Studying Urban Planning in China
Peiyu Phua, MURP 2018
Where were your summer internships and how did you find them?
I completed two different internships in China over the summer. The first was at the Shanghai Pudong Urban Planning & Design Institute in May, and the second was at the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design in Beijing from June to August. My internships were arranged through my Humphrey School professors, Jerry Zhao and Yingling Fan (pictured to the right of Peiyu in Beijing when she was a guest speaker at the High-Level Forum on China’s Urban Rail Transit 2017 conference organized by Peiyu's internship site).
Tell us about your internship.
My primary task in Shanghai was to conduct international case studies on innovation districts, business parks, and community engagement practices in relation to the Shanghai Master Plan for 2040.
In Beijing, I researched and analyzed transportation planning and energy efficiency laws and policies in the U.S and United Kingdom. Since China is still in the early stages of drafting their national standard and technical specifications for all future urban rail transit projects, these research materials were useful in helping them make prudent and well-informed decisions. I also assisted in the execution of various forums and conferences associated with transportation planning and long-term visioning. In addition, I did some translation work for other administrative documents and events that were planning-related.
What in particular made the internship rewarding?
Interning at two different planning agencies in China has given me the unique chance to familiarize myself with urban planning practices in one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It was very enriching to observe how the industry experts come together to address pressing issues such as climate change, affordable housing, mobility, walkability, accessibility, etc. In addition, through my participation in meetings and events, this internship has provided me with the opportunity to interact, gain new connections, and learn how to communicate effectively in a professional environment.
How will this internship shape your completion of studies at the Humphrey School?
My whole journey of living, working, and overcoming culture shock in a foreign country will forever be a valuable experience which I will be able to draw lessons from. My first few weeks in China felt like a lifetime. Nonetheless, coming across challenging situations that are unfamiliar to me and putting together everything I’ve learned from day to day has helped me adapt and respond in effective ways. This rare opportunity has taught me the importance of coming out of my comfort zone, which will be beneficial not only at the Humphrey School, but also in my life and career in general.
How do you see this experience impacting your plan to advance the common good after graduation?
As I was doing my research on policies and actions that could potentially improve the quality of life for people living in a developing country like China, I knew what I have been doing during my internship is something I want to do in the future--making a difference. This whole experience has provided me the building blocks I need for the future. It has challenged me to reconsider my role in the planning process, and helped me develop a deeper understanding of policy monitoring, evaluation, data collection and analysis. All in all, my internship experience has provided me with a great sense of what it is like to be working in a planning agency, and has reinforced my interests in working as an urban planner after graduation, creating communities, and making cities better places for people who live there.