Di Kong

What attracted you to electrical engineering?

When I was younger I was really interested in all the electronic devices and gadgets at the time. I decided quite early on, around 15 or 16, that I wanted to study science and engineering at high school.

After high school, I chose to major in electrical engineering for my undergraduate degree in China. We covered lots of subjects, and in my fourth year, I found myself really interested in wireless communication. By this point, I'd already decided I wanted to study abroad and do a masters degree, so I thought this would be a good course.

A lot of Chinese students are very interested in going abroad for their studies and it's very common that students from the top universities do that. The UK is one of the most popular countries to study in.

My parents trusted me a lot and were always very supportive when I told them about my thoughts of studying abroad. They said 'it's good, why not?', 'Why not study abroad, they have better universities, a better education system'. They were open-minded and supportive, and I appreciated that a lot.

What have you enjoyed about the course?

It was an intense course with 12 units, but because of that, I learnt a lot. My undergraduate major wasn't exactly the same subject so I was a bit worried it would be too advanced, but it wasn't. I did need to learn a lot but I coped fine with that. The course was great because it suited all levels. It also covered a lot of areas, almost all areas of communication. So if you decide to continue your studies after, you can get a taste of many different areas first.

The course started with a project, whereas in China we would start with theory and lots of exercises. Here, you study by doing something practical and then learning from it. It's a reverse process but it makes you more interested in the subject.

We also had a personal tutor that we met with every other week to discuss not only the academic side, but also your life here. Lots of the postgraduate students are in the UK for the first time, so it's really thoughtful that we have that support from our personal tutors.

During my PhD, I also had to chance to work with industry experts. Almost all my projects were industry funded, so that put me in contact with lots of industry people. I had a feeling of the difference between academia and industry, which is really helpful for your career.

As a Chinese student, how have you found Bristol as a place to live?

I love Bristol, I've been here for seven years now. My wife is living in London, so I visit there a lot, but I just don't find it as liveable a city as Bristol. Bristol is a relatively small city and you can walk everywhere. But it has everything, so it's not small due to a lack of things. It has its own characteristics and everything you need as a place to live. It's not crowded, either, like so many cities in China.

What's your favourite thing to do in Bristol?

I hang out with my friends a lot and go to Chinese restaurants. There's quite a few to choose from, so it's great to have different ones to visit.

Also, it's nice just to walk around, especially when it's sunny. I like Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower. There are lots of activities going on in Bristol as well, such as the Balloon Fiesta every year. I'll spend the whole day there and come back in the evening. We also like to go to places such as Bath and the Cotswolds. These places have English characteristics which are so different to China, so it's quite enjoyable. On a sunny day we'll just go there for walking, have lunch and come back.

To be honest, Chinese students don't drink a lot but I occasionally go to the pub when there's a football match. I support England when they're playing in Europe.

What's been your biggest achievement or greatest sense of personal satisfaction during your studies?

My biggest achievement is finishing my PhD. I finished this January and did my viva in February. It was quite a challenging programme so I've got a great sense of achievement from this. My family are very happy and proud, too.

During my PhD I worked with Professor Andy Nix (the Dean of Engineering) and we were working on a lots of projects in parallel. So I built up a good ability to multi-task. It's also really helpful because you deal with a lot of people - your colleagues, your lecturers and external people from industry. You need to know how to communicate with people in a social way. All of these skills are important for your future and career.

I felt very lucky to have such a good supervisor as Andy. Even though he was really busy, he took care of me. He sacrificed his own time to look into my papers, which I'm very thankful for. So I enjoyed the whole journey of my PhD. Although it took four years, I don't regret it.

What are your plans after you finish your PhD?

I'm very lucky, when I finished the MSc course I worked here for half a year as a research associate and then I started my PhD. After four years, I graduated and now I've started as a research associate again.

I enjoy doing research, and the research path is what I want to go down. I'm also quite interested in lecturing, being a teacher is interesting to me, so I'd like to try that. I have a colleague who has taken a similar path, he was a research associate and then studied to become a lecturer at Bristol University.

I'm quite wide open to options though; what I'm doing is gaining experience and abilities and then I can make my choice. I'm also interested in going into industry and doing research in industry. The good thing there is you're earning more, but then you're learning less than in a university environment, so it's a trade-off.

What would you say to a Chinese student coming to Bristol?

The thing I would like to say to future students is don't worry and don't be afraid. It's very friendly here and you get a lot of advice from people at the university; you'll find it great! It'll be a very smooth transition from China to UK and I don't see any barriers to living happily here. I was a little bit worried and afraid before I left, but I've made lots of friends from China and all over the world and had lots of support from my tutors and supervisors. It's been great and I'm really enjoying my life here.

Di Kong

Name: Di Kong
Course: MSc Communication Networks and Systems
Age: 28
Home city: Nanjing

The thing I would like to say to future students is don't worry and don't be afraid. It's very friendly here and you get a lot of advice from people at the university; you'll find it great!

Di Kong
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