I have always been interested in history and non-Western cultures, but where I grew up, in a small coastal village close to Newcastle, there was no opportunity to study languages at school. It was not until I was studying for A Levels when I spotted a Chinese-language course being offered by the Confucius Institute in Newcastle, and I began to learn Mandarin in the evenings. I was interested in the BA Chinese course at SOAS because it allowed me to continue Mandarin, but I could also learn Classical Chinese and Cantonese, plus also spend a year studying abroad, an experience that has greatly increased my Chinese proficiency. To add to my languages, I have now just started to learn Korean, and in my spare time I enjoy both watching and performing Chinese Opera. My tutors at SOAS have a lot of experience of their subjects and have been incredibly supportive of my studies.
The culmination of my degree has been winning the Grand Prize at the annual Chinese Bridge Competition. This allowed me to travel to Beijing and take part in the international competition, a televised event watched by millions in China. Spending one month immersed in the entire TV process was an amazing experience. I got through the knockout stages to reach the final, where I finished in the top 15 in the world and the top three in Europe.
I hope to return to China after my degree, ideally to take a postgraduate qualification in a Chinese university, where I can improve my vocabulary of Chinese academic language.