By Simon Mahony, on 7 January 2016
In October I was delighted to represent UCL at the 2015 International Graduate Scholarship Fair, organised by the China Scholarship Council, in Beijing. This is a major recruitment event where most major academic institutions worldwide have a presence. It is attended each year by a member of the UCL International Office and often accompanied by an academic representative. The Graduate Fair starts in Beijing and moved (this year) to Wuhan, Nanjing and Shanghai; I only attended the Fair in Beijing which is the largest but a colleague from UCL International Office, Hannah Legg, travelled to them all.
The Beijing event started with a planning meeting (which I didn’t have to attend luckily as I had only just arrived because of flight delays) followed by an evening networking session with speeches from the organisers (bravely delivered in English) and refreshments in the Chinese style (masses of wonderful food accompanied by small glasses of wine). The Fair itself, at the University of Science and Technology, ran from 09:00 until 17:00 (with short breaks for coffee and lunch) with a continuous line of perspective students at both desks for the whole day. I spoke to some interesting potential applicants and kept their details but mostly we both had very similar questions about the entry requirements for graduate study (Masters and PhD) at UCL and how to impress the admissions tutors. We were ably assisted by our enthusiastic local student, Ada, who has excellent English and hopes to join us at UCL in a couple of years.
After attending this event last year, I took some time out to be a tourist and benefited greatly from the hospitality of many former students, arranging dinners and taking me round the sites. I discovered how much they regretted not being able to come back to UCL for graduations. So this year, and at the suggestion of Chenxi Wang (ECP 2013), who became the local organiser, we took our own graduation to Beijing. Chenxi organised a venue (she works at MS Beijing), catering, decorations, photographer and invitations; I simply turned up and brought the appropriate robes hired from the UCL suppliers. This turned out to be a really amazing event and truly the highlight of my year. After a short talk from me, each alumni put on the robes in turn, posed with me for photos with a dummy scroll as I pinned a Bentham badge on them; they each followed this with some words about their experiences at UCL (mostly in Chinese but with smiles on their faces so I’m guessing it was something nice). We had photos outside as it was one of the two blue sky days Beijing enjoyed this year (if you’ve ever been there, you’ll know what I mean) followed by professional style graduation photos. This really was a memorable day and one that I certainly will treasure.
As well as promotional material, Chenxi put together a short video mashing up some stock UCL video clips and new material to feature most of the attendees (it’s on YouKu as YouTube is blocked in China so please excuse the adverts). Just to note that a few more alumni came along a little later and two more the following day as despite being a Sunday afternoon they could not get the time off work (no EU employment law although I’m pleased to say that they are all in full-time employment).