My YCA Story | Kai Sandbrink (Germany and USA)

Recently, we have interviewed Kai Sandbrink, 2020 cohort Yenching Scholar, to share his YCA stories with us.


I first decided to study abroad in Hong Kong during my undergraduate program in Biotechnology and Mathematics at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Being in Hong Kong felt like a revelation as I had no prior connections to China, but I was exposed to several new ideas and what felt like a whole new world. 

For instance, coming from a Western perspective, I was surprised to learn that Chinese students would say they were not religious but offer prayers at certain temples. Experiences like this, along with in-depth conversations and travels, increasingly kindled my interest in Chinese culture and language.

I later spent some time in Beijing for a semester-long exchange program at Tsinghua University during my first MSc degree in Neural Systems and Computation. It was during this time I heard about the Yenching Academy program. Despite my background in the sciences, I decided to apply to YCA because it represented an opportunity to formalize my interest in China’s rich culture. I have enjoyed my YCA experience so far.

I am currently in the Law and Society track because I have always been interested in the social sciences and humanities, taking several elective courses in those areas during my undergraduate study.

In the long term, I would like to research the interplay between science and society in China, and I believe my YCA coursework is a great opportunity to develop the necessary knowledge-base.

My favourite course so far is Economic Thinking of Chinese Entrepreneurs. It has helped me discover an interest in economics, and I found it well-adapted to the online format to accommodate scholars in difficult time zones. The current year has been a bit of an exception due to the pandemic. Still, I am continuously surprised by the sense of community that has arisen between scholars despite the circumstances.

One of my favourite parts of the program is the social events organized by the YCA Office and scholars, like the Mid-Autumn Festival, which was both an in-person and online event with Yenching scholars across the globe joining the celebration.

I am looking forward to arriving at Peking University to resume studies on campus and meet my colleagues. My language buddy recently sent me a picture of the on-campus hotpot restaurant where she was eating with her flat-mate. As a lover of hotpot, I am looking forward to going there! I also anticipate seeing the famous Boya Pagoda on campus.”

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