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Ning does planning for rural areas and models urban spaces for a living. Benefiting from the study methods he learnt in Cardiff University, he has taken away valuable transferable skills in information gathering and analysis that he uses today.
Confident that transitioning in Cardiff is not a difficult task, he says he had little problems getting used to life here.
Student name: Ning Hou
Course title: MSc International Planning and Development
Year of graduation: 2009
Current employer: Beijing Tsinghua Urban Planning & Design Institute
Why did you choose Cardiff University?
I chose to do my MSc International Planning and Development because of the good reputation of the School.
Do you think Cardiff University equipped you with the necessary skills for your job?
The skill that prepared me the most for my career was the study method that I gained in Cardiff University. This was where I was taught to obtain and organise information in the best way possible; to analyse problems and to form a formal solution at the end of it.
It was also a rigorous exercise in being objective and learning through a practice-based approach. This way of information gathering can be used in most fields of learning and I certainly used it at work.
Tell me a little about your time here. Did you enjoy the degree? Did you learn a lot that was useful to your later work?
Yes there were some really nice teachers who were so professional in their academic capacity and were easy to get along with. I also enjoyed the exchange of knowledge with friends from different countries.
Planning work can differ greatly between the UK and China due to political backgrounds and different levels of developmental progress in each country. What I learnt here taught me a lot about the planning issues in China.
The pre-sessional course was also helpful in teaching me academic English.
Did you feel it was easy settling down in Cardiff as a Chinese student?
For most of my friends and myself, there wasn’t a problem at all.
You’ve had an exciting career, and now you’re an Urban Planner for Beijing Tsinghua Urban Planning & Design Institute. What does an average day look like?
I work quite long hours, starting from 9:00 to 18:00 and this is the norm in China for planners in big companies. I work overtime a lot and handle quite a heavy workload.
What does your job entail and what are your responsibilities?
I am currently working in the Research Centre for Master Planning. Our main projects consist of handling the master planning of cities and new districts. We also handle some overall urban designs along with the master planning projects.
For the past two years, my personal responsibilities have been focused on two things: planning the rural area in cities and modelling urban space with the help of computer technology. I also help out with different projects depending on what the office is handling at the moment.
Tell me about one of the biggest challenges that you had to face over the past year.
Master planning is very complicated work. They are all huge projects that require the entire team to pull together and every project is a challenge for me. I am constantly studying alongside the working and there is always room to improve myself.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Cities become more liveable and people can go out into public spaces to enjoy a healthier and richer public life. Knowing that I have contributed to their lifestyles like that is definitely something good about my job.
What important lessons did you learn in Cardiff (academic or otherwise) do you carry with you until today?
I think those academic lessons I mentioned about essay-writing and information gathering are the most important lessons I learnt. That and the fact that I learnt to cook in Cardiff!
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with prospective students who are thinking about coming to Cardiff?
Do some part-time work, visit the National Museum Cardiff, go to festivals and join the Cardiff Half Marathon.
Just come. Cardiff will give you much more than you think.