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Welcome to 711

Yousuf Ahmad, China Wanxiang Fellows Program, Summer 2012


Sorry for keeping everyone waiting- this will be my last post 🙁 but here we go:

The Hangzhou portion of the trip we were pampered really well. The student ambassadors from Wanxiang Polytechnic were especially kind and helpful in showing us around and making us feel comfortable. Most of our meals were provided and we rode a bus everywhere together.

We stayed in the Refined Garden Hotel, and I happened to room with Ravi. Guess what our room number ended up being (the title of this post). Yup two Indian Guys in 711. So fitting.  For the first couple of days in Hangzhou we did a bunch of touristy things- hit up the West Lake, saw the Lingyin Temple, and various other sides. We even goat to take a boat tour of the Lake. Here was the view from the top of the Pagoda:


It wasn’t the best day  as it was kinda cloudy but nonetheless it was an awesome site. The Lingyin temple was pretty cool too:

We started taking classes on Tuesday morning. By the way the campus was beautiful:

The Green Tech seminars were for the most part nicely delivered and the teachers were very knowledgeable. We covered a wide range of topics from Economics, Solar PV, Hydro, Natural Gas, Anti-Poverty, Batteries, Wind, and we even had a lecture on Confucius. Overall the program was well balanced. The program is going to culminate in a final presentation this Fall at NU where we will be presenting projects that we are preparing.

Hangzhou like many other cities in China is still developing. The subway is set to open up this October and I feel that after it opens the traffic and the rate of cars going to the road will decrease. That being said I feel like if I were to come to Hangzhou in about five years from now, it will be a very different city. There’s a lot of construction that’s going on. Even the campus we have our classes in is new and has been untouched by students (I think its set to  open up this Fall).  By seeing the contrast between Hangzhou and Beijing, we were able to get a better appreciation for how China is still developing.

Despite the development the instructors who were from Zhejiang University, or from Wanxiang Corporation assured us that China was taking steps to meeting their Millennium Development goals and were building up the renewable industry. Despite all this development however it was evident that China was and is still consuming large amounts of coal to keep up with its growth.  You could tell thought that Hangzhou was implementing some Green Technologies. Many of the taxis were new battery powered ones and there were many solar heaters on top of buildings in Hangzhou. Also it was nice to gain the perspective of people who were working in the industry. Some individuals just presented the material without any of their own opinions while other lecturers gave us some more insight. The anti-poverty lecturer was especially moving, as the lecturer told us of a non-profit he started to help rural students.

We took numerous field trips to various power plants, and even to villages to help couple our lectures with first hand experience. These tours were not all great especially since a lot of information got lost in translation but a few of them such as the Natural gas plant tour was good. For the Solar plant we had already visited the plant in Rockford so I don’t think I gained much out of the visit. Here’s a video of the Natural Gas Plant:

Natural Gas Plant

Despite all the field visits, we visited numerous museums. I actually think I have been to more museums in China then in the US (that’s kinda sad!- I should probably work on this). We went to a Tea Museum, Fan Museum , Umbrella Museum , Sword and Scissor Museum and a few others. It was a little overwhelming but it was still nice to really tour Hangzhou. Here are some pics:

Ramadan started  the first Friday I was in Hangzhou. One of the student ambassadors, Bruce, very kindly took me to Phoenix Mosque which was near the center of the city. Here’s a video:

Phoenix Mosque

Fasting was not really too difficult- it was actually about an hour shorter than New York. It just took a little bit of work getting the hotel staff to make accommodations for me (I would use my breakfast voucher at Iftar time to break my fast). But other than that it was all pretty smooth.

For the first few days I along with other members of our group were missing the accessibility we had in Beijing. The subway was so easy to use and everything was close by. Since our hotel was a little remote, it would take a while to catch a cab and we weren’t exactly in the middle of the city. Also our campus was not right next to us ( we took a bus every morning to get to class). After a few days however we figured out some placed to go. I went with Tommy to a halal noodle shop that was less than a mile a way and it was pretty good.

The program ended with an awesome trip to Shanghai. Hangzhou was only a few hours away from Shanghai and we got there Friday Morning.  I actually was able to go to Friday Prayers but unfortunately on the way back I lost my camera (I’m pretty sure I left it in the first cab I tried to take- but the driver didn’t know where to go, I couldn’t find it when I got into the 2nd cab). But don’t worry I was able to take pictures from my phone!

Shanghai is an awesome city. It is definitely very modern and I think if China needs to show off a city to the world it is Shanghai. We were only there for 2 nights so we did not get a chance to do nearly enough but I think even just the view of the Bund was worth it:

It’s hard to imagine that most of those buildings have been built in the past 50 or so years. Shanghai had the most foreigners I had seen in China, and there was so much to do but too little time.   My final night before coming back to the states a bunch of us went out to dinner to this Halal place that was right around the corner. The food was great and at that point I realized my awesome trip was coming to a close.

In the end my experience in China is unlike anything I have ever done in my life. I didn’t know what to expect really going into it but I am so glad that I did. I feel like my experience would have been so much better if I would have known Chinese but I am glad that I had a great group of people to help me out. All of the Wanxiang Program Students along with the Student Ambassadors were especially great in making my experience memorable. Special shout outs to Ravi for being considerate, when I had to wake up for Suhoor at 3 in the morning to eat before sunrise. Also thank you Helen, Maddy, Tommy and Robert for helping us non-Chinese speakers. Jeremy, Sam and Julia were also awesome characters that helped made the experience more enjoyable. Also thanks to all the Public Health Program and Econ Program students in Beijing for an awesome first four weeks.  I want to thank Professor Petri,  Wanxiang Corporation, Professor Chung, Professor Gu, and all the other individuals who made this awesome experience possible. I encourage everyone to study abroad and hope that all of you that are planning on it can have an amazing experience like I did.

I know I left a lot out of this post, and by all means if you guys have any questions at all ask! Thanks again everyone!

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