Katharine BoocockKatharine Boocock
BA Chinese Studies with Spanish

Why did you choose to study Chinese?
I’ve always been interested in East Asia and languages in general, and I felt like learning Chinese would be a great way to better understand a country which makes up one-fifth of the world’s population, yet is still so little understood by many in the West. I also wasn’t sure what to study at university and thought that Chinese Studies would be a really unique degree and would give me an insight into China and what it was actually like for ordinary people there, since what happens in China is so absolutely vital for all of us.

What attracted you to the University of Sheffield?
I felt like the University and SEAS really cared about their teaching of Chinese and I felt really welcomed and part of a community, even from the first Open Day. It’s great to have a department like SEAS which is really dedicated to East Asia and China and I never felt like Chinese was seen as a side-note, as in in some other universities.

Has your course lived up to your expectations so far?
It definitely has, I had absolutely no idea what to expect but I don’t regret choosing Chinese Studies with Spanish at all. I feel like my Chinese has really progressed and the year abroad in Nanjing really pushed me and changed me as a person, as well as really improving my language abilities. In addition, the non-language modules available have given me a great insight into China and East Asia in general.

What do you enjoy most about your course?
The opportunities it has given me to explore other parts of the world that I would otherwise never have any access to! Thanks to studying Chinese - which I think is a really beautiful language in itself - I’ve been able to visit almost every country in East Asia and also learn so much about the culture and history of the region. I also love the flexibility of the course and the fact I was able to continue my study of Spanish and Hispanic Studies, so I can now talk to and further understand almost half the world!

How have you found learning a new language?
I had studied a little Chinese before at GCSE but I essentially started as a beginner, and I felt very supported. Most people started from scratch and although it’s certainly a challenge, as long as you put the effort in your Chinese will really progress. You learn most Chinese grammar in first year so after that it’s really important to learn vocabulary and just practice as much as you can. It never becomes easier, per se, but you get more and more familiar with the language and you start to really enjoy it.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your studies? (hobbies, interests, societies)
I’m really involved with student activism and getting heavily involved with activist groups like the Free University of Sheffield has really enriched my experience and made me feel a part of something bigger. The SU is also amazing (Number 1 in the country!) and there’s literally a society for every interest - for example, I recently went to Berlin with the Vegetarian and Vegan Society and in a few weeks I’ll be going to the end of year ball with the East Asian Studies Society, our SEAS departmental society.

Can you tell me about your role as Union Rep for the School of East Asian Studies?

Essentially I’m the representative for SEAS students in the council meetings of the Students Union, so I have a vote and a say in deciding the political direction and campaigns of the SU and its relationship to the University. I wanted to run because I felt that SEAS students weren’t really represented within the SU, due to being a small department, and I also feel really passionately about helping the SU fight issues such as government reforms and tuition fee rises. It’s been really fun and rewarding to get involved and feel like you are really making a difference and engaging with wider politics!

What is Sheffield like to live in? Do you like the city?
I fell in love with Sheffield the first time I visited, as it’s so vibrant and there’s so much going on, but it’s not an intimidating city at all. Basically it has everything - culture, history, amazing parks and views and the Peak District! At some point in the future, I’m definitely planning to move back to Sheffield and most other students feel this way.

What are your ambitions for the future?
I’d like to increase my fluency in Mandarin and Spanish, as well as take on a few more languages and see more of the world. To make a start on this and thanks partially to SEAS, I’ve received a scholarship from the Taiwanese Ministry of Education to study Mandarin for 6 months in Taipei after graduation and I couldn’t be more excited! Eventually, I’d love to take the skills and cultural agility I’ve learned at Sheffield and use it for a good cause which helps people or contributes to society in some way.

Do you have any advice for students thinking about doing Chinese Studies at Sheffield?
Just do it! If I had taken the ‘safe’ option I would have always regretted never studying Chinese. I can’t overemphasise the amount of opportunities that studying China and Mandarin will give you and all the people you’ll be able to meet. It will really transform you into a global citizen and you’ll gain an insight into a culture and region that will be so important in decades to come.