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Hong Hu is in the last year of her Ph.D.. Studying in Utrecht was worthwhile. However, she is excited to go back to China.
As a Chinese Ph.D. student studying in the Netherlands for three years, I was often asked “is it easy to live here?” At the first place, I thought it would be difficult to live here, because I could not speak Dutch and I was shy to communicate with people who I was not familiar with. But the environment will change people’s attitude. After I arrived, I found that the life was much easier than I had expected. I have made some Dutch and international friends. My introvert personality gradually becomes extrovert. I am glad to see this transition. I enjoy living here and studying here.
When I did my master study at Nanjing University, China, I was attracted by the charm of research. I found myself belonging to the academia. One day, my supervisor called me and said “Hong, I am talking with two Dutch researchers at my office, it might be helpful to you if you join in us”. At that time, my English was awkward; however, we still had a pleasant talk together. The two Dutch researchers were very kind and super tall, which were the first impressions I got about the Dutch people.
At the end of that talk, the two researchers encouraged me to apply the CSC-UU programme. This programme is one of the CSC (China Scholarship Council) funding programmes, directly cooperating with Utrecht University. It is a joint education project for four years Ph.D. research. The Chinese government provides the funding for Chinese students living in the Netherlands and the Utrecht University provides research facilities and the Ph.D. supervision for free. The Department of Human Geography and Planning, which I am studying at, enrols one or two new Chinese Ph.D. students and visiting scholars every year. Generally speaking, Chinese students are required to go back to China after graduation and make their contributions there for two years.
This programme was just newly developed when I applied for it. A few Chinese graduate students were interested in it. I was worried about the feasibility of this programme at that time. Thus I contacted some Chinese students who had already participated it. They shared with me their positive experiences. Then I made a decision to come here. And now, it proves that it is worth studying here.
My major was urban planning in Nanjing University. Before I came here, I knew already a little bit about the Netherlands from geographical and planning perspective. The Dutch planning is often appreciated by China’s urban planners. There is a Chinese journal entitled Urban Planning Overseas, by which several articles about Dutch plannings from many aspects have been published. Recently, I also wrote an article for this journal, discussing the integration of spatial planning and environmental planning in the Netherlands. The Dutch planning integration stresses ecological sustainability; meanwhile it does not lose its attention to economic feasibility and human welfare. At present, Chinese urban planners often face the dilemma between environmental protection and urban development in the rapid urbanization period. The Dutch experiences could open a window for them to solve this conflict.
My Ph.D. project is about Chinese housing preferences for green apartments. I have two supervisors and they are Dutch. They have been supporting my research from every respect with their wisdom and encouragement. They are very much interested in Chinese urbanization and sustainability issues. There is an idea of “we are in a globalization era, but planning is local”. I could not agree more. My research is attempting to use the western research theories and methods in the China’s context to see whether these theories are still working or not; what the commonalities and differences between the western people and the Chinese are when they choose a house. I found that there are many universal housing preferences shared by people living in different geographical locations. And they pursue similar life goals in their housing careers. That is an amazing coincidence.
Now I am in my last year of Ph.D. study, some of my Dutch colleagues asked me “when you go back to China, can you still integrate yourself to the Chinese society since you have been influenced a lot by the western culture?” The answer is uncertain at this moment. However, Chinese people are adaptive to some extent. I am excited to go back and to see the outcome. It is a wonderful experience to gather knowledge and make friends in the Netherlands. I would like to introduce the Dutch academic and social life to my Chinese friends. And I am also pleased to apply what I have learned here in China. If it works a little bit, I feel an achievement.