Natasha Lock is a Yenqing Scholar at Peking University. She graduated in BA History, International Relations and Mandarin Chinese from the University of Exeter.
I have been studying Mandarin Chinese for eight years and during this period I have been interested in the etymology of Mandarin, the history of China and contemporary political status of the country.
I’ve been extremely lucky to have spent the past five years back and forth from China – traveling, working and studying. I started with a family trip to China in 2013 and was fascinated by the country I had set foot in.
There seemed to be an energy here that was totally different from any other country I had been to, and a real connection between the past and the present. I followed this with a government study scholarship for short programmes (one/two months) spent in Shanghai and Nanjing during my university holidays. Then in 2016, I moved to Beijing for a year to study at Peking University. Since graduating in the summer of 2018, I have stayed in Asia, first to travel, then working for a manufacturing company based down in Southern China.
“Teaching in China has definitely taught me to chase a more hands-on job where I can interact with people, continue to learn and attempt to share my experiences and understandings with others. Academia is incredibly powerful, meaningful and allows for constant learning.”
Teaching has been an incredible experience. It has allowed me first-hand access to see how the next generation of Chinese doctors, lawyers, academics and workers have spent their teenage education. Study pressures are both real and worrying. As a result, during my role as a teacher I’ve really tried to focus on addressing some of these issues. I try to pursue discussion-based learning, study topics that require the students to ‘think outside the box’ and do not set my students homework. I am also using my teaching experience in China to develop my Mandarin and fulfill my travel desires. There are breaks between lessons and I never work later than 5pm. This leaves a lot of time to study Mandarin, go out with friends and on the weekends and numerous national holidays, travel within China.
Teaching students in China feels like a real privilege. Whilst I am employed to teach the students, I also learn a great deal from them. Leaving school every day knowing that I’ve made a direct difference to someone’s day is extremely fulfilling and rewarding. Teaching certainly builds confidence and character. Standing in front of 50 teenagers for 4 hours each day demands lots of energy, organisation and drive.
After the programme
Since 2019 I have been a Yenqing Scholar at Peking University. The Yenqing Academy is an elite fellowship China Studies master’s programme that is fully funded. It takes 125 scholars from all over the world and teaches them in both core modules and their selected academic discipline. The Academy also organizes field studies to culturally, economically, and socio-politically significant regions within China.
The Yenqing Academy programme will be an intense two years of study concerning the International Relations of China and will facilitate my wish to become a more knowledgeable scholar and a better Mandarin speaker. In the past, I have found studying International Relations within China and from a Sino perspective to be absolutely fascinating. Furthermore studying this subject in a country so essential to International Relations is a unique privilege. Studying about China within the nation state has previously been extremely interesting, as aspects of politics were analysed from a Sino perspective and outside of class I could see the very case studies that were being utilized within my course.
Teaching in China has definitely taught me to chase a more hands-on job where I can interact with people, continue to learn and attempt to share my experiences and understandings with others. Academia is incredibly powerful, meaningful and allows for constant learning. Following the masters programme at Peking University, I wish to pursue PhD level studies. It is imperative that leading Sino specialists understand China’s past, present and future – looking at these behaviours through both Chinese and international perspectives. Subsequently I hope to use what I have learned throughout my career in academia or diplomatic consultancy. This balance between Chinese and international perspectives will be essential to bridge the gap between academic research and international policy-making.
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