On Neeha Moturu’s first day as a student at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, she faced a crowd of 300, plus thousands more online viewers. That’s because Moturu, an MRes Computer Science student, was selected to give a speech for this year's opening ceremony.

“I was nervous, but also really excited for the experience,” says Moturu, a former software tester from the south coast of India.

Coming from such a diverse country, Moturu is no stranger to new experiences: “In India, you come across people from very many different cultural groups. I think I’ve adapted to China pretty well because I love exploring and trying new things.”

Moturu originally came to Suzhou in 2017 because her husband, a mechanical engineer, got a job opportunity in China. She soon realised that occasional adventures weren’t enough – she wanted to pursue her postgraduate education.

“Many people think China is just a pretty place to visit, but it’s also a wonderful place to improve yourself and grow your knowledge. It’s a place to learn.”

She chose to learn at XJTLU after speaking to an enthusiastic alumna who was interning at her husband’s company.

“She told me about the events and activities, and said it’s a very welcoming environment for international students,” Moturu says. “I had so many questions for her, because it’s a big decision, but she put my mind at ease.”

Cross-cultural connections

In addition to learning more about computer science, Moturu is excited about connecting with a variety of classmates. “I can’t wait to start meeting new people from different backgrounds. Making connections is often the first step to getting into an industry.”

And her chosen industry is only growing in importance, explains Moturu.

“I’m most interested in machine learning and AI at the moment,” she says. “I’m fascinated by how advancements in computer programming have changed people’s day-to-day lives.”

Moturu is well versed in the changing nature of programming. She began coding at the age of 10 using a very basic programming language called Logo. She moved up to more advanced languages as her skills improved, and continued to learn new concepts even after she graduated with a degree in computer science from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in 2015.

The language of friendship

Before she embarked on her postgraduate computer science learning, Moturu first completed a two-week Chinese Language Summer School at XJTLU’s Language Centre to learn a bit of Chinese.

“The teacher gave us lots of activities and opportunities to interact. It was my first real opportunity to meet such a diverse range of classmates from all over the world – the UK, Mongolia, Nigeria, Malaysia, etc.

“As part of our lessons, we shared a lot about ourselves and we all grew quite close in such a short time. The last day was very emotional.”

With three years in China under her belt, and on the cusp of taking the next step into her future, what advice does Moturu have for other students considering China for their advanced studies?

“If you get the opportunity to further your knowledge – take it. Don’t waste the time that you could be spending improving your skills.

“And don’t be afraid to embrace new cultures, and interact with a wide variety of people. You may or may not change as a person, but you’ll get a better understanding of others – and yourself.”

By Patricia Pieterse

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