Zhu Yunan started a new chapter in her life as a PhD student at the Institute of Education of Tsinghua University in August 2019.

During her time at UIC, Yunan learnt excellent presentation skills and improved her academic performance among numerous other things. After graduating from UIC's Contemporary English Language and Literature Programme in 2015, Yunan went to the University of Pittsburgh in the US to study the Master's programme of Foreign Language Education. Upon graduation she returned to China to apply for a PhD programme at Tsinghua University. Yunan sailed through the application by impressing the examiners with her English level and resourcefulness.

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Zhu Yunan and her parents at the graduation ceremony at the University of Pittsburgh

It was during March 2018 when Yunan received information on doctoral enrolment for Tsinghua University. She decided to apply for it, considering that she wanted to personally gain new knowledge and develop her skills within China.

Tsinghua University Institute of Education requires applicants to have published a paper in an academic journal for preparation of the preliminary application materials. Yunan published her research on using IPA method to measure American teachers' professionalism in China's academic journal titled Overseas English; this helped her pass the enrolment process.

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Zhu Yunan (left) with classmates participating in the Tsinghua campus orienteering

In the interview session, she impressed them with her excellent level of English. Yunan admits that she gained a lot of her interview skills from the presentations that she had experienced “hundreds of times” at UIC.

Yunan claims that transformation during each stage of life offers certain opportunities and hers began at UIC. Eight years ago, Yunan, who graduated from a high school in Guangzhou, entered UIC through a 'Comprehensive Evaluation System' enrolment model. At that time, Yunan, who enjoyed a colourful and sunny university life, did not expect that she would embark on the path of educational research in the future.

During the summer of her first year at UIC, Yunan participated in a Whole Person Education volunteer programme in Cambodia, where her and her partners designed a curriculum for Cambodian children. The classrooms were in a poor condition where the rain leaked in and the children ran around barefoot; however, she had many joyful interactions with the people and the memories she made inspired Zhu Yunan’s passion for education.

Upon graduation, she received graduate admissions from international universities such as the University of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania State University. In the end, she chose to study at the University of Pittsburgh for foreign language education and obtained her master's degree in June 2017.

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Zhu Yunan delivering a speech at the 2015 UIC Graduation Ceremony

During her master's studies, Yunan first came into contact with the research and writing methods of education. They were different to what she had previously encountered and after exploring the different ideas she eventually completed her graduation thesis.

These days, Yunan is like a sponge as she absorbs all the new knowledge she encounters. In her first year at Tsinghua University, she had to take at least 10 classes. However, due to her study abroad experience, English was exempt. During her spare time, she assisted the institute in organising an international academic forum, from the editing and design of conference materials to greeting foreign scholars.

Yunan’s supervisor is Professor Hamish Coates, Director of Higher Education Research Division at the Institute of Education of Tsinghua University. At the beginning of the semester, at the request of Professor Coates, Yunan made a detailed four-year study plan, and she already had a general research direction in her heart.

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Zhu Yunan (right) and Professor Coates (left)

"Education has a strong interdisciplinary nature, and the research directions vary with interdisciplinary subjects. In the short term, I will follow the steps of the supervisor and focus on the research on evaluation of students in the higher education stage. In the long run, I will try to integrate more disciplines for new research perspectives, and do unrestricted research,” she said.

For Yunan, everything is possible in her life, just like when she was at UIC.

Reporter: Samuel Burgess
Editors: Deen He, Lauren Richardson
(from MPRO)