Why did you choose to study History at Sheffield?
I looked at universities that had the highest rankings for their standard of teaching history and Sheffield was on that list. I came to the city and quite simply thought it was a fantastic place to live and study. I got a great impression of the department and the library facilities and by the end of the open day I was certain that this was the university for me.
What did you enjoy about your course?
I found that the first year modules taught at Sheffield were a great introduction to studying history at university and allowed me to study wide range of topics, both chronologically and geographically. With my history degree I was able to study abroad in my second year and I successfully applied to do this. I spent my second year studying at the National University of Singapore. Looking back, this year was extremely formative. I was able to study the Chinese and Southeast Asian history I am really interested in and experience a different university culture. Through my course, joining a university society and living in university accommodation I was able to make some great friends from Singapore and other Asian countries. I was also able to travel to different countries in my holidays such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and China. Thanks to the international nature of the university, I was able to meet up with friends who were fellow students in every country. I was also able to visit a Japanese friend who I'd made in first year when they had been an exchange student at Sheffield.
After such an amazing year away from Sheffield, I was determined to make the most of my third year. I found my third year special subject (Muslims, Mongols and the West) extremely engaging and I was able to combine what I'd enjoyed learning about in first year, such as medieval Christianity, with what I'd learnt in Singapore – European missionary activity in China and the spread of Islam. On the non-academic side of things, I regularly went along to Sheffield Confucius Institute's Sino-English Corner, where English and Chinese students meet to practise speaking both languages.
In third year, being part of the Real Ale Society meant that when I gave myself a night off from my dissertation I could enjoy going to some of the city's finest drinking establishments. The society is a great example of Sheffield engaging with local people and businesses, not solely in the consumption of alcohol but getting a chance to meet with local brewers, organise home brewing and host the popular university really ale festival. Sheffield is arguably the best place for craft beer, in terms of its availability, popularity and the number of microbrewery and real ale pubs and the society does a good job of getting involved with the people involved in this.
What have you been doing since you graduated from Sheffield?
I am currently teaching English as a foreign language in the large city of Chongqing in China. I have been able to put into practice some of the Chinese I learned in Interval at Sino-English corner and have met up with Chinese friends who also studied at Sheffield. My students are interested to learn about the large number of Chinese students who study in Sheffield and also that they can get their favourite Sichuan dishes at restaurants along London Road.
How has your degree from Sheffield helped you in the graduate world?
My whole experience at university has made me aware of the wider world, through studying the history of lots of different countries and having the opportunity to study abroad and meet people from many different countries.
My students have certainly enjoyed learning about history. In one class where students were asking me more mundane questions such as whether I liked Chinese food, a girl shot her hand up and asked me to tell the class about Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. For fifteen minutes until the bell rang for the end of class the students listened in attentive silence as I explained the personal motivations of Columbus to go on his voyages of discovery - which was to bring back gold that would finance an expedition to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims - and his knowledge and interest in China.
What top tips would you give to someone thinking about coming here to study?
Get involved in activities in the city, not just in the university – venture outside the student world! If your course allows you to study abroad, take the opportunity. Studying abroad as part of your degree will allow you to travel, meet new people and experience a different culture during a very formative period of your life. You might not get such an opportunity for a while, so go for it whilst you can. If you can't study abroad, make the effort get involved in international activities at Sheffield through societies and events. Making friends from different countries will give you a different perspective on your studies and your time at university and will allow you to put your studies and your life in general in a much broader context.