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Graduation 2024 | Chan Shaoyun: Embracing diversity at PKU
Jul 05, 2024
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Peking University, July 5, 2024:  Meet Chan Shaoyun, a Singaporean student who recently graduated from PKU with a degree in sociology. In her four years at Peking University (PKU), Chan engaged in documentary-making and public service internships, which helped her cultivate a strong sense of compassion towards society. Let us hear her story of self-discovery and enrichment!

Where dreams began

Chan’s interest in sociology was sparked in high school. Through watching YiXi and TED Talk speeches, as well as reading classic novels introduced by her Chinese teacher in high school, she became more inquisitive towards the world. Aside from preparing for the SAT, Chan took time to read up on sociology. Fei Xiaotong’s From the Soil: The Foundations of Chinese Society (1947) and Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison (1975) exposed her to social issues and multifaceted approaches to understanding society, which prompted her to pursue sociology. The critical perspective and the endeavor to understand others’ lives are reasons why sociology fascinates her.

In the last row of her high school classroom, Chan found a new world through reading, which inspired her to chase her academic dreams. With genuine passion, she came to study sociology at Peking University, a university that strongly supports liberal thoughts.
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Looking back on campus life

As an international student, the School of Sociology’s volleyball team played a significant role in helping Chan make new friends in school. The close-knit team has fostered a strong bond among its members, and Chan was able to maintain her habit of exercising and enjoy the pleasure that volleyball brings her. Apart from volleyball, she enjoys going to weekly movie screenings at PKU Hall and hanging out with her boyfriend. 

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In the first year of college, Chan had a vision to film a documentary about an apartment complex that was due to be demolished. Before the demolition, she and her teammates captured the lives of residents through their cameras. These residents include food delivery riders, lawyers, sales representatives from tutoring agencies in the Haidian District of Beijing, and photo studio owners, many of whom were part of the "Beijing drifters" community—a term referring to migrants who make a living in the capital city. This community is mostly made up of young people who have moved to Beijing in search of better opportunities. To date, the six months spent busy filming the documentary hold some of her most memorable college experiences.
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What’s next?

After graduation, Chan will pursue her master’s degree in public policy at the National University of Singapore (NUS). The experience of being an intern in a company that provides consulting services for the Asian Development Bank has broadened horizons for her and sparked an interest in public policy. 

On a business trip to Vietnam, Chan worked to offer more internship opportunities to local female students majoring in STEM. Through the process of communicating with the local government and Asian Development Bank, Chan learned a lot from the complexity of reality so she hopes to make some changes in the future by working for public sectors like NGOs, international organizations