Recently, 30 exceptional students at leading universities in the UK and China took part in the inaugural Student Leader Innovation Experience, sponsored by UnionPay International. The programme convenes exceptional young leaders studying in the UK and China to deepen trust and dialogue between future leaders in both countries, as well as develop Cultural Intelligence – the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

Having recently completed the UK leg of the programme, students were invited to reflect on their experiences and learning through the week. Shuo Qian is a Law student at Peking University and Vice President of the Student Union; he offered to share his reflections with us.

“I had done a lot of work before I went to the UK, mainly studying the infrastructure of the British political system. For me, this programme was an opportunity to see the reality; to be immersed within a country and its culture.

The standout memory for me must be Julia Middleton's session on Cultural Intelligence (CQ) on the first day of the programme. Although what we discussed seemed to be a simple model, it had a lot of relevance for us throughout the remainder of the week.

Now that the UK part is over, I have renewed my mind on how to be a leader and how to live a happy life. And of course I have recognised that there is still a lot for me to improve, such as my CQ, my spoken English and my understanding of how the West perceives us in China.

I’m looking forward to the second part of the programme next month when the group reunites in Beijing. In Chinese there is an idiom 教学相长,which means ‘teaching benefits teachers as well as students’. I learned a lot in the UK, not only from the sessions, visits and exercises, but also from my peers. Now it’s my turn to be the host and help my buddies understand more about my country, since most of them have never been to Asia before. During their visit to China, I hope we can discuss more about the cultural differences amongst us all, and learn more about the UK students’ views of China.”

The programme was delivered by Common Purpose Student Experiences in partnership with China Youth Daily under the patronage of the All-China Youth Federation whose activities reach 300 million young people in China. The programme is sponsored by UnionPay International, the global arm of China UnionPay, who have operations across five continents.