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Changsheng Chen

PhD student smart education at ITEC, imec research group at KU Leuven, Belgium

Changsheng Chen
“I started to feel that I can do what I want as long as I believe in myself and am willing to spend time and energy on it.”

Exploring the culture of collectivity and sharing

Changsheng Chen came from Youxi, a county town in the center of Fujian Province in southern China. While pursuing his master’s degree in Educational Science at Northeast Normal University in Changchun, Changsheng met a teacher with a doctorate from KU Leuven in Belgium. This unexpected connection inspired Changsheng to embark on a journey towards acquiring his second master’s degree and, subsequently, his PhD at KU Leuven in collaboration with imec.

wuzhen - grand canal
Wuzhen - Grand Canal

Connecting to Belgium and its people

Changsheng arrived in Leuven in 2018, and the next three years were a great learning experience in various aspects of his life. From educational science, he ventured into data analysis after securing a place at KU Leuven. Initially, the change of field lead to tremendous struggle, but he found like-minded people who gave him the courage to follow through with his decision. “I started to feel that I can do what I want as long as I believe in myself and am willing to spend time and energy on it.”, said Changsheng.

Later, Changsheng relocated to one of the student residences at KU Leuven, which significantly contributed to his happiness. The in-house committee took great care of all the students living there, ensuring their well-being. International students were thoughtfully grouped together with Belgian students, and various activities were organized to foster integration and cultural exchange. It was in Leuven that Changsheng encountered his closest friend, who happened to be a local resident. During a period of severe illness, his friend went above and beyond, traveling to Antwerp to obtain a specific medicine for Changsheng. This selfless act of generosity brought Changsheng closer to Belgium and its people, deepening his appreciation for the country and its inhabitants.

After finishing his studies, Changsheng joined smart education domain in ITEC, an imec research group at KU Leuven, in Kortrijk. A relatively homogeneous town, Kortrijk offered fewer distractions and more time to focus on his studies.

The collective culture of sharing

According to Changsheng, sharing is a fundamental aspect of Chinese culture. During nursery school, teachers encourage children to share their snacks with one another. In restaurants, dishes are put in the center of the table so everyone can partake and share the food. During holidays, entire families and relatives come together to cook for the celebrations. Everyone, from kids to adults, plays their part in making dumplings, noodles, and buns.

Changsheng shares a few customary ways to respect Chinese culture, including waiting for the elders to start their meal during a gathering, bringing gifts to elders, and eating elegantly. Changsheng discovered that combining his collectivist upbringing with some personal freedom gives him a unique and freeing way to live.

Discovering the riches of China

Based on nature and history, Changsheng has many places to recommend for travelers heading to China. In western China, Xi’an was one of the most prominent places during ancient times.

Around ten dynasties established their capital in this city. The legendary Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang rests near Xi'an. As a starting point of the famous Silk Route that connected China to Middle Eastern cities, Xi’an has a fusion of Chinese and Mediterranean cuisine. In deeper west lies Mogaoku, aka Mogao caves, one of Changsheng’s favorite places in China. The place is naturally decorated with hundreds of caves and cave paintings telling stories from ancient times through Buddhist lore. For foodies, Chengdu is a must-visit. Apart from being a food haven it is also the home of pandas in China.

Food tip

Don’t miss out on Sichuan hotpot in Chengdu - a must-try local specialty for a spicy and flavorful meal.

BlurHashxian - big wild goose pagoda
Xi'an - Big wild Goose Pagoda
xian - qin shi huang terracotta warriors
Xi’an - Qin Shi Huang terracotta warriors
fujian nanping - mount wuyi
Fujian Nanping - Mount Wuyi

Changsheng recommends exploring Nanjing, Wuzhen, and Mount Wuyi as remarkable destinations in southern China. Nanjing reflects different historical phases, having once served as the glorious capital of the Ming dynasty before experiencing invasion and destruction during the Second World War. The picturesque Wuzhen is a romantic water town where you can take a boat to go around and enjoy the typical southern buildings and some music around the river. Mount Wuyi, in Fujian province, is a nationally recognized natural park and a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s famous for its biodiversity, impressive mountains, and black tea.