Scholar Zoë Jinadu at the Oxford China Centre. Photo by John Cairns

  Scholar Zoë at the Oxford China Centre. Photo by John Cairns

Nurturing young talent through cultural exchange

Oxford’s links with China and Hong Kong are being strengthened through the Fung Scholarship Programme.

The Victor and William Fung Foundation has been committed to supporting students at Oxford since 2010, funding a comprehensive range of programmes for students travelling between Oxford and China. The foundation has made a new pledge of support to the University, to continue the programme over the next four years.

Fung Scholars benefit not only from academic courses and professional internships; they also participate in a range of activities that promote the exchange of cultural and social ideas and values, which significantly enhance their experiences.

Every summer, ten students from China and Hong Kong spend six to eight weeks in Oxford to experience a research placement, working with a host department to gain insights into the research environment and to hone their interest in specialist subjects. The visiting Fung Scholars do not spend all their time in the lab, however; they also take part in cultural trips and weekends in other UK cities.

Students of the BA degree course in Oriental Studies (Chinese) are able to spend their second year in China as Fung Scholars. Undergraduate students from across the University also have the opportunity to undertake summer internships in Hong Kong and China, learning new skills, meeting new friends and networks, and having time to travel and explore the country. Many Fung Scholars return to China and Hong Kong after their studies and internships.

The foundation recognises that, for many of those considering a degree in Chinese – up to 16 students annually – spending a year in Beijing can be a heavy financial commitment. The Fung Scholarship ensures that every student on the course at Oxford benefits from a significant contribution to the costs of their year abroad.

This support is greatly appreciated. For undergraduate student Zoë Jinadu, the year she spent in Beijing was the best year of her life, thanks to her scholarship.

Scholar Zoë Jinadu at the Oxford China Centre. Photo by John Cairns
  Scholar Zoë Jinadu at the Oxford China Centre. Photo by John Cairns

‘The Fung Scholarship is the whole reason we could go on the year abroad,’ Zoë says. ‘There were no language school fees to pay. Considering that we were going to full classes and doing so much at that university, it was amazing. I relished the opportunity to speak Chinese every single day and it was unbelievable how my language improved. I feel very confident in my Chinese now, which has massive implications for the rest of my degree and my success at Oxford.’

An extensive range of experiences was made available to Zoë during her time in Beijing, of which she took full advantage: ‘I was part of a hip-hop group, I went on TV a number of times, I had two separate free trips around China, I went to see the Terracotta Warriors, I stayed with a Chinese family, we saw Beijing Opera... I was doing all this extra-curricular stuff and I made so many new friends.’

Zoë’s journey to becoming a near-fluent Chinese speaker, however, was not necessarily a traditional one. ‘In the sixth form I was studying maths, chemistry and English literature,’ she says, ‘so I’d never really learned a language properly before.’ But Zoë’s studies changed direction when she met a Chinese friend. ‘Her English wasn’t great so, just for fun, I thought I’d learn a bit of Chinese. I realised that it is the best language. I felt a passion that I’d never felt before about anything.’

‘I don’t have any words that can express my gratitude. I really did have the best time. ’

Zoë Jinadu

Now Zoë cannot conceive of anyone not wanting to learn Chinese. ‘I want to reassure people that Chinese is actually nowhere near as hard as they think it is. And it’s really useful. When I went to Malaysia and Thailand while I was on my year abroad, if they couldn’t speak English – Chinese!’

After graduation, the Fung Scholarship community continues through annual conferences and city-based groups known as Fung Scholars Local Chapters, where current scholars and alumni of the Fung Scholarships have the chance to meet and exchange ideas. ‘It’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded individuals,’ says scholar graduate Adam Knight. ‘Because a lot of the Fung Scholars are fairly entrepreneurial, it’s really quite fun to hear what ideas people have got and where they plan to go with things.’

Zoë is thankful for the richness of her experiences at Oxford: ‘It’s things like the Fung Scholarships that make Oxford so unique and worth the hard work.’


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