Isabel GALWEY FS2017-18, The University of Oxford | to Beijing
I put the money I received from the Victor and William Fung Foundation towards accommodation and living costs during my year abroad in Beijing, China. I studied a two-semester course at Peking University, taking classes in spoken Chinese, modern Chinese literature, Classical Chinese and English-to-Chinese translation. In my free time during my first semester I also directed and produced a short promotional documentary about international students’ life at Peking University, with the help of PKUTV, the PKU film society, PKU’s Western Students Association and the University’s International Students’ Division. During my winter vacation, I completed a month-long internship with AsiaWorks, an international production company based in Beijing, during which I produced a short feature piece on Beijing’s famous art zones. These two projects helped to boost my communication and leadership skills when working with cross-cultural teams, as well as my technical and creative skills. Another interesting aspect of this year, academically, has been completing the research projects assigned to us by our professors back in Oxford. During our first semester, I wrote two essays: an analysis of a Beida exhibition featuring the Dunhuang manuscripts and cave art; and an exploration of the figure of Sun Wukong in Chinese popular culture. In our second semester, assignments were broader in scope, incorporating interviews, surveys and even creative writing: for me, the first was a short prose piece reconstructing the lives of refugees in Shanghai during the Second World War; and the second was an ethnography project exploring the attitudes of young Beijingers towards language cinema.
This year I’ve also taken the opportunity to travel in China, getting to know the country beyond my place of study in Beijing. These trips included taking part in a class trip to Zhejiang, spending a weekend in Shanghai and volunteering at an English-language school in Guangxi. China is an incredibly vibrant and diverse country, and no one part of it is representative. For this reason, having the chance to make trips outside the capital has helped me immensely in my learning beyond the classroom – some of my best Chinese speaking practice has been done on long-distance trains! Organising these trips and maintaining a balance with my academic work has also helped me to improve my organisational and time management skills.
I have had a wonderful year in China. Although living far away from home brought its share of difficulties, it was worth it for the learning opportunities and experiences I gained. I’m so grateful to the Victor and William Fung Foundation for helping to make this year possible; I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks for the financial support which has been offered. I very much hope to be able to return to East Asia soon and continue to learn about this inspiring and complex region.