Engineering students swap Australian summer for rewards of Chinese internship

While most university students are enjoying a long study break, two engineering students from the University of South Australia have opted to exchange their summer holidays for two cold months in northern China.

But the summer trade-off will be well worth it as the students prepare to embark on an internship that will provide them with a unique opportunity for industry training.

Bachelor of Engineering students Alex Griffiths and Lachlan Farquharson will complete a 20 day internship with the Tianjin Automotive Company with the support of Tianjin University. The support the students will receive while away, including academic supervision and in-kind industry support, will be invaluable to the project’s success.

Alex and Lachlan also received pre departure support from the University including assistance from Industry Liaison Manager, Gail Jackman. Gail helped the engineering students prepare for the adventure knowing the importance of planning for a successful global experience.

‘We are passionate about our students becoming work-ready, community engaged and culturally intelligent global citizens. We are serious about providing and supporting opportunities for students to put into practice their discipline and working on real-world problems.  Our support and preparation ensures outcomes from these opportunities are maximised,’ says Gail.

Both students will use the placement towards their industry experience and final year engineering projects. They are the first two students from the University of South Australia to undertake a placement with a Chinese company and will hopefully blaze a trail for future students.

The students will be supported by the Australian Government’s Short-Term Grants Program which provides funding to encourage Australian students to engage in a study experience in Asia.

Neither Alex nor Lachlan are strangers to Chinese culture and this will be their second visit to China following a study tour in 2013. Studying at Beijing Jiaotong University offered both students an insight into industry practises and enhanced their international perspective as Alex recalls.

‘Our previous tour helped us develop the many professional qualities needed to succeed as an engineer. During our study tour we got to experience the Great Wall of China, market places, night life and soccer matches with Chinese students. It was great to see how everyone went about their daily lives, the food they ate and experience their colourful culture. As a group we felt very welcome.’

Alex and Lachlan will arrive in Tianjin in time for China's Lunar New Year celebrations, a cultural highpoint on the Chinese calendar. The promise of the cultural celebration is a drawcard for Alex.

‘I am looking forward to celebrating Chinese New Year with the Tianjin students. The culture is amazing - the adventures, the people and experiences.’

The University of South Australia values its Chinese partnerships and has a long and rich history of collaboration in China. The University recognises the benefits of globally focussed institutions working together to seek solutions to the challenges of the 21st century.

It is a strategic direction matched by the Australian Government who announced the New Colombo Plan late last year in an effort to build stronger links between Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. In the first phase, the Plan will provide financial support for young Australians to study in the region every year.

Alex and Lachlan are part of a wave of Australian students making the most of funded opportunities to learn and develop relationships with Asian institutions and corporations. The experience will help them develop lifelong skills for personal and professional success.  

‘As with any internship, the aim is to provide young engineers with real life experience and assist with the development of graduate qualities. I believe it will assist me greatly in my career and I hope the experiences make me a better engineer for the future,’ says Alex.

Both Alex and Lachlan are sure to return with the skills, knowledge and experience to engineer a future beyond their expectations.