Recently, 30 exceptional students at leading universities in the UK and China took part in the inaugural Student Leader Innovation Experience, sponsored by UnionPay International. The programme convenes young leaders studying in the UK and China to deepen trust and dialogue between future leaders in both countries, as well as develop Cultural Intelligence – the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.
Having recently completed the UK leg of the programme, students were invited to reflect on their experiences and learning through the week. Later this month the group will reunite for the second leg, taking place in Beijing and Shanghai. Kiara Clement, a second year Chemical Engineering student at UCL, shares her reflections with us.
“I’ve always been passionate about finding innovative ways to improve the lives of people from all walks of life. For many people around the world life is a struggle; I hope to use science to improve daily life for not only my generation but also the generations to come. I applied for the programme as I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of how to connect with people from different cultures – to build relationships and learn more about the world that we live in.
There are three things that stand out for me from the week that we spent in London and Cardiff. Firstly, the number of important and inspiring people that we met during the week; looking back it is amazing to have been given the opportunity to meet people who are already changing the world and making important decisions for the future of our society. It has been wonderful to get to know such a diverse range of people and learn about who they are and where they come from. Secondly, the importance of diversity in developing innovative ideas. The diversity in our group made brainstorming more interesting when we tackled the smart cities challenge, as everyone gave a new and different perspective to our team. Finally, my perception of Chinese people has definitely seen a shift. I used to think that people from China were very serious, but from this experience I saw how light-hearted and easygoing they can be. I’ve enjoyed finding the similarities in our cultures and learning from the each other’s differences. I think having a deeper understanding of each other and where we come from made it easier for us to bond in such a short time. I have already learnt so much about China from spending this short time with my Chinese friends!
I can’t wait for part two in China! I’m looking forward to learning more about the problems that Chinese people face and how their life is different to people in the UK. I hope to gain a better understanding of the current and future needs of the Chinese economy and to learn what makes China the world’s largest manufacturing country. I’m excited about being reunited with the rest of the group, as I am sure our friendships will only strengthen. Lastly, I hope I am put in many more challenging situations; I have learnt that the most rewarding experiences usually come from those that challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone.”
The programme was delivered by Common Purpose Student Experiences in partnership with China Youth Daily, under the patronage of the All-China Youth Federation whose activities reach 300 million young people in China.