Dare to dream big. Never think yourself as not being good enough. Opportunities are for those who are ambitious

SLC alumna Weiqi Zhang
Weiqi Zhang
Events Coordinator at the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China
MA Intercultural Communication
Following her MA in Intercultural Communication, Weiqi took up a position at the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.
SLC alumna Weiqi Zhang

What is your job and the main responsibilities?

My job is the Events Coordinator at the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.
Main responsibilities: the execution of the events led by the Beijing events team. My daily work includes (but not limited to) budget tracking, vendors comparation, answering guests and speakers’ inquiries, registration management, distribution of newsletters, management of interns (interviews, selection, performance overview, instruction, assessment, etc.), coordination with other department’s public events. We frequently organise events with different organisations, governmental sections, think tanks, universities, experts etc. Last year, we successfully held our annual conference to celebrate China’s 20 years in the WTO. Guest speakers included a former U.S. trade representative and former Secretary General of the WTO. In early 2022, I successfully delivered our event on the developing situation of Omicron with experts including H.E. Ambassador of the EUD and the president of the EUCCC.

How has your MA qualification helped you in your career?

The European Chamber is an organisation which bridges the gap between the headquarters of the European enterprises and their Chinese operations. My MA studies equipped me with abilities to work in an international environment, to better understand different cultural differences which might affect business operations.

What is an average day like for you in your current job?

Usually I arrive at the office around 09:00am, starting my work by replying to emails most of which are inquiries about our events (webinars/seminars/conferences, etc.). Then I would check the news to see if there are some leading articles domestically and internationally that are possible and suitable for hosting a webinar or seminar for our members and non-members. If our team has events on the day, we will have a dry-run with our guest speakers if they dial in virtually and brief them with the rundown of the event. If I don’t have events, I would prepare the materials for upcoming events, such as checking the presentation for the events. For some of our big events, I write a report to be included in our magazine. Occasionally, my team members and I will go to look at venues for our upcoming conferences, mostly are hotels, sometimes also the offices of our member companies.

What do you think is the most exciting thing you've done as part of your current job?

I think it’s our annual conference from last year: European Chamber Annual Conference 2021: 20 Years of China in the WTO. Last year was the 20th anniversary of China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The past two decades of China’s WTO membership coincided with phenomenal economic and trade growth in the country. While the reforms undertaken by China over these years have significantly accelerated cross-border trade flows and led to it becoming the largest trader in goods and second largest trader in services, debate persists over how and to what extent China has implemented its WTO commitments. Therefore, for the conference, our team invited the guest speakers including Pascal Lamy, former Director General of the WTO, former U.S. trade representative Charlene Barshefsky, etc., to present their perspectives on these topics, and examine how to preserve the core values of the multilateral trade system in the years to come. The conference was a huge success, all the keynote speeches and panel discussions were insightful and fascinating.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

Successfully delivered a hybrid event to brief the European business and diplomatic community in China on the latest about Omicron, the effectiveness of current vaccines and treatments, as well as recommended actions for countries and individuals. Nearly 100 people participated this event and we got great feedback about this event as well.

What advice would you give to current students who are interested in pursuing a career in your field of work?

Dare to dream big. Never think yourself as not being good enough. Opportunities are for those who are ambitious.

What were your previous academic qualifications?

Before Sheffield, I held BA in Business English in Beijing International Studies University.

What were your career aspirations when you were younger?

I always dreamed about working in an international organisation when I was younger. UN China was the place that I wanted most. When I came back to China in 2020, I tried to apply for a job there. Unfortunately, I did not meet with their requirements back then. Hopefully, after a few years, I could make my dream come true.

What impact has attending an overseas University had on you?

The Western university system and Chinese counterpart are VERY different from each other. The biggest one is freedom. Studying abroad at Sheffield was amazing. Through that year, I was 100% in charge of how I wanted to arrange my study credits over the year and there were a wide range of different modules to choose. Another big advantage is diversity. Whilst studying abroad, I got the chance to know people from different regions, countries, also people who have different beliefs. When studying Intercultural Communication at Sheffield, my classmates were from everywhere, U.K., France, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the list goes on. It was such a wonderful time for me to embrace different cultures, until today, I still talk to them occasionally. The year in Sheffield taught me not to see people with prejudice and judgement.

What advice would you give to young people considering University in the UK?

Be ready to have some super-efficient semesters since you will gain more knowledge in a short time. Choose a major that you are passionate about. Passion and curiosity will drive you go further. Walk out of your comfort zone and embrace challenges. 

Why did you choose Sheffield? / What sets Sheffield apart from other Universities?

I think for most Chinese students, it’s about the ranking. Sheffield is always ranked as top 100 universities all over the world. It’s very well-known here back home. In China, the marketing is competitive due to the large number of graduates each year. This year, it’s estimated that over 9.6 million of students will finish their BA and enter the jobs market. With a higher academic degree (I held MA from Sheffield) from a top 100 university, it would make it easier for me when I tried to find a dream job in China. Besides the ranking, Sheffield also provides a super comfortable and friendly living environment, green plants, cool bars, fantastic location – centre of England, amazing theatres, not mentioning the best Student Union in UK.

Which modules did you particularly enjoy and what skills did you gain from these modules which help you in your job?

Through my studies at Sheffield, I benefitted a lot from the modules I took, especially from Concepts and Approaches in Intercultural Communication and Ethnography. The combined knowledge of these courses which helped me a ton with my interpersonal skills. From Concepts and Approaches in IC, I learned about culture shock which not only affects when people travel to another place, but also makes sense when people encounter others who are from different cultural backgrounds. I learnt the concept of honeymoon-lost-recovery that is three different phases one might feel when he or she enters a different country/culture. That module/three phases applies to me making acquaintance with others, especially the ones who do not share the same cultural background with me, when different values and beliefs hit each other, I would feel at lost and begin to doubt my relationship with my stakeholders, clients, working partners, colleagues, etc., especially when they are not Chinese. But I would then use my knowledge from Ethnography. I started to observe how people from different countries, regions, or different industries would talk within their circles. By observing and learning from them, using different kinds of ways to talk with different groups of people, I would finally come to the recovery period.  From there, I could foresee that my working relationships with diverse stakeholders reached a better level. With the skills I’ve gained from my modules, I’m happy to see that I could actually use them to improve my competency in my daily work in an international and intercultural environment.

What other elements of University life/extra-curricular activities helped you to achieve success?

I would say that the language lectures helped me a lot. I think a lot of Chinese students are not perfect with English writing. The language lectures I attended were efficient and helped a lot with my academic writing.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Sheffield?

Interesting discussions/talks/debates/seminars/lectures that I shared with my lecturers/classmates/friends. Great experiences of interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. Sometimes, people might tend to be stereotypical towards things they don’t know. Through all those activities, I was able to gain insights from different groups. And of course hanging out with them socially on West Street!

Why would you recommend the University of Sheffield as a good place to study?

At academic level, Sheffield has a very high reputation for its great ranking, teaching performance, diverse majors, etc. Sheffield also offers the students and staff great libraries to do research. Besides studying, University of Sheffield has the best Student Union in the UK, there are over 100 societies for the students and the staff’s interests and hobbies. The Student Union has activities daily. According to some research, the graduates from University of Sheffield are very competitive in the jobs market. Many big enterprises are likely to hire  graduates from Sheffield.

In one sentence, how would you describe the impact Sheffield had on your career and life after University?

Dare to dream big and embrace the challenges.

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