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Study abroad, exchange and field schools

Gain broad perspectives and an in-depth understanding of China’s economy, politics, and culture.

The Suzhou-Shanghai Field School is a three-week intensive program for undergraduate students of various disciplinary backgrounds.

Students posing in a group at Pan Gate, Suzhou

2018 Field School group visiting Tongli Town at the outskirts of Suzhou

Our field schools offer a rich China experience for students. From language classes and academic lectures, to visits at leading companies and cultural sites – these schools are an incredible learning opportunitiy. 

Following a day of preparatory lectures in Sydney, students spent six days in historic Suzhou, at the University of Sydney’s newly established Centre in China, combining language classes with site visits in the Suzhou Industrial Park, a historic silk factory, as well as to SINANO – a hub for nano and biotech research. We then spent two days in Hangzhou, learning about tea and cutting-edge technologies, with a visit to Alibaba headquarters and a new 'Hema Fresh' concept store. The program then moved to Shanghai, with a lecture program in the School of International Affairs, at our partner institution Shanghai Jiao Tong University. In Shanghai, our group also visited government agencies including the Australian High Commision and AusTrade Landing Pad, local and international corporations including Rio Tinto, MWE Lawyers, blockchain startup Walimai, and a new local O2O charity store, as well as a range of cultural sites of historical and contemporary significance, such as the private Long Museum and the Powerstation of Art – a repurposed industrial site at West Bund. We were also fortunate to visit Jinze County on the outskirts of Shanghai, where colleagues from Urban Planning and Design at Shanghai Jiao Tong University are involved in a rural revitalisation project.  

2018 NCP Student Experiences

Over the holidays, I was lucky enough to be part of the New Colombo Plan Field School to Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai. I was one of a group of 12 students from diverse faculties including engineering, business and law. Over three weeks, our group became like a family, with Li and Olivier from the China Studies Centre becoming our surrogate parents! Not only were Li and Olivier an amazingly supportive presence on the trip, they also put together an itinerary filled with opportunities to experience the new China. We visited the Alibaba headquarters in Hangzhou and witnessed the development of E-commerce in China, and how it is bringing new opportunities to rural areas which had previously been isolated. We also heard presentations from two startups based in Naked Hub (Shanghai), which is a modern co-working space with locations all over China.

We were warmly welcomed by the University of Sydney Centre in China, located in Suzhou. We started there with intensive Chinese language classes and many of us are keen to continue studying the language after this trip. We also took in some of the sights in Suzhou, such as the historic Tongli Village and Pan Gate. After a two-day interlude in the beautiful city of Hangzhou, we took the high-speed train to Shanghai. We attended a summer program at Shanghai Jiao Tong University on China’s politics, diplomacy and economic development. The program included lectures and cultural activities such as calligraphy and dumpling making. We also enjoyed a visit to Jinze County, which is a small town outside of Shanghai that is undergoing a process of ecological renewal. On our last day we heard engaging talks from the Australian Consulate, the NSW Government office in Shanghai and the Austrade Landing Pad program for Australian businesses in China.

This Field School gave us the opportunity to develop goals and make connections for the future. I am immensely grateful to Li and Olivier and the businesses and other institutions that gave us their time, and of course Sydney University and the New Colombo Plan.


In today’s politically charged climate it is impossible not to have opinions and views on China. In this vein, my academic expectations for this program were focused on understanding many of the controversial geopolitical disputes involving China. Having never visited China before, my other expectations were rather broad, focused on experiencing a new culture.

During the trip, I gained an appreciation and a (very elementary) understanding of the Chinese language through language classes in Suzhou. Also, from the outset of the trip, I was able to indulge in various local cuisines across Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

More importantly, many of the prominent political issues – from Xi Jinping’s role in modern China, to China’s position in the legal disputes of the South China Sea – were tackled from a Chinese perspective. Understanding such perspectives as Australians can only help build rapport between our two countries.

However, it was the unexpected experiences which proved most impactful on my trip. Witnessing the revitalisation of traditional Chinese tea culture alongside the emergence of the new “bubble tea” phenomena helped me consider the diverse inter-generational cultural exchanges occurring in China. Visiting Alibaba and using the app WeChat allowed me to appreciate China’s technological advancements compared to the West and their battles against minor inconveniences – such as the wallet!

Looking forward, I hope these experiences on the NCP will have a significant bearing on the trajectory of my life and stimulate me to visit China again.

Program details


Participants are eligible for 6 Asian Studies credit points. No prerequisite for entry – any undergraduate student who has room for an Arts elective can apply.


Classes will be instructed in English, and no previous knowledge of Chinese language is required.

Fees and scholarships

New Colombo Plan Grant of AUD$3000 will be awarded to successful applicants (intended to support students, but not necessarily cover all costs). OS-HELP loans may be available to eligible students

Places available

Fifteen eligible students will be awarded the New Colombo Plan scholarships. A further five places will be available for self-funded students.


Participation in program site visits and lecture; short oral presentation during the trip; plus a 2000-word research report on a topic relevant to the program, agreed with the field school convenor.

You need to

  • be an Australian citizen
  • have permission from your home faculty
  • have room in your degree for the credit specified
  • be between 18 and 28 years of age on 1 July 2019
  • be able to attend interviews and a pre-departure information session
  • have not previously received funding for short-term New Colombo Plan mobility project

Proposed program date

The third CSC Field School should be held in July 2019, dates to be confirmed.