

Discover the new environment and focus on what you like most.

Drop English, speak Italian and live as a local.

Apart from learning, keep thinking how you can contribute to Polimi and to your home university.

Good luck!"