Who? Peter Voortman (23) and Lennart Jongen (22), Master’s students of Earth and Environment
What? Master’s thesis on extreme precipitation in artificial catchments
Where? Hohai University, Nanjing, China
‘Nanjing is a beautiful city with plenty of old buildings and a lot of vegetation. We were surprised to see that in a city with a population of half the Netherlands. Finding our way around Nanjing turned out to be quite challenging as the train station was the size of an airport and all the signs were in Chinese. Luckily, Peter met a helpful local man on the plane who accompanied us to the campus and showed us around Nanjing for a whole day.
Our experiences at Hohai University verified our feeling that the locals were extraordinarily hospitable. For example, our professor regularly took us to have dinner with his parents, wife and children. In our free time we travelled around the country together with him and his students. We really enjoyed getting to know China in the company of locals as they helped us make contact with the culture.
During our trips we could go nowhere unnoticed and attracted a lot of attention. Especially the two-metre-tall Lennart caught the eyes of the residents. People wanted selfies with us all the time and took photos right in our faces without asking. They made us feel as famous as Lionel Messi. At a certain point, two men on a scooter slowly passed by to have a look at us. Not watching where they were going, they crashed right into a car. Nobody was injured.
The streets in the Chinese cities are very busy and noisy due to the large population. The fact that there are so many people really shapes the culture. There is a lot of competition and students work hard, even during their holidays. Another thing we learned is that tasty food and eating together is very important in China. We had extensive breakfasts, lunches and dinners in the canteen and talked for a long time every tea time. After lunch, the university was always quiet since everyone took an hour off to sleep. It was funny to see people lying on benches on campus and professors dozing in their offices.
During our working hours we studied the effect of extreme precipitation on groundwater level, soil moisture and discharge in an artificial catchment. It was great that we could work at Hohai University as the measurement devices they have are unique in the world.’ JS