Hot pot dinner

Finding the right chemistry in China

Wednesday 30 Aug 17
by Frederik Appel Olsen


Kim Allan Dam-Johansen
Professor, Head of Department
DTU Chemical Engineering
+45 45 25 28 45


Hao Wu
Associate Professor
DTU Chemical Engineering
+45 45 25 29 27

Sino-Danish Center

SDC is a partnership between all eight Danish universities, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS).

• The overall objective of the center is to promote and strengthen collaboration between Danish and Chinese learning environments and increase mobility of students and researchers between Denmark and China.

• SDC’s activities include Danish-Chinese research collaboration within five selected focus areas, seven affiliated Master’s programmes with an annual intake of approximately 150 master’s students and training of a large number of PhD students.

Frederikke Zilstorff is studying at the Sino Danish Center in Beijing and it isn’t boring: Chemical Engineering and cultural crossings are the foundations of an academic and amazing stay in China.

“Staying in Denmark seemed, in a way, too easy. Something had to happen!”

The reason for taking her Master’s Degree in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at the Sino Danish Center (SDC) in Beijing was as simple and clear as that for Danish Frederikke Zilstorff. At the moment she is in Denmark where she has been participating in Summer University at DTU Chemical Engineering’s Pilot Plant but will soon be returning for her last semester in the East.

SDC is a partnership between all eight Danish universities, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and University of Chinese Academy of Science (UCAS). And according to Frederikke, the Danish-Chinese collaboration yields a “double benefit”:

“Academically, the degree is of the same quality as it is would be at DTU. But I also get much more than that: A lot of personal experiences, of course, but also a lot of Chinese class mates as well as the opportunity to build an international network,” she says.

Furthermore, a closer contact with the professors means a lot to Frederikke:

“It has been a huge advantage to have a more personal connection with the professors at SDC. As a student, you’re not just one face out of 80 in a lecture hall but can always come and ask for help or advice, also after the end of class, and the students and professors often have lunch together. This wasn’t something I expected but I have valued it a lot.”

Badminton and dumplings

According to Frederikke, SDC supports the Danish students in settling in at a Chinese educational institution and everyday life and the students also help each other to find out what’s what in Chinese culture and society. But with some things there is nothing else to do but to throw yourself at it with an open mind. It’s about trial and error.

“For example, it can be challenging to be creating a social unity in the class because a lot of the Chinese students already have friends and family close to them. Some of us Danes have found out that it’s important to take initiatives and invite them out for hot pot, badminton or to various discursions. I think it’s all about finding out as you go along. The Chinese are nice people and help out where and when they can,” Frederikke says.

And once you have befriended the locals, many interesting experiences follow:

“I celebrated Chinese New Year in a small village with one of my classmates’ family. It was a lot of fun experiencing and participating in their traditions. The atmosphere is very special. I was also taught how to make dumplings. The family had a great time showing us how to fold them even though none of them spoke any English – it was all visual leaning with hand gestures.”

A journey to open the world

When Frederikke returns eastward it will be to take her last semester at SDC before writing her thesis. Her plans for the future are very open and one of the important lessons learnt from the stay is to always grasp the opportunities that arise.

“’Most of all, the stay has opened my eyes to the possibility of working abroad in general. Whether it will be in China or elsewhere I don’t know. But I am definitely taking a lot of cultural and academic competences with me.”

Frederikke feels that she has gained a lot from her SDC education. But not everything is equally easy to learn:

“I never really succeeded in learning to make dumplings,” she laughs.


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