Jon Ainsworth, Global Summer Exchange 2019 – Shanghai

What do you study at King’s?

MSc Emerging Economies and International Development.

Where did your Global Summer Experience take place?

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.

What course did you take and why?

China’s Policy on Climate Change, Energy and Environment because of the unique interdisciplinary nature of the course on offer.

How did receiving the Global Summer Exchange Award shape your experience?

Being a self-funded part-time student, I have often found it difficult to attend activities outside of class due to time and money constraints. The award contributed to paying for pretty much the entire cost of my return tickets, which of course was a massive help. As the airfare was accounted for, I was able to stay in the country for longer and go to the largest skatepark in the world (SMP Shanghai) to fulfill the dream I have had for many years of riding the masterpiece.

How was the application process?

The application process was straight forward as the initial application was submitted to King’s and then I was nominated to apply to Jiao Tong. The Global Mobility Team go above and beyond to support your application at the host university as the team have a wealth of experience in dealing with global applications.

What were the highlights of your Global Summer Experience?

The opportunity to study alongside a group of like minded cosmopolitan individuals from such a diverse array of fields including environmental science, geography and economics definitely made the in-class discussions a lot more interesting as there was an assimilation of knowledge from the hard and social sciences taking place throughout the course. It was very refreshing to grasp some engineering concepts and solutions to the environmental problems we are facing today. Additionally, the wisdom of Dr. Junhua Zhang made the experience unforgettable.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered during your Global Summer Experience?

The biggest challenge I encountered was a problem with my accommodation situation. I booked a place on AirBnB, which FYI is blocked on China’s firewall, to later be told by Jiao Tong that I must report to the local police station details of my whereabouts for the duration of my stay within 24 hours (a requirement when staying off campus). This is a statutory requirement when on a student visa that I was unaware of and subsequently led to a very nerve-wracking day of tracking down landlords, signing document and contemplating my fear of spending the rest of my days in Chinese detention if this wasn’t boxed off. Luckily, I was able to get the documents to the relevant authorities in time. The lesson was learnt. Ignorance is no excuse; you must respect the laws of the land you are in and conform to any bureaucracy or formalities expected of a visitor. I made this mistake so you as the reader does not have to!

Any other surprises?

Prior to departure I was aware of the mobile payment giants such as WeChat and Alipay, but I completely underestimated their usage among the population. It soon became apparent that QR codes are ubiquitous to the core function of the modern Chinese economy as they are used for things ranging from payments, to unlocking a motorbike and even when you sign up to WeChat you will get your own personalised QR code for new friends to scan, rendering any prior language miscommunication obsolete as you can now communicate through the comfort of a translating app.

Do you have any advice for those thinking of applying?

Go for it. If you are curious, open-minded and intrigued to learn Chinese ways of thinking and problem solving, you should not hold back. It was an experience that has inspired me greatly and it will continue to do so for the rest of my life. If you are not so interested in academia, China also has incredible rice and bakery treats.

Miami Itch Centre Visit, October 2019, Dr Maria Papanikolaou

I would like to thank King’s College London warmly for supporting me towards my visit to the Miami Itch Centre. This took place in October 2019, over a period of two weeks. This destination was chosen in the context of my current research project, the PRUMEC trial, which focuses on elucidating the cause of itch in an inherited skin condition known as Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (DEB). I am conducting this under the supervision of Professor John McGrath in the Genetic Skin Disease Group of St John’s Institute of Dermatology. Dr Gil Yosipovitch, one of our main collaborators for this study, is the Head of the Miami Itch Centre and a worldrenowned itch expert.

During my visit I was primarily based at the Gil Yosipovitch Laboratory, located within the Rosenstiel Medical Science Building – University of Miami, where I was hosted by Dr Yosipovitch’s dynamic laboratory group. The primary purpose of my visit was to assist with immunohistochemistry staining of 45 skin samples which I had personally collected as part of my study. Each stain set (five in total) was completed through a three-day protocol; the aim was to use fluorescence-labelled antibodies to quantify and compare the expression of major itch mediators and receptors between patient and control skin. I also had the chance to examine our stained samples under a microscope, and review pictures produced by the relevant computer visualisation software.

During the course of my visit I was also fortunate to join Dr Leigh Nattkemper in several clinical trial visits, involving both topical and systemic anti-itch agents. The visits involved amongst other things, induction of itch with histamine or cowhage (a plant native to Africa and tropical Asia, whose seedpods induce itch when touched), sensory testing for itch and pain and the use of itch assessment questionnaires. These provided great insight into translational aspects as well as some sound clinical practices in itch-related research.

