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Vittoria Menga

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How my Chinese adventure changed the way I study and work

Alumna of the double degree in electrical engineering between Polimi and XJTU, Vittoria graduated in 2019.

Two years have already passed since the graduation day and there have been many opportunities to think and talk about China. The more time passes, the more I realize that my 2 years studying in China are much more than a series of amusing anedoctes.

Let’s start talking about my experience as a student. At Xi’an Jiaotong University I had to adapt to a new study method: although the courses I attended were in line with my home university’s program, the professors’s approach was very different. While at Politecnico students are closely guided (during classes professors explain the theory and carry out exercises similar to those of the exam), in China we were provided by the main notions, and were asked to deepen them through individual or team work. This allowed me to really test myself: I learned how to select the sources and the materials, to work on little-known topics, sometimes even with tight deadlines, and to find the right method to optimize the result. In addition, I developed interpersonal skills, such as collaborating and organizing the work in a team, as well as presenting my work in front of an audience.

In addition to the exams, I also had to deal with the thesis. The process that led me to the final discussion was itself an exam, or rather a test of psychological resistance! In China you don’t only need to write the thesis, have it approved by your supervisor and upload it to the portal on time, but you also have to undergo a series of intermediate checks: a blind review, a rereading by a third-party professor with consequent discussion, control of plagiarism and a pre-discussion with a commission generally different from that of the final discussion. On top of that you have a multitude of documents, many of them written in Chinese, to fill out and deliver to different people. Basically, the month before graduation was a constant running up and down the campus in search of professors, documents and interpreters. For me, a methodical person who likes to have everything under control, it was a real challenge and source of stress thanks to which, however, I learned that nothing is impossible: you just need to know who to ask for help, even when the time is running out.

While in China, I also learned a lot outside of the university. In cities like Xi’an, which aren’t very international yet, not only “foreigners” raise a lot of curiosity, but meeting someone from a different country is seen as precious opportunity of personal growth. As a foreigner I ended up being interviewed by a local TV, being invited in the promotional video of the university I was attending, and participating in the Chinese New Year’s celebrations on a high -speed train (singing in Chinese!). What surprise me most was the ease with which I accepted every proposal, something that would never happen in Italy. Everything there was new, the language, the food, the habits, and I was as ready to eat a huge glazed and pineapple-covered fish, as to dance and sing on a train.

I found some similarities between my life in China and my first work experience in Italy. After a training period of a few months, I was included in a project run by an international team. Since the beginning I often had to deal with topics I was not familiar with or problems I didn’t have an immediate solution for, but I have always been confident that step by step I would be able to deal with every situation. Now, when my manager asks me to do something new, I’m not afraid because I know that every problem can be tackled, you just need to understand how. I am sure that this attitude is first of all a result of my double degree experience and I am very grateful for that.

Have a safe journey!