Adam KNIGHT The University of Oxford | to China
Whilst studying for his undergraduate degree in Oriental Studies (Chinese), Adam Knight was offered an incredible opportunity: to spend a year abroad at Peking University, with many of his expenses covered. ‘I didn’t know about the scholarship initially,’ says Adam, ‘but it was an extremely pleasant surprise.’
Adam was the recipient of a Fung Scholarship – one of more than 80 offered each year to students travelling between Oxford, China and Hong Kong.
For students reading for a BA in Chinese, like Adam, these scholarships can be a lifeline. The generous funding provided covers language school fees and contributes to living and travel expenses. ‘Having that financial support really made a difference.’ Adam Knight
‘The money was extremely useful for taking extra Chinese lessons,’ explains Adam, ‘as well as enabling me to travel around China. It meant I could really experience the country while I was out there.’ By relieving the heavy financial commitment that spending a year abroad can entail, Fung Scholars are free to fully engage with China in an academic, cultural and social capacity during their stay.
Now enrolled on an MSc course at the Oxford Internet Institute, Adam says of his first year as an undergraduate: ‘I came to Oxford with zero Chinese, so initially it was a bit tough in terms of just trying to keep my head above the water. It doesn’t matter how good or bad your Chinese is in that first year though, once you’re in the country it all balances out.’
Whilst in China, Adam hired a private language tutor, studying for six hours a week at his flat. ‘Learning in that intimate environment really helped not only my language skills, but also my understanding of the culture. My Chinese would be nowhere near the level it is now had it not been for my Fung Scholarship – having that private tuition was very important to me.’
In Adam’s own words, increasing his language ability opened up a ‘world of new opportunities.’ He chose to focus his studies on the Chinese Internet – first writing his dissertation on it, and now researching it for his MSc. ‘All of that stems back to the time I was in China; just being out there and seeing the way that ordinary people interact with the Internet, and how it’s adopted and adapted in everyday situations.’
‘Because it’s the Internet and because it’s China, it’s changing all the time. It keeps me on my toes.’ says Adam Knight.
China had a strong influence on Adam in another way too. Shortly after returning to the UK in 2013, he joined forces with course-mate and fellow Fung Scholar James Campbell to establish Tong Digital, an e-commerce company that specialises in helping foreign brands maximise their online retail sales in China. ‘It was a challenge,’ says Adam. ‘We still had a year left of our degrees, so we had to work fairly intensively over the summer between our third and fourth year to try and get things off the ground.’
Their efforts paid off though, and Adam and James have been running the company full-time since graduation. They now employ eight people, and plan to expand into the burgeoning Chinese mobile and social commerce market over the next 12 months.
‘I certainly never looked back. I feel like I made the most out of my time in China, and out of my degree.’ Adam Knight
Although it’s now been several years since his first trip to China, Adam’s connection with the Victor and William Fung Foundation has endured.
Through annual conferences and city-based communities known as Fung Scholars Local Chapters, current scholars and alumni of the Fung Scholarships have the chance to meet, exchange ideas and discuss the pressing issues of the day. ‘It’s a great opportunity to meet like minded individuals,’ says Adam. ‘Because a lot of the Fung Scholars are fairly entrepreneurial, it’s really quite fun to hear what ideas people have got and where they plan to go with things.’
Until a bicycle accident forced him to withdraw, Adam was due to speak on an entrepreneurship panel at last year’s conference in Hong Kong. ‘It was such a shame because it’s a great way to stay in touch with the foundation,’ says Adam. ‘I hope that one day they’ll have me back!’