Mechanical Engineering student, Matus Lucky, discusses his unique China exchange trip and why he loves his course

“I fell in love with Edinburgh”Mechanical Engineering student, Matus Lucky, giving a talk in China

I come from Slovakia. I love travelling, exploring various cultures, learning new languages and many other things. I want to experience as many things as I can and I speak a few languages too.

I fell in love with Edinburgh when I was an exchange student here during my penultimate year of high school. So, when I was applying for universities, Edinburgh Napier was one of my first choices. I received an unconditional offer, and here we are!

“I’ve always built, fixed things and come up with solutions to problems, and that’s what engineering is”

I grew up in countryside in a house where my dad, my grandpa and I would do almost all the work around our house ourselves. Building, fixing, basically coming up with solutions to various problems. And that’s what engineering is. At school I loved Maths and Physics and I was good at it. But I did not want to only do research and theoretical work. I wanted to apply my knowledge and do something that would help people while enjoying my work. So engineering was my choice.  

“I have many highlights from my time at Napier thus far”

A highlight of mine was the first year Engineering Practice module, it was amazing to experience some practical technical work – welding, soldering, machining, and turning. It gave me a better understanding of the basic operations used in the manufacturing industry.

After my second year, I joined an international visit to two Chinese universities that Napier has connections with. It was a great cultural experience, which sparked my interest in studying there.

Also, the peer tutoring programme organised by Dr Kate Durkacz was great fun – I was recommended by my lecturer to become a peer tutor. I started tutoring first year students in my third year. It was an amazing experience – It kept up my maths and improved my teaching and soft skills. Also, it is quite exciting to be employed by the university where I study.

Through the same lecturer, Dr Kate Durkacz, I found out about an English teaching volunteering project in Myanmar.  I had never been to Myanmar before and it was an exciting opportunity that I could not miss. Two other students and I took part in it, we managed to get some funding and also gained support from the School.

Then there was my exchange in China. It was an outstanding experience doing a year abroad, which was sadly cut-short because of COVID-19. I got to study my programme, learn Chinese, explore the country, and get to know the culture.

My China Exchange

the end of my second year, I took the opportunity to take part in the university trip to China (Dongguan and Liuzhou). It was an amazing experience during which I learned loads about the universities and industry in the two mentioned regions. I also found out that there is an opportunity to do one of my academic years at Guangxi University of Science and Technology in Liuzhou, Guangxi. I immediately jumped at the opportunity and since it was too late to organise it for my 3rd year, I decided to do my exchange during my 4th year. It was less of an issue due to the fact that I am on an integrated masters (MEng) in Mechanical Engineering. Mechanical Engineering student, Matus Lucky, in front of a Chinese city scape

I went to China in late August and instead of staying in a room in an apartment on the campus, I decided to do the experience properly and I decided to stay in a dorm with Chinese students. It was excellent. Immediately upon my arrival I started to meet people and make some friends. Liuzhou is, in comparison to Edinburgh, very cheap and Chinese cuisine is delicious! 

Before the semester started, I explored the city, food, culture and started slowly adapting to a completely different environment. There was plenty to explore and see. 

Once the semester started, I got to meet my course-mates and Chinese lecturers. Even before that I did stay in touch with admin workers to clear out any issues that I had. Everyone was extremely helpful and accommodating. Since I wanted to get a head start on my Honours Project and I wanted a little bit of peace and quiet, I was allowed to use a desk in the International office. 

I also wished to have the opportunity to learn Chinese and after a quick discussion with admin staff I was informed that I can join the beginner group. I learned a number of words and sentences and I did try to practice them with my roommates.  

At one point our lecturers from Napier came to Liuzhou to deliver the modules in two week blocks and although it was challenging to have lectures and tutorials every day for two weeks, it was an interesting experience and it meant that I was done with a module and a coursework in approx. 3 weeks! This way I got a chance to get home for Christmas and during which I had to time to relax, focus on my Honours project and revision for exams.  

After my exams I went travelling – me and my friend went to Chengdu for a few days and then we went to his hometown of Xining in Qinghai province (in altitude of about 2200 m) to celebrate Chinese New Year with his family. I was supposed to be there for week or two, but I spent almost a month there due to the Covid-19 outbreak. His family was very hospitable. They took me in, helped me with everything and showed me the city, I played mah-jong with his grandma, celebrated the Chinese New Year with his whole family and even though there was a partial lockdown, and many places were shut I did have the opportunity to visit many places and have a great time. 

I returned back to Slovakia on 9th February and I attended the 2nd semester in a form of distance learning. It was challenging, especially to do a group project, where I was home, and the rest of the team was in China – the time difference was a big issue. But we managed to do very well. 

I finished the honours project from home and even though I only communicated with my supervisor through emails, I managed to submit it on time, and I was very happy with the results.

Some interested engineering students and I have established the Edinburgh Napier Engineering Society which is there to support students academically as wellPeople outside a Chinese temple as with links to the industry and provide chance to find out more about various opportunities within the school as well as outside of it. 
I also became a student representative to have the opportunity to represent my course-mates and support them during our studies.

“Studying at university requires focus and dedication”

It is hard to live away from home, living without a student loan, having a job while studying and keep up the grades, but it is manageable. If the person is dedicated, everything is possible.

Every student at every university experiences some issues with some modules, classes, labs or anything teaching related. And we are not an exception, but when these issues came up, I was willing to face them and solve them. Studying at university does require focus and dedication and with it, any challenge can be faced and overcome.

“I would definitely recommend this course to others, it’s an amazing course!”

I would definitely recommend this course to others. Even more so since I know that some changes have been made to it and students’ feedback is taken into consideration. Lecturers really want to improve to suit the needs of the students.

Also, the open door policy of the lecturers is great – it’s very beneficial to be able to go and speak to your lecturer or a member of the staff directly in their office if they are available of course. It has helped me on several occasions.

Mechanical engineering provides a large variety of modules which lead to the opportunity to go into many industries and various positions. It is also an amazing course which could work as a foundation for future, more specialised master’s degrees.

When I was choosing mechanical engineering I was not 100% certain what I wanted to do. And the variety and general applicability of the programme suited me.

“I have learned many personal skills at university”

One lesson from university was realising that nothing will ever be just gifted to me. University provides students with the perfect environment to grow and develop skills, but as a student, you must want it yourself.

I also learned: how to face problems and issues, how to work hard and focus on the objective. How to be flexible - I started actively looking for feedback on my work to continuously keep improving myself. I learnt various soft skills and communication skills. And how to effectively search for information and analyse it. I improved my time management. And of course, using the software that the programme requires: AutoCad, Inventor, MathLab, MathCad and others.