The Laidlaw programme has been really important in shaping my understanding of both academic research and leadership. It helped me to broaden my perspectives and figure out how my research interests fit into a wider world of academia. Being able to go to China to conduct my research was wonderfully immersive, and I learnt much more than I would have if I'd conducted my research from Oxford.
It was also interesting to get an insight into life at a Chinese university. I found that the level of research was high but I had to get used to a set of conventions that were quite different to the ones I was used to. One important aspect of the programme is that it made me realise that academic research skills have many applications outside the library and the lecture hall. The aspects of the Programme which I enjoyed the most were those which allowed me to communicate my ideas and directly impact others: conducting interviews, for example, and discussing my research with other academics.
Currently studying BA Oriental Studies at The University of Oxford
My project was divided into two segments. I spent two weeks in Oxford gathering materials and doing a literature review of current English-language works on my topic. I then spent the remaining 8 weeks in Shanghai. Most of my time was spent looking at primary and secondary sources in Mandarin. These included animations, digital portfolios, websites, blog posts, journal articles and books. I also conducted fieldwork, including visiting galleries and museums, and visiting artist studios to conduct interviews. My most important field trip was travelling to Beijing to interview an artist about his animation. I spent the last few weeks writing up my project as an academic article and an interview-based journalistic story.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the leadership programme, as I hadn’t done anything like it before. However, I ended up enjoying it more than I expected! It was really interesting to meet my fellow Laidlaw scholars and to find out we all had different ideas about what leadership might mean, especially in the context of our own projects. The most interesting part of the programme were the speakers who came in to talk to us, including an ex-police chief and a diplomat. The leadership assignments have helped me to analyse myself as a leader, particularly when it comes to organisation and strategy. This knowledge has already helped me be a better leader in the various extracurricular projects which I have taken on. I’m looking forward to finishing off my leadership training and continuing to apply the skills I’ve learnt in the future.
In Shanghai, I moved into a student dormitory for international students. My roommate was a master’s student in the process of writing her dissertation. The two of us communicated in Mandarin which was good practice for me. My supervisor at ECNU was very welcoming. When I first arrived we met for dinner and had an in-depth discussion about the project. My supervisor also introduced me to her master’s students, who were friendly and supportive. Most of my academic and social networks were also Mandarin-language, which was a bit daunting but very good for my language skills!
My life in Shanghai was pleasantly quiet and quickly settled into a routine. I spent most days in the library, although I would sometimes go on trips to relevant museums and galleries around the city. My biggest excursion was a trip up to Beijing to interview an artist in his gallery.