Luke Cousins

Date: SP5, 2013
Degree Program: Master of Architecture
Host University: Tianjin University
Host Country: China

Why did you choose your host university?

The study tour was presented as a program by Tianjin University.

What was the university like?

The greater period of the tour was spent on a field trip, however there was minor classwork and a group presentation. The resources appeared quite adequate, wi-fi was available and their architecture studios were well facilitated. 


Luke Cousins What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

China itself provides a plethora of incredibly interesting lessons in urbanity to any student of Architecture, especially when considering approaches toward scale, history, technology, society and politics. From that perspective, it was a valuable exercise in Architectural thinking. Beyond that, there are a range of social particularities within contemporary Chinese culture that have provided me with a new perspective with regards to food, living, and public participation. I believe that there are many good things to be learnt from modern China.

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

Accommodation was arranged by T.U. and was inclusive as part of the study tour. I found it to be very reasonable, with meals available within each hotel (of the four that we stayed in). Some assistance was provided by other staff/students on the tour when checking in due to procedural requirements in China for foreign travellers, and language, i.e. filling out paperwork.

Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

Our travel was north of Tianjin (and Beijing), throughout Chengde and Yi Country, which are areas and towns not typically visited by westerners. This provided us on the tour with an authentic experience of regional culture, and often interesting interactions with locals who seemed unfamiliar with foreign travellers.

Luke Cousins 1Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

The study tour is the result of a program developed via Tianjin University and Hong Kong University, meaning that thankfully most of the students on the tour were from Hong Kong and thus generally tri-lingual and well-travelled. Also, the students on the trip from T.U. were reasonably fluent in English, as I am not so in speaking Mandarin, and the students from both schools were more than willing to help the two of us from Uni SA understand what was happening. The trip as a whole was a good social experience, and being one of only two Uni SA students meant that intermingling was very easy, especially considering how friendly those on the tour were. 

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

I believe so, as China presents a whole raft of different approaches to urbanity in the 21st century, and it is after all a country that has an incredible influence throughout the Asia-Pacific region. I previously hadn’t really considered what opportunities may exist with regards to studying or working abroad, however now I believe that it would be beneficial to aspire towards doing so. 

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

It’s an old idiom, but travel really does broaden the mind! If you can take the opportunity to incorporate overseas experience within your learning, then there is no doubt that it will provide you with another perspective that adds a value and richness to a fresh academic mind. I would however recommend that there be some level of interest or curiosity beforehand, a willingness to participate within a different cultural setting to ensure that you are able to gain the most from being somewhere potentially new.

Top Tips:
Have a decent understanding of the country you intend to visit, ensuring that a degree of ‘culture-shock’ does not impede your life and learning experiences. With regards to China, it would be helpful if a level of Mandarin Chinese is known, in other words, it is unreasonable to expect that English is a modern norm. Generally, I would suggest a willingness to engage, participate, and an enthusiasm for both the country you intend to visit, coupled with the field of study you are involved in.

Areas of study and research

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