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The basics
THE UK: Applying to University

My study abroad journey to the UK

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Look at that Chinese girl!

My name is Lizzie. I was born in Shenyang, a major city in north-eastern China. My hometown is ethnically diverse and less wealthy than the south of the country. Even though this region has seen a gradual improvement over the last ten years, the people there still move south or go abroad for personal development. 


Because of our history of trading with Russia, Germany, Korea, and Japan, connecting with other cultures and embracing different lifestyles is in our blood. I was brought up surrounded by classical music, playing the accordion, and reading western literature and watching films. 


The whole environment encouraged young people to be open-minded and explore the bigger world in the future. As early as the age of twelve, my friends and I were big fans of Harry Porter. We dreamed of going to Europe. 


A bright future is a great deal of effort with a pinch of luck

My friends and I were among the top students at school and aimed for good grades in the life changing GaoKao, the Chinese college entrance examination, which would take place six years later. 


The admission process of GaoKao is like a guessing game for the entire family. We choose universities with different rankings on the application form based on each institution’s historical minimum score. I was lucky enough to know my actual exam score. However, students are normally supposed to estimate their scores, which creates more uncertainty. 


At that time, it was crystal clear that I stood the best chance to secure a place at Sunwah International Business School at Liaoning University. I was guaranteed an offer, and so my parents were quite happy to pay higher tuition fees. They also agreed because the university provided greater flexibility in choosing career paths. 


My parents were fully aware of my enthusiasm for learning English, and so they agreed to let me follow a program with De Montfort University, but only if my academic performance was good enough. If I failed to do well, I would have to adopt a career path like theirs back at home in China. To take control of my own life, I had to do my best to prove myself. 


A change of direction

Accounting and finance were my family’s initial choice for me. It’s the most popular business major in China and lays a firm foundation for understanding business logic. 


The first three years of my accounting and finance degree helped me to develop important skills such as attention to detail and critical and rational thinking. It also taught me more about management and marketing. 


I outperformed my peers by delivering impressive presentations and bringing complex business models to life. I gradually realised that on top of the essential skill of numerical analysis that I had acquired, my true strengths of writing, public speaking and idea-generation were waiting to be further developed. 


Thus, at the beginning of my third year, I was determined to use the 3+1 program opportunity to transfer my major from business and accounting to marketing. Without a doubt, my academic background was judged, and the admission department was worried about my lack of knowledge in marketing.


Luckily, my great performance outside accounting was observed by the visiting lecturers during ‘foreign-teacher weeks’. These teachers kindly wrote me references to successfully reassure the university. It was touching to receive so much support and recognition from the people around me. From that moment on, I’ve always thought, ‘No matter what happens, I will not let them down.’


Negotiating with parents

Here are some tips and advice on how to negotiate and communicate with parents throughout your study abroad journey. 


Goal setting and regular communication

As agreed with my parents, I regularly kept them up to date with what was happening in my studies, and I made sure to highlight each achievement, no matter how small. This allowed them to track my performance and let me earn their respect. 


In the end, they realised that they had misunderstood my strengths and had prioritised their expectations over my own interests for many years. They pleasantly accepted that they must let me go, releasing a free soul on an adventure and allowing me to test my own potential. 


Step by step

I was not seen as a people person by my high-school classmates because of exam pressure and lack of opportunities to show that side of myself. However, with the guidance from lecturers and professors at every stage, I found my true self. 


Slowly, step by step I was able to decide regarding my career path that I would never regret. I stepped out of my comfort zone, and there was no reason for my parents to hold a star back from the stage that was waiting for me. 

Class from my favourite professor

Trust families and love back

Families are always there for us. Without my family’s understanding and support, I could not even have started on this journey, so it is always wise to talk to our parents every step of the way. Honestly, what parent doesn’t like to see a return on their investment?


Going global - not only that Chinese girl 

Now, as a graduate, I finally dare to say that I have enhanced my ability to overcome obstacles. I am grateful to be able to lead a life in the UK independently without my parent’s financial support. 


My friends have inspired me to experience even more towards being a global citizen, and thanks to my hometown’s diversity, I fit into the global environment easily. If I had held myself back and given up from the very start, I wouldn’t now cherish or be proud of where I come from. Embracing and including so many different cultures in the past, makes a huge difference to everybody’s future.


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