By Xintong Wei
It was autumn 2012 when I first landed in Heathrow Airport. I remember queuing at the border control rather nervously, holding a carefully filled landing card and a pile of documents. I expected a thorough questioning from the border officer about the purpose of my stay in the UK. I hesitated a bit before answering each question, as back then I still had to translate thoughts from Chinese to English before I uttered them. I came to London to study philosophy. It was the first time I’ve ever left home and home was 10,000 km away.
As a rather bookish person and an avid fan of classical music, the first two years of my undergraduate life were spent between student hall, library and Southbank. I wasn’t too homesick. I hanged out with Chinese friends, went shopping in Chinatown, after which I usually indulged myself with a comforting meal in a restaurant specialises in the cuisine of my hometown. I thought I have adapted seamlessly—living in London was not too much a change of scene for me since I’ve been living in metropolis like Shanghai. I thought there was no barrier of culture—I read the English masterpieces lavishly, from Jane Austen to Thomas Hardy, I spent my weekends strolling in the national galleries, I went to church for Sunday service and took delight in the beautiful organ music that one could rarely hear in China.
My past self must have appeared to others as somehow anachronistic. I was so blind to the real cultural gap that I was not even aware of its existence. I lived in the confinement of the little bubble I created for myself, which I naively identified as the way of life of ‘the West’, when I didn’t even know why my classmates read the Guardian and sneered at the Daily Mail.
How I ever managed to get out of that bubble was a miracle— I must thank the wonderful friends around me, who offered me the chance to know their culture through their eyes and experiences. Little by little, I started to have a better grip of the contemporary political and cultural scenes in the UK and want to be an active part of it.
Now, five years have past since I first came to this country, once again I do not see the barrier (and hopefully it was not due to my ignorant blindness as before), but rather I see myself as a global citizen. I’m determined to be a positive force of change, no matter how small the contribution is—from preparing tutorials with my students in heart to making the academia (as far as the philosophy department goes) a more inclusive and supportive place. I am therefore very grateful to the opportunity to join the Stirling Graduate School community intern team, where I can make a bigger difference by helping to create a sense of community and belonging at University of Stirling. As I have learnt from my own experience, friendship and living within a community is the fruitiest way to grow our souls and expand our horizons.
It has been a delight to work with the team and I hope that the two projects that I’m leading—the online magazine Caraid and PGR podcast will make a contribution to enhancing postgraduate experience in the following four aspects: well-being, research outreach, creativity and activism.
I believe that as a community, our first and foremost goal is to ensure the well-being and in particular the mental health of every student in our university. As part of minority group, I deeply understand the importance of creating an inclusive and nurturing environment. I hope Caraid and PGR podcast can be a platform where everyone can share their unique experiences, voice their concerns and stand with each other in solidarity. Having the opportunity to share our intellectual fruits with a wider audience is not only academically valuable but also makes our work more meaningful and fulfilling. PGR podcast aims to provide the platform and opportunity for post-graduate students to share their research results. Furthermore, I want to offer the talented students in our university—poets, novelists, critics, activists, journalists, photographers a channel to celebrate ideas, diversity and creativity. We must also not forget that we are living in a time of global crises, facing the challenges from climate change, terrorism and refugee crisis. I believe that it is our moral duty to promote activism and increase social awareness. Ideas and moral visions bind us together. I hope Caraid and PGR podcast would provide the platform to encourage and facilitate discussions and participations in tackling these challenges that gravely concern everyone of us.
I will conclude my reflection with heartfelt thanks to team members and everyone else who have offered their thoughts and encouragement regarding Caraid and PGR podcast.