Imagine it is your first time in a new country, an unknown culture, and you’re surrounded by a variety of unfamiliar customs, trying to find your way around a large campus and maneuver the complex Chinese legal requirement.
This is the typical circumstances new international students in China will find themselves in. If you are in it, you will need someone like Chen Yifei to help.
Who’s Yifei？Officially, she is the international affairs manager/ class mentor of 2018 international students as well as the secretary of PHBS International Affairs Committee. In short, when international students at Peking University HSBC Business School (PHBS) have important questions, they know they can go to Yifei. Her assistance buffers the arrival process for the international students. It is like she serves as the guiding North Star for many of them.
Her main job is to supervise the visa and resident permit procedures of more than 100 international students in order to ensure international students’ full compliance with regulations. On one hand, she needs to simplify tedious Chinese paperwork and logistics into handy, understandable and manageable documents. On the other hand, she acts as the liaison between the school and public security bureau (PSB) to better facilitate the relationship among international students, the school, and the PSB. Meanwhile, she is also responsible for part of school publicity and marketing.
One unique and excellent thing about Yifei is that she is one of the few Shenzhen locals you can find working at PKUSZ. As first generation Shenzheners during the beginning of the Reform and Opening Up policy, her parents were ambitious and desired a quality education for their daughter. Believers in quality education promote raising children to be versatile people with well-rounded abilities and skills. Their strategy proved a great success with Yifei; not only is she a master’s degree holder in global political economy, but she is also a semi-professional dancer and intermediate gymnastic coach.
Her versatile abilities certainly come in handy for her job at PHBS. She jokes about having to be submerged in countless meticulous works, such as editing publications and managing logistics and communication between multiple departments in her daily work. Each day can bring a new challenge. Despite being an Economics student with a master’s degree, she says she wants something more than money making: “Education industry is something soul touching and self-healing, it is something I would definitely regret if not dabbing my toes in.”
She gladly joined PHBS because she was attracted by the school’s aim to internationalize and its pursuit of excellence. Doing her best to contribute to the internationalization of PHBS, while learning and healing is her goal and aim for doing this job. When asked about the challenges at work, she said that communication between departments might be tricky at times, but this is also the part where you learn the most. “Information symmetry and humanity are the most complicated things in the world,” she said with a smile.
As an international student myself, I could not help but ask her what are some of the biggest differences between domestic Chinese students and international students.
“International students are more relaxed, independent, and diversified,” she said.
As for relaxed, it is something that you can clearly see everywhere on campus: at the library, the classrooms, the study rooms, and most noticeably at Mirror Lake towards the evening.
She furthered, “In a deeper level, it is the crisis awareness in Chinese student’s mind, most of them need to compete through the hardest exams to come here. However, while most of them are busy and nervous about their study, some of them are still young mentally. Parents played a strong role in their upbringings so much so that some of them are not sure about what to do and what to choose for themselves in real life. On the other hand, international students did not have as much involvement from their parents and are more independent to some extent.”
International students at PKU Shenzhen, who come from over 30 countries, are certainly diverse. They come from vastly different social, religious, economic, and natural environments.
All three aspects mentioned above make successful management of international students difficult, but at the same time, it is also one of the beauties of working with international departments. “You get to know the differences,” says Yifei.
A deeper understanding
Yifei’s impressive combination of professional skills intrigues me to ask more about her hobbies. When asked whether she still does dancing and gymnastics, she said she does both whenever she can. As a dancer at PHBS, she joined the PKUSZ staff New Year’s Gala, where she instructed and performed in a traditional Chinese dance with the PHBS staffs which won the “Best Performance” prize.
She also wants to travel everywhere around the world. She recently went to Thailand and Australia and has plans to visit Japan, Europe, and Africa in the future. When the dream to travel the world seems a little bit far away, she finds working with international students to be a nice exchange: she is still learning from different cultures and meeting new people.
In addition, she also enjoys investing time in herself by learning new things that will enrich her life. Some examples of things she has picked up recently are: learning how to draw, improving her dance moves, and observing and finding the best ways to take care of her pet cats, whom she clearly loves from the bottom of her heart. She also enjoys learning some more serious and academic material, such as mathematics and physics. Yifei is definitely a well-rounded, versatile, and interesting individual.
For international students and visitors to Shenzhen, she recommends visiting Shenzhen City Hall and Lianhua Mountain. The mountaintop has a perfect view of Shenzhen Central Business District: “Just make sure to not get caught up there during typhoon season,” she added.
For those who want to travel further away from Shenzhen, she recommends visiting Beijing, Shanghai, and Shanxi, for their history, or Tibet and Xinjiang for their unique natural scenery and customs.
The way she puts it, her diverse tastes come from her upbringing in China, “If I am a versatile person then China is one of the most versatile countries, from history to scenery, or from buildings to people, you will find surprises everywhere.”
Yifei also enjoys reading good books. She believes a good book “reveal(s) the truth about something or touches your soul.” When asked about her favorite movies she replied, “Twilight, The Lion King, and Inception.” Ranging from lighthearted to humorous cartoons and cognitively challenging, this answer made her wide-range of interests shine through again.
So, if you are ever in the mood to share your stories about traveling, talk about owning a cat, or learn more about dance and gymnastics, Yifei is always up for a conversation to learn more about you and your customs. You can find her in room 114 in PHBS.
Written by Gianni De Bruyn
Photos provided by Chen Yifei