There are quite a few students who arrive in Shenzhen with no ‘China experience’, so to speak. But that’s not the case for Martin Edwards. Prior to enrolling as a full-time finance student at the PKU HSBC Business School (PHBS) this past August, he has lived in China three separate times—each time leaving him even more fascinated with China than the last. Originally traveling to China with a gap year program in a small town called Siping, he’s since bounced between China and England for various programs including intensive Mandarin Chinese studies at Tsinghua University and the Harbin Institute of Technology and a math teaching program at Oxford University.
While in Siping, he met a friend whose influence would come to affect his own trajectory. Due to his own background in math and their frequent discussions of China and the economy, she suggested that he find a program to further his studies. During his research, he got in contact with a recent graduate from PHBS over Reddit who had just finished a program that seemingly aligned with Martin’s own interests. After an informative skype call, he decided to apply.
Now a month into the academic year (at the time of the interview), Martin tells me “I feel like this is the right choice and I feel entirely satisfied—which is a rare thing in life.” Despite his fears of not having the appropriate finance background for the program, he finds that the situation is well balanced. “Everything has gone fine so far, and all my classes are very interesting. Allaying my fears is that all the Chinese students come from engineering backgrounds or chemistry and don’t have a financial background either, so the financial courses are starting at a very fundamental level and building up.” On the other hand, due to everyone’s strong math skills, the advanced econometrics course he’s enrolled in is especially challenging and pushes him in “exactly the way [he] would like and it’s perfect.”
As for his life outside of the PHBS academic building, he’s excited about being more firmly rooted in one place and for now, has no plans to move back to London for work. In his free time, Martin is active on campus and is a member of the Nanyan Choir, with whom you can often find him rehearsing and playing piano in the PKUSZ Music Room. When off campus, he likes to go out with friends and see art galleries if time permits.
Like most other foreigners living in China, Martin faces a common string of issues– among them are repetitive conversations with locals and never truly fitting in on the street. “Chinese people always ask me how long I’ve studied Chinese for and they keep gasping when I speak.” But these are just minor inconveniences that are greatly outweighed by how much he enjoys life in China. “I love Chinese people—they’re just kind and friendly for the most part. And all of the ones that I know and have been friends with have been nothing but sweet and kind and help me every single day all the time I’ve been here.”
Finally, I asked Martin a question all foreigners living in China have been asked many times over, “Why China?” After a beat, he tells me what he wrote in his application to PHBS: “I’ve watched this; I’ve come here and sort of witnessed the development of China and everything that’s going on. And I want to be a participant in it now; I want to be a part of it. I don’t want to just come and see and say I was there. I really want to have some kind of role in it because I want to be here.”
To learn more about the PKU HSBC Business School and its programs, please see the official website here.
Written by Megan Mancenido