Here I am, the 2014-2015 MA Creative Arts Practice student in Newcastle University upon Tyne (look at the one who’s covering her ears, that’s me).
Now I am standing here as a tour guide. Please keep quiet while I’m talking, otherwise, I can’t hear clearly your enquiries. The world is too noisy and temptations are everywhere, making it hard for one to pursue what he or she really likes. It cost me a lot of time as well to sort out my route, not until now that I think I’m ready to share it with you.
Like most of the common Chinese students, I had to take the 高考 (The Unified Examinations for Admissions of National Universities & Colleges) in order to receive the university education. For me, the 3 years’ life in the secondary school was really miserable, because I was born in a mega city called Chongqing, which has about 30 million people—- probably the biggest city in the world. This means only through extremely fierce competition can one be admitted to the school he or she likes. And I chose Arts as my major, which means there was actually no arts related education at all, but instead stocks and stocks of simulated examination paper to complete, in order to increase the odds to win over others at the “final combat”. Despite this, I was still grateful that therefore I could spend a lot of time on history, politics and social science studies, which later influenced how I understand the word practice.
Then I entered a four-year management school and had a chance to learn marketing—-a very practical subject. It does not mean the priority on the Doing rather than on theories, but means the pragmatically higher chance to be employed in multinational companies and earn a lot of money. As a result, I started my first trial of practice, which was a campus based consulting company. And I think the most valuable experience I’ve gained through it is an understanding of regulations, institutions and therefore the superstructures behind them in a society that I thought I was familiar with, but which turned out to be waiting for alternative interpretations. This, becomes the reason for my coming to UK to further my study.
For the first experience, unlike the cliché attacking Chinese exam-oriented education, I did, through it, deepen my thought upon the reasons behind it, knowing that it’s a have-to, and the formation of it can date back to 1500 years ago. I find the glorious angle to inspect it, enjoy it and sincerely accept it as the impartible part of my cultural root. And such a cultural root that I’m embedded in and entangled with love and hate encourages me to seek for the alternative that looks at first sight strange but later I find more commonalities than conflicts, and that is Newcastle University’s civic idea.
Several days ago before I’m writing this session, I just took the bus from where I live currently to the city centre, and I watched on the bus that most of the passengers are of old ages. And I suddenly realized that it’s been quite a long time since I phoned them and asked them if their health is still well, because of my pressured final project. My grandma has diabetes and her eyesight is very poor but last time she was still willing to use the computer and have a visual chat with me, even at the sacrifice of her continuous poorer health. This gave me the strength and justifications of learning what I’m learning in Culture Lab, Newcastle University.
My experience is not unique in Chinese society. Because of family planning policy which aims at controlling radically increasing population, each family was only allowed to give birth to one child, which means couples of my ages will have to take a heavy burden for their parents and parents-in-law’s ageing problems. And I found this is not a unique phenomenon—-in UK it’s the same.
I think now I can give answers to the question that I raised to myself in the second experience. When the social challenges such as ageing call for my attention and contribution, as a student who has received the higher education, I am responsible to contribute my knowledge to the community and change it to a better state.
Now I’m volunteering in Castle Keep and Black Gate, and my colleagues told me, the name of Newcastle comes exactly from this heritage site. It’s not until now I can really confidently say, through my work there, and the knowledge I’ve received from the university, more and more people would be willing to come to the city, and the economy, because of my contribution, would be prosperous. Besides, through researching on the history and exhibition there, I do find more and more similarities between UK and China. It’s the social structures, traditions, and cultures.
And I think this practice is what I understand as the practice. Through my practice in the society, I’m takling the social challenges and help make the world better. And this is how I understand the civic idea, and this is the reason why I join — Newcastle University.
Here I am.
有志者，事竟成。（Where there is a will, there is a way.）
Reference@Oriental Museum, DH1 3TH