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[PKU excellent int'l alumni] Philip R. Blue: I want to learn about humanity

JUN . 20 2019
Peking University, June 20, 2019: Dr. Philip R. Blue (蓝斐历) studied and conducted research on psychology at Peking University under the supervision of Professor Zhou Xiaolin from 2012 to 2017. During his time at PKU, he was granted Excellent Foreign Researcher Award twice and was named Peking University Student of the Year in 2015. After receiving his Ph.D. degree in Psychology from PKU in the summer of 2017, he joined the Wright Graduate University in Chicago, USA. He is also a life coach at Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, helping people with personal growth. 

Philip R. Blue

Adventure in China

When Blue was 18, he was still perplexed by his career path. One of his mentors advised him to explore the outside world, which has become one of his goals since then. When he was in undergraduate at Carleton College, he traveled to Europe three times. After receiving his B.A. in Psychology from Carleton, he spent about a year in South America, working, learning psychology and Spanish, and boating down the Amazon at the same time. When he returned to the US and took on the job of a lab assistant at University of Chicago, he started to contemplate on the next step. He decided to come to Asia, a continent he had yet to set foot on. With the largest population in the world and a distinct language and culture, China naturally stood out and became his home for the next six years.

The first city in China Philip lived in was neither Beijing nor Shanghai. “A lot of foreigners live in these two cities. It would be too easy for me.” Philip wanted to challenge himself, so he started his Chinese journey from Dalian, the second largest city in northeast China’s Liaoning Province. There he learned Mandarin Chinese at Liaoning Normal University. The fact that he was able to master Mandarin in less than a year encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D. degree in Psychology in China, and he felt lucky being admitted to Professor Zhou Xiaolin’s lab, where he spent his next five years.

During his Ph.D. studies, Philip continued to reach out to experience the Chinese culture. In every Spring Festival of those five years, Philip would go to a friend’s hometown and join the family celebration. One year, he traveled to the countryside of Jinggangshan, a city in southeast China’s Jiangxi Province. There he not only experienced the unique customs of the village, but also became part of the family. “After I left, my friend’s family and I missed each other a lot,” Blue said.

Apart from traditional Chinese festivals, Philip was also fascinated by other aspects of the Chinese culture. He could easily name a handful of Chinese artistic movies he watched. Though he is not particularly a foodie, he enjoys eating dim sum, a special type of Chinese cuisine. After some initial efforts in adjusting to the new cultural environment, “I have been increasingly accustomed to the Chinese culture,” Blue said. 

Philip traveling in Shanxi in 2016

Thriving at PKU

Almost two years after graduation, Philip could still vividly recount his daily life at Peking University. A typical working day of Philip at Peking University began at 7 a.m. He would arrive at the lab at 8 a.m. and learn Mandarin Chinese for an hour. Then, he would be immersed in study and research for the rest of the day till 10 p.m. During lunch and dinner breaks, he would go the canteen with his labmates, who have become his family in China. In his not-so-much spare time, he would learn martial arts with the Martial Arts Club, participate in ping-pong and badminton tournaments inside the school, or read Chinese novels.

Philip and his labmates in 2015

At Peking University, Philip’s research focused on cognitive neuroscience. Along with his research collaborators, he published more than 10 papers and presented their research at conferences in China, the US, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. His impressive research accomplishments made him the recipients of multiple awards, including PKU’s Students of the Year and other awards granted by China’s Ministry of Education.

Despite his success, Philip remained humble. He often said that it was because he worked very hard that he was able to catch up with his classmates and labmates. He remembered the extra efforts he put when taking a statistics class. At the beginning, he had difficulties understanding some concepts. He then sought help from Professor Gan Yiqun regularly and asked a lot of questions.

The help he received from Peking University faculty members like Professor Gan, as well as from his fellow students was what he liked the most about the University. The institutional support Peking University gave to international students also made his adjustment to the university life in China easier. Philip was glad to see that PKU often organizes events to help international students to become acclimated. The International Students and Foreign Experts New Year’s Party was one of those events. At the party, Philip heard the line, “Though we come from different parts of the world, we are all PKUers”, which gave him a strong sense of belonging.

New chapter after graduation

Upon receiving his Ph.D. degree, Philip returned to the United States and became a faculty member at Wright Graduate University and a life coach at Wright Foundation. He is also pursuing a second doctoral degree in the US. He occasionally travels to China for events related to psychology.

When explaining the reasons why he chose his current job, Philip talked about his life-long pursuit. “I have always wanted to learn about humanity,” said Blue, adding that the job helps him learn about other people. Furthermore, the job provides Blue with the opportunity to contribute to the world. “As a life coach, I help others with personal growth. When people are able to unleash their potential, the world will be a better place.”

As an outstanding Peking University alumni, Philip also had some advice for future international students. He emphasized that learning Mandarin Chinese and working hard are the most important. He also recommended everyone to participate in networking activities and meet people from all walks of life. “At first, it might be a bit hard to adjust to the new environment, but take one step at a time, and eventually you would feel at home”, said Blue.

Reported by: Fan Kaixin, Cuan Ling
Edited by: Zhang Jiang, Huang Weijian