United Kingdom: The Story of an Award-Winning Chinese Student at Manchester University

In the autumn of 2003, Sammie, a Chinese girl, was admitted to Manchester University. Sammie was only sixteen then and had lived in the UK for only a year and a half. Doing an undergraduate course at the university, she was the youngest one in her class. Three years later, Sammie was looked at with new eyes because of her excellent dissertation. She was awarded the Sociology Prize by the college where she studied because of her outstanding grade and special contribution. In this year, two students were awarded the Prize, another was a UK student.

Nineteen year old Sammie at the university graduation ceremony

Sammie’s success in her school work is not only an encouragement to Chinese students who have come and studied in the UK but arouses our curiosity as well. Isn’t it the tradition of Chinese students’ “quietly immersing themselves in hard work” that has made her successful? To find the answer, a reporter interviewed Sammie.

When in year two of primary school, Sammie was chosen by a TV station to be trained for two years in a film and TV class. She hosted children's programmes several times at a TV station and dubbed for cartoons. Sammie’s school was a key school. When orchestras from abroad and government institutions visited her school, she also hosted performances in English.

About often showing her face in public, Sammie did not say much. She then said, “I didn’t feel that I belonged to myself after doing this show business. I prefer doing something behind the curtain. ”

Sammie is very much interested in literature. She likes going to the library reading books and writing essays. She always wanted to be a writer. Perhaps benefiting from reading extensively, Sammie not only has been coming out top in her grade but a good student of good character as well. From the point of view of the reporter, this extraordinary experience of hers should have logically paved the way for her choosing media studies, but Sammie did not entirely agree with it.

“When I was nine, my parents divorced. My heart suddenly dropped into a deep valley,” Sammie said slowly.. “But later on, it was because I found my own faith Falun Gong that my heart not only resumed to the state of peace but my study results became even better.”

When she was ten, Sammie’s mother was so down in spirits because of the divorce that she suffered from myocarditis. She went to see doctors all round but it did not help. One of her colleagues introduced Falun Gong to her. After giving it a try, she felt it was very effective. From then on, she started practising seriously. Gradually she not only became healthy but was in a cheerful frame of mind as well. Sammie had the opportunity to read the practice's main text Zhuan Falun. She could not tear herself away from the book the moment she read it. She thought the book was very well written.

At that time, there were practice sites in many parks. Every morning and evening, as well as at the weekend, the mother and daughter would go and do the practice. Practising Falun Gong enriched their life. No matter what the weather, everybody would go to the park to do the exercises.

When asked: “Why did everybody persist in doing the exercises?” Sammie answered without thinking, “It was just because the guiding principles are righteous. At that time, those who did the practice included those who had jobs, students, elderly people and the grandchildren they had brought with them. After a busy day, everybody was eager to come because they thought that it was a noble thing to share their experience about cultivation after finishing the exercises. Previously, people would feel indignant when they had conflicts or they were wronged at their work places, schools and homes. After practicing Falun Gong, they shared their opinions about how to look inward. That sort of calmness and sincerity influenced everybody. If I was to describe it, it was that this field was very pure, it was a Pure Land.”

However, from July 1999, the whole situation in China suddenly changed its attitude to Falun Gong and the slandering Falun Gong was heard everywhere. Policemen went to parks to keep watch, preventing people from practising. Whoever did the exercises would be arrested. Such a situation for Sammie, who had never experienced the “Cultural Revolution”, was very difficult to understand. She felt very constrained.

“And yet it was also a good opportunity to think: what sort of media is it in China?” said Sammie. “The present media in China serves the regime controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. That’s why civilians are deceived.”

She has high aspirations though she is young

In that year, there were over five hundred students applying for the media course at Manchester University. Only seventeen of them were selected. Except for Sammie, they were all UK students. Sammie was only sixteen years then and the youngest in her class. There were fourteen students left when they graduated three years later. Among them, Sammie was the outstanding one.

In her statement, Sammie had talked about her thoughts about different media systems between China and the UK and her previous experience. This made her teachers firmly believe that she was the student they wanted.

However, pursuing her studies was not plain sailing. Sammie felt that it was an entirely new experience for her to study at Manchester University as she had never studied at a higher school or learned any preparatory courses in the UK before. At the beginning, she did not know how to take notes. She even doubted if she was capable of finishing the course. Even so, she held on, depending on her will power and earnestness.

When she finished her first year at University, her results were not outstanding. When she was in her second year, the difficulty of her school work increased in one blow. Sammie was thinking of doing her own project research then. Naturally, she chose the difference of media systems between China and the UK.

Besides spending time in the library reading extensively, Sammie also did a voluntary work for an independent, international Chinese Radio Station which was an austere challenge for Sammie who is introverted by nature. Even so, she was deeply attracted by the work. “It is because the tenet of the Radio Station is to let ordinary people in China tell what they want to say and their injustice, which is not allowed in China,” said Sammie.

Sammie found that her voluntary work did not interfere with her college work. On the contrary, the work helped her see some social problems more deeply. When she graduated from three years’ study, Sammie’s dissertation “The Chinese Media under the Mix of Party Logic and Market Logic” made her teachers look at her with new eyes, for which she was awarded the Sociology Prize.

Little “grown-up” in her daily life

You are wrong if you think that Sammie’s success was based on her only devoting her mind to her academic work and project research. In her daily life, Sammie does not only study but her life is composed of her faith, voluntary work and social awareness.

Sammie’s mother works in a city in the UK, which is far away from her daughter. In her free time, Sammie has to arrange properly for her food, clothing, shelter and transportation and the basic necessities of life.

Sammie works voluntarily for the radio station. She has done many things such as gathering news, collecting information, editing, writing and programming. She had to consider her academic work first and then arranged her time well.

In the consortium of the University, Sammie was chairwoman of Falun Gong Association and offers free exercise instruction. In order to have people learn about the persecution of Falun Gong, she had to hold discussions about human rights regularly. She often participated in activities to raise awareness.

The courage to pursue “Truthfulness”

Sammie sighed with emotion. “Mainland China needs a real independent media. Only in this way can the Chinese people voice their opinions, learn the truth about society and then make their own judgment. Only doing it like this is good for the Chinese people. ”

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