Matthew Carcuro

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

Why did you choose your host university?

China’s communist government and global status has always interested me, previously traveling to several Asian countries I was excited to learn more. This trip presented an opportunity which would involve me closely with Chinese students and their culture, a trip which could not be replicated without University connections.

Matthew CarcuroWhat was the university like?

The universities major degree was Architecture and it was recognisable instantly by the programmatic layout of their campus, even the students told us that everyone in the University wanted to do architecture. Tianjin is acknowledge as the third best Architecture school in China. Our assessment was hard to compare against the UNISA program because I have never done a 10day intensive program in Australia but the design process and program knowledge was very similar UNISA. The experience of working with a multi-language studio was one of most interesting projects I have done to date, being both rewarding and reassuring that the quality of work we provided to the project was to the same standard to the most global dominating county (China).

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

This program allowed me to experience China in a lens that I would otherwise not be able to be exposed to, before this tip I had heard so much information about China but actually going there and involving yourself in their way of life has defiantly left me with a very different positive perspective, there efficient but harmonious way of life very impressive.

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

We had set accommodation for the whole trip where all 80 of the students stayed. As a student who has travelled before it was to a comfortable standard but the local and Hong Kong students defiantly complained. Every night I stayed with the other UNISA student in a private room with our own beds which supplied clean linin bathroom facilities with running hot water, the rooms were clean and if there was ever a problem the staff were always readily there to help. 

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

All of our travelling was done in China, north of Beijing travelling by a bus; a great way to see the diversity of China’s landscape. Something which particularly stood out to me from the traveling was their cultures ability to efficiently grow food. Contrasting the standard Australian lawn back yard the Chinese would have a full crop of corn growing from corner to corner, also a great way to experience the diversity of their architecture.  

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

The people were very outgoing and interested to meet us, those who could talk English would come up to us and want to have a conversation which was great. Personally I was prepared to do anything they traditionally did and ate but if you are not an adventurous person there was minimal other options. For the 10 days we were on the trip we did not see one other westerner, therefor as you could imagine they did not particularly cater for their food. 

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

I think that this study tour will potentially improve the possibility of being later employment in China because this tour provides a general knowledge of their culture and history, something the Chinese take seriously and would acknowledge. It also built my international contacts within an architectural context which hopefully is a source which I will keep in touch with.

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

Firstly I would like to differentiate my Chinese experience of a 10 day Study tour from a 6-12 month exchange program. Before going personally I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into so I would like to express to any student who is considering this program some positives I got out of it: In my 10 study tour program to learn about ancient Chinese sites I also built strong relationships, experienced Chinese contemporary and historic lifestyle/traditions, learnt about their economy and construction industry/process and ate countless local delicacies. Something everyone should understand before committing to this program however is the very imposing language barrier, the whole course was taught in mandarin, most of the students could talk English but it was generally their third language. Because I knew the course was only 10days and the topic I was being taught (Chinese traditional architecture) I knew nothing about I didn’t need to consume all of the detail that the professors were presenting, therefore the student interpretations to me were adequate. Although if you were considering an exchange period to Tianjin or any of China I would strongly advise having good mandarin language skills before going. Without the students who talked English there is no way I would have got by in rural/most of China as I didn’t know any mandarin. 

Top Tips:
Involve yourself in their culture, try new things and take interest in their traditions because they love sharing them with you, take a positive attitude to learning new things and meeting new people. Also when you book your trip do not only go for the days of the course, take advantage of the destination you have paid so much to get to, travel a bit on your own. Personally I stayed in Beijing for four nights at a backpackers where I met a great group of people from all over the world and Hong Kong which is a very impressive city in all categories for four more nights. If I had more time I would have defiantly stayed longer in both places.

Areas of study and research

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