Shumin Li

“In China, we don’t have oral exams, but I understand the importance of it. Talking aloud about something makes you think more logically and also helps your memory."

Nome: Shumin Li

Provenienza: Dunhuang (China)

Studi: Mechanical Engineering

Why did you decide to study Mechanical Engineering?

Well… In China, as well as in Italy, students must choose a secondary school according to the subjects they are interested in. So I choose a school that is pretty much the equivalent of the Italian Liceo Scientifico. To be honest, I believe I just kept following my dream. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a scientist. After getting my diploma, I enrolled at Tongji University in Shanghai. On my first day at campus, I saw an advertisement for the presentation event for the PoliTong Double Degree Programme. So I registered and joined the event because I wanted to know more. The application process took a while: a language test and several interviews, which I think is not bad because it gives you the time to think about whether to go through with it or not. Sure, there were other available programmes in partnership with some German and French universities, but not specifically for mechanical engineering. In the end, I got accepted, and I decided to stick with it. And, honestly, I loved everything about it! Being in this Double Degree Programme gave me the chance to select my courses purely based on what I like, along with the opportunity to learn a new language. Plus, I got to consider and continue studying in Italy, getting my Master’s Degree and my PhD at Politecnico di Milano. 

Was attending Politecnico di Milano your only choice? If not, what led you to it?

Attending the PoliTong Double Degree Programme, I had to choose where to spend my year abroad between POLIMI and POLITO. I choose Milan because it seemed different from what I already knew. See, Europe is very different from China. But I do come from a small industrial town near the desert in the northwest of China, close to Xinjiang and Tibet, and the city of Turin reminded me a lot of the place I grew up in. Also, I had the chance to talk about it with students who previously attended the Programme and with my dad, who happened to stay in both cities on a business trip. They confirmed my first impression, so I decided to come to Milan. I knew it was not going to be easy, but I do love a good challenge. 

What are the perks of living in Italy?

Well, it is very different from what I am used to. Totally different lifestyle. Still, I love it. I love the food, and I love the people. They are very friendly, welcoming, always up to share and learn. I must say though I am not shy either, which made things quite easier, and now I have a lot of Italian friends. What I love so much is also the fact there are many opportunities to volunteer. I do it quite often, and it is a chance to meet people from all over the world. 

As far as it goes, which are the hardest times you had to face after moving to Milan?

In general, knowing the language made everything go smoother. As a PoliTong student, I had been studying Italian for two years. So, when I moved, I had already a B2-level language certification. I’ve been able to communicate with locals since day one. Being able to speak and understand Italian turned out to be a huge advantage. Unfortunately, it sure isn’t enough when it comes to the law. Plus, I hate red tape. I must admit that going to the Police station to renew your visa or file a report in a foreign country is no piece of cake. Despite that, I never had trouble enough not to fall in love with this place, which is why I’d like to stay here (at least for a while after my PhD).  

How is your home University different from POLMI?

I’d say it focuses more on practice than theory. Back in China, for example, there is a mandatory course that all engineering students must take during which they’re asked to make a hammer from a piece of raw material (like metal, just to mention one). You have a whole room full of tools you can use and one semester to finish the task. Gives students the chance to immediately apply the principles they learn during lectures while having fun. It surely helps to understand the basic principles of mechanics.

What was the most challenging thing you had to learn to do as a POLIMI student?

Oral exams, definitely. In China, we don’t have oral exams. We are more used to write what we learn rather than explain it. Putting concepts in words isn’t easy, but I understand the importance of it. Talking aloud about something makes you think more logically and also helps your memory. It is crazy how I can still remember very clearly even after so long. 

What is the most rewarding moment of the time spent studying and living in Italy?

My graduation. For the occasion, my mom travelled all the way from China to attend the Graduation Ceremony. Also, my friends were there. And I did it the Italian way: I got to wear a laurel wreath as tradition commands. It is a memory I will cherish forever.

Find out more about the Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering.