All the Norwegians arrived early in China, to settle in and acclimatize before the Water Harmony Erasmus+ summer school starting on August 26. The flight times to China were around 14-16 hours. Luckily, there was ample of entertainment and food on board.
Upon our arrival in Qingdao polite Chinese students greeted and took us to the Xueyuan hotel, located extremely close to the Qingdao University of Technology campus. At the hotel, we received a welcome package and was offered a guided tour of the May 4th Square from some of the local Chinese students also participating in the summer school. Much to our surprise, they used umbrellas in the sun.
For every early morning at the summer course, we had a magnificent welcome by the Chinese students who were especially patient about our delays. The summer school student group always had to wait for that one group member (could be a different person every time) who always showed up at least a minute later than the planned time. We truly admire the patience the Chinese students had for us. Staying up with us until 12 in the night, running errands and still managing to wake up early in the morning to keep the classrooms ready for lectures by 8:30. It gave us every motivation to stay focused during the summer school.
The lectures started off with a broad overview of the water cycle, highlighting the many issues the water sector is facing today and the problems that need solutions. Then we moved on to the general workings of wastewater treatment plant technologies. One interesting tool used to encourage student participation during these lectures was Mentimeter. This tool allowed students to ask anonymous questions and give feedback resulting in interactive and nice-looking graphs. We then delved deeper into the different technologies used to solve wastewater related issues and the considerations you must take when evaluating the best solutions. These lectures were insightful and also gave us the tools necessary to solve the mandatory assignment we were given.
As a side-note: One technological issue we faced was that Google, Facebook and many other communication and social media services we are accustomed to in our homeland did not work in China. These problems were solved by using a VPN or communicating with other group members through WeChat, a Chinese chat application. As some of us discovered, you must install the VPN application before you enter China as the play store is blocked as well. Some of the Chinese students assisted those of us that had not done so with getting this to work.
At the end of the course, the greatest lesson learned was beyond the highly useful know-how about water treatment plant design and operation; we learned the value of communicating ideas across borders, and creating lasting international networks with symbiotic relationships that we hope will be rewarding for all of us in our future careers. We also learned from the culture we were so privileged to visit, live in and learn from over 3 weeks; stay focused, stay dedicated and always have your goal in mind and never go around looking for excuses. This was something we noticed among the students and the people in general in China. In a city with few English speakers, the support, hospitality and the warm nature of the Chinese did help us students have a smooth sail throughout our days in China. We will definitely miss the spicy cafeteria food/beverages, cheap public transportation, warm weather and the curious stares and attention we got while walking on the streets. We were just as curious, and will remember our stay in Qingdao forever.
Participants of the summer school from Norwegian University of Life Sciences