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Yutong Li – November 2016: Jumping out of my comfort zone and experiencing diversit

By ucqnafe, on 12 November 2016

MPA student Yutong Li provides insights into studying at UCL STEaPP.

For my undergraduate degree I majored in administrative management and law. At that point, I had to make a difficult choice – continue my postgraduate studies in law at Peking University in China or pursue a different path. I was tired of purely academic and theoretical learning and I really wanted a breath of fresh air that would broaden my outlook on social sciences so that I could reposition my career in a broad field and a more international environment.

The turning point for me was when a friend told me about the Master’s of Public Administration at UCL STEaPP. I looked up the STEaPP website to find out more, and read about their research into energy, technology and climate policy on the department website. Surprised by the programme name, the innovative and unique combination of science, technology, engineering and social science attracted me to apply. An idea popped to my mind: although I only had a background in social sciences, I could gain a lot from exploring science and engineering in relation to public policy.

Even though it was in late June 2016, and pretty near application deadline, I emailed Professor Yacob Mulugetta and MPA Coordinator Joe Fitzsimmons to ask about whether it was still possible to apply. Thanks to their encouragement and quick responses, I finally got the chance to start my UCL journey. (A reminder for all potential candidates: No matter how late it is, do not hesitate to contact with team and they will reply you promptly. Otherwise, you may regret losing a valuable opportunity!)

So far, the induction week and first term have been more challenging and rewarding than I expected. The language barrier is the first thing for non-native students to overcome. The different learning approach at STEaPP has required my to adapt a little, as I wasn’t used to the full-day seminars, frequent practical tasks, endless reading lists and different types of assignments. Every time I feel lacking in confidence or want to avoid challenges I just encourage myself to remember the reasons I applied in the first place: to jump out of my comfort zone.

In return for the challenges, the reward at STEaPP is the diversity of learning and experiences. This has provided me with the chance to break previous biases and establish a new thinking system. I enjoy the freedom to select my research interests from the four specific concentrations, which are not available from other MPA programmes. Additionally, the diverse background of both MPA students and teaching staff is very inspiring. It is a serendipity that students from Indonesia, China, Japan, Mexico, UK, Colombia and Canada sit in the same classroom. Both fresh graduates and students with work experience share and exchange their own understanding about policy issues. Experiencing this diversity refreshes my academic approach, enhances my skills in practical ways, changes my perspective on the world, and sparks new anticipation for my future career.

I am still early in my journey at UCL, but am gradually jumping out of my comfort zone and experiencing diversity. Going forward, I expect to discover more potential from within myself and to be surprised by what I learn!

Read a Chinese edition of this post

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