I am very grateful to the John Speak Trust for their support over the past year which I spent studying in Beijing as part of my undergraduate degree in Chinese Studies.
This grant has helped me travel over my school holidays, something I feel is very important in a country as diverse as China.
I was very lucky to be able to make forays out of Beijing to tropical Hainan island right down in the south, to small villages in Shandong province, to the beautiful sub-zero Harbin in the far north with its famous Russian architecture and ice festival.
Of course, the main purpose of my year abroad has been to study Mandarin and I have been very lucky to have some excellent teachers this year. However, my other activities have also greatly helped to improve my language skills, whether that be getting around the city, chatting with new friends or keeping up with the latest Chinese films, music and literature.
Being in China has not only given me more of an insight into the country but has made me consider the UK from a different angle. This past year, I’ve watched important political developments like the Brexit process and 2017 general election not only from a distance but, in discussion with Chinese friends and teachers, from a Chinese point of view. This has given me an even keener interest in politics and current affairs.
Thank you again to the John Speak Trust, for their financial support over this year. As we enter an increasingly global age, I think it only gets more important that organisations like this exist to encourage and support Britain’s young people to experience studying and living abroad.