Charlotte Rowan Scott
- Course: BA Chinese and Spanish
What made you want to study your course at the University?
I had ventured to Hull to study fashion design for a year following my A levels. Although my aspirations lay within the fashion and creative industries, my tutors at Art College urged me to take an undergraduate degree that would challenge me intellectually and broaden my experiences, with an aim to return to the industry later. With a broad array of interests – particularly in Chinese history, politics and business – and an awareness of where the luxury retail market was heading, studying Chinese allowed me to understand an increasingly important player on the global stage. Meanwhile, I had always enjoyed learning Spanish so it couldn’t hurt to do both.
How do you think the two subjects complement each other?
The subjects became most complimentary in the 3rd and 4th years, when given the opportunity to specialise in certain areas. Having chosen modules from both subjects relating to international trade, economics, politics and law, it enabled me to draw parallels between the cultural and economic shifts of two countries undergoing dramatic change.
For example, understanding Spain’s past – its transition to democracy, the issues with a centralised government and the failures of an economy built on mindless construction, helped shed a light on China’s future – with its internal conflicts with Tibet, its ghost cities, and ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’.
Describe the aspects of the course that you have enjoyed the most.
First year in halls is home to some of my fondest memories, and when I studied in Leeds. I relished the opportunity to get involved in extra-curricular activities. From learning tap and ballroom; representing the People’s Republic of China in the annual Model United Nations conference; becoming Treasurer of the Enterprise Society; cycling 400 miles from Leeds to Paris with Leeds RAG and doing a charity skydive. The wealth of opportunity at Leeds is limitless.
The opportunities to travel during my course were unforgettable. There was never a dull day living and travelling in China. I recall in a bid to improve my Mandarin, I got talking to a cleaner at the student accommodation who, having discovered we each enjoyed ballroom dancing, insisted I come with her to an informal dance class in the local municipal park. And so, accompanied by a sisterhood of cleaners, I waltzed away several evenings with a sixty-year-old ecology professor who fortunately spoke a little English.
All of these experiences were made hugely more enjoyable with friends. The friends I made in halls and on my course have stayed close throughout my degree and been my rock during hard times – which are inevitable when moving to a new country almost every year. The sense of solidarity that is fostered when navigating a disorientating Chinese bureaucracy, bumping into each other in Tokyo while travelling around Asia, or getting locked out of a yurt in Inner Mongolia together, cannot be exaggerated.
Tell us about your residence abroad/year in industry.
I did both study and work abroad. China is a land of opportunity and Beijing the new Manhattan, particularly if you are ‘western’ and a native English speaker. Recruiters would approach you in the subway and offer you jobs – anything from doing voice recordings, to modelling, to English teaching. To pick up some extra cash and delve into the heart of Beijing’s entrepreneurial economy I did recognition testing for Microsoft’s Cortana, video recordings teaching phonetics to university students, and signed with an English teaching agency as a private English teacher.
These experiences added an edge to my university life – they helped me understand the ugly reality of cultural privilege, that rampant sexism still exists within business cultures around the world, and witness China’s wealth disparity first-hand.
What are you planning to do once you graduate?
Having been awarded an Enterprise Scholarship and subsequent training during my third year, I have given myself a year in which to work on my own start-up, MOTVATEE, an online retail platform, and its blog The Anxious Entrepreneur, with 40% of our profits donated to Leeds MIND.
Based on my personal experience with long-term mental illness and speaking to numerous entrepreneurs of all ages who had shared similar experiences, it became clear that mental illness in business is a stigma that must be overcome. During our mission to change this negative narrative, it has led me to recognise the overarching need to redefine our contemporary notions of leadership, the pitfalls in our cultural perception of success, and the role and responsibilities of ‘conscious’ corporations in our increasingly uncertain political and economic future. With a bit of luck, those modules on economic and social development might just come in handy on my mission.