Finally, my visit to the Miami Itch Centre was complemented by a rich portfolio of clinical activities. This included attendance of the weekly Dermatology Departmental Meetings, where several interesting cases were discussed in depth, an exciting lecture on Chronic Itch by Dr Takashi Hashimoto and participation in an all-day itch clinic alongside Dr Gil Yosipovitch. In the latter, we reviewed several patients suffering from itch of different aetiologies. This not only helped sharpen my diagnostic skills, but also allowed me to familiarise with the therapeutic modalities available in clinic for the alleviation of severe generalised itch.

I am grateful to Dr Yosipovitch and his team for organising an exciting and productive couple of weeks for me, as well as to Professor McGrath for making this trip possible; my visit provided a great overview of the scientific and clinical armamentarium available for the investigation, assessment and eventually management of itch. I am confident this will be an excellent foundation to build on as I move on with my PhD project and beyond. I would like to finish by expressing my gratitude to King’s College London once more, for supporting me in organizing this fantastic trip.

Broadening Horizons and My Time at the University of Sydney – Lily-Maria Baraclan-Smith

When applying for universities in Year 13, something I took into consideration was the chance I could get to spend some time during my degree abroad, as I knew at that point I was not going to take a gap year and travel, like a lot of my peers. For BA History, King’s students have the opportunity to spend their second semester of their second year abroad, but upon my move to London, I wasn’t so sure anymore that I wanted to move away, because I was enjoying the city so much. I applied for study abroad rather randomly a week or so before the deadline with no real expectations that I was going to be accepted, but I thought that it was worth a shot. I applied for universities in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Hong Kong, and Singapore, as I knew that this would be one of the best chances for me to travel further than Europe. Although the University of Sydney was my second choice when applying for study abroad, after my experiences there I am very happy that that is where I was allocated to go.

Once I was accepted, I had the panic of thinking: how am I going to afford flights to Sydney and back? Is it going to be too difficult being that far away for such a long period of time? (I had never traveled abroad alone before this!). After weeks of weighing up the pros and cons, I decided to accept my place at the USyd, as this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that, frankly, I would be stupid to miss out on.

The Broadening Horizons Award is a fantastic funding opportunity awarded by King’s for students who are looking to embark on an overseas experience, whether this be for part of their degree or other short-term placements. I was awarded £400, which put my nerves about not being able to afford this opportunity at ease, as I put this money towards my flights to Sydney and back. Being from a single-parent, working-class background, I know without this award, it would have been difficult for me to fund such an experience. Once my flights, visa, and health insurance were all sorted out, the excitement (and nerves!) began to kick in.

I arrived in Sydney on 15 February, and the only real shock that I experienced was that of the weather. After months of snow and single-digit degree weather up North during Christmas and New Year, the immediate heat when stepping out of the airport was shocking, but it was not something that I was at all angry about (every Brit loves the sunshine, don’t they?).

Australian culture was easy to settle into, as I didn’t find it to be that different from British culture; the warm weather called for constant trips to beer gardens and the various beaches in Sydney – the relaxed atmosphere of Sydney called for a well-needed break from the hustle and bustle of life in London. I also did not find university life to be that different than what I have experienced at King’s, though it was different to experience university as an international student. It was almost like experiencing freshers again as there was constant events and nights out organised for international students – trips to Manly, party cruises on Sydney Harbour, and the constant barbies on the roof of our student accommodation were all definitely highlights of my time away.

Overall, despite the fears and nerves I experienced before going to Sydney, I am incredibly glad to have had this opportunity as it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. Australia is such a beautiful country, that perhaps without the Broadening Horizons Award I would never had been able to visit. Even USyd’s campus is incredible, and I often found myself having to stop and pinch myself in between lectures because I couldn’t believe I was actually in Australia.

Though I admit that it is rather cliché to study abroad and come back feeling like a ‘changed’ person – but this is definitely true. Travelling alone and being on the other side of the world for such a long period of time gave me a new sense of independence, and my time abroad gave me a lot of new friends from all around the world, who I hope will be friends for life. There is a big, wide world out there, and I have learnt that fears and anxieties surrounding new experiences cannot (and will not!) hold me back from doing things I want to do.

Fun and traditional…did you say festivals? -Mathilde Aupetit

With around 200 000 festivals each year, including 33 festivals now belonging to UNESCO World Heritage, Japanese festivals have become a national and worldwide institution. And yet, they are said to be struggling and progressively disappearing because of a growing disinterest from the younger generation, according to a study produced by The Japan Times in January 2018. Continue reading “Fun and traditional…did you say festivals? -Mathilde Aupetit”