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Published: 21 August 2017

Ryan Dowsell - Shanghai, China

Living and working in China for 1 year has been an incredible opportunity and the experience has gone beyond any expectations I had when choosing a placement destination at the University of Surrey.

My placement was based in Renji Hospital’s Department of Anaesthiology, affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University. I worked on a specific project of my own for the duration of the placement, which looked at preventative measures for postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD). Work life in the laboratory is not the typical 9-5 regime, instead, working hours are flexible depending on the experiments you are doing at the time. Typically, I worked with mice on a daily basis and I have had a lot of experience with operative techniques and western blot, and also some insights into PCR, cell culture and ELISA.

My time in the laboratory was really enjoyable because I worked well with all of my colleagues and I made some great friends. I looked forward to going to work every day because we always had a lot of fun, which is important especially when my experiment results were sometimes bad. I’m really grateful to have met so many amazing people in China and some of the kindest, most helpful friends that I have ever had.

Shanghai is one of the world’s largest cities and I could never forget about that while living almost in the heart of the city surrounded by apartment blocks and skyscrapers. Each weekend, every tall building in the city lights up in neon colours and I felt a million miles away from any city in the UK. The thing I have loved the most is how easy it is to travel around the cities in China, which are all linked by a high speed railway network and most cities also have a subway system. I’m lucky enough to have travelled all over China during my time off work and it’s always funny feeling like an alien in the smaller cities with fewer foreigners.

While 98 per cent of my time in China has been incredible, there have also been challenges along the way. Mandarin is difficult to learn and even with many more years of learning the language, I feel that I could never reach a good enough standard to fully communicate with the locals. However, I’m glad I chose China for my placement and I would do it all over again without hesitation. I will return to the UK as a more confident person with a clearer view of the world and hopes of returning to China to work in the future.