I studied at Loughborough University in London from September 2015 to December 2016.
When I first arrived I could smell new carpets and see glossy reflections on the recently polished glass walls. An ambitious road map of the city’s emerging hub could be seen in the ongoing construction work in Here East, east London, where the campus was located. We were its very first students in the very first year and everything was so shiny and new.
I felt the same as I was beginning a fresh start to my life as well, after waving goodbye to Hunan, my hometown in south-central China, and Beijing, the capital city and heart of the country. I felt the need to embrace different cultures and see the other side of the world and luckily, a scholarship brought me to study in the UK.
It’s certainly not easy to settle down in a strange country. For me, the mission of “try to act like a Londoner” was initially full of awkward moments, like the hesitation when a supermarket cashier gratefully said “cheers” when I had only ever used it for toasting before.
But observing the way I should react and adapting to everything around me was a learning curve. And London, the kaleidoscope of tradition and innovation, continued to serve up new adventures for me.
With previous experience in Chinese newsrooms and a passion for media, I chose the media and creative industries study programme, which was combined with both theoretical discussion and practical knowledge, ranging from in-depth topics such as the power dynamics behind the media landscape to the copyright debates over the Happy Birthday song. Our professors, with extensive research and industry experience from South Korea to Latin America, taught us to think “critically and globally”.
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The experience of living abroad is truly a confidence booster as I learned to adapt quickly to a changing environment and work in a team with people from different backgrounds, for example, through the collaborative project our university designed for us.
These perspectives helped me enormously when I landed my first journalism job as a feature writer for an international organisation exploring issues relating to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as well as my current role of covering events and developments in higher education in China.
Another crucial part of my journey with Loughborough University was the chance to take part in lots of entrepreneurial workshops and competitions. As well as support and resources on how to grow your own business, the most important teaching came from our mentors and fellow student entrepreneurs – people who encouraged me to think about the wider community, to focus on the process not just the outcome, to look for the needs behind problems and find solutions.
Bearing all this in mind, I am currently working on a project that aims to connect language schools and English learners in China. The Covid-19 crisis interrupted international education, but it is not and will not be the end of it. In fact, it demonstrates the significant role that language can play in promoting understanding and communication, in a time when international cooperation is the key to facing global challenges, including Covid-19 and many more waiting for us ahead.
Since graduating, I am sometimes invited to attend campus events, which makes me feel I am still closely connected to the Loughborough family. Every time I have been back, something exciting was happening on campus or in the local neighbourhood. I feel the same way about my steps moving forward in life.
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