By Kang Jin
Having lived and studied in China up to undergraduate degree level, I left my home city of Shanghai and moved to London. For the first time, I lived in a country that was so different – and so far – from China.
I had gone to join the Masters in Management at UCL School of Management on the 38th level of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf, London’s most famous business district, with views over the flourishing financial area.
Here in the heart of London, I was initially surprised by the sheer number of the world’s biggest companies and budding start-ups that surround me. I wasn’t daunted, I actually felt encouraged and inspired to hunt for a job here. There are literally internship opportunities all around. Just a few levels below in the same building are fin-tech entrepreneurs working on their growing companies and looking for international business students like me to get involved.
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What’s more surprising, I’ve learnt from speaking to friends at other London universities, there aren’t these same opportunities for students in other universities in the British capital.
But first, I am learning how to manage different cultures around the world and the differences to business in China – I have to network more, and use more initiative – like taking advantage of office hours to speak to professors. This is so different to what I am used to. It’s a complete cultural change but it’s so important here to make that effort. And having an undergraduate degree in translation is an additional challenge! With no experience in finance or accounting, tackling a business degree was certainly quite a test to begin with.
It gets easier though. I know that a British education involves much more interaction and there seems to be less work to do outside of the classroom, but a lot more readings around what we’re learning. There are more group projects where we have to apply what we have learnt into real cases. From this, I have noticed my communication, adaptability, and problem-solving skills vastly improve.
Guest speakers have inspired me further. Visits by managers from famous companies, CEOs of large firms, and successful entrepreneurs have meant we know even more about the real business world.
More than this, I love student life in London because there’s always so much going on, from case competitions to massive pillow fights with hundreds of people, and events that help me to better understand the culture. Sometimes it’s just as simple as trying different restaurants or giving chocolate eggs to friends at Easter.
Because there are so many elite universities in London – Imperial College and LSE, for example – I have had the opportunity to get to know other talented students. Societies have really helped bring us together.
Since I first fell in love with Britain when I came for summer school at Manchester University, the love affair has continued. I don’t want to leave. My plan is to start my own business – creating a new social platform – and stay to work in the UK. I believe that despite recent events – like the terrible attack at Westminster, and the political upset of Brexit – Britain’s capital remains a fantastic place to live as well as study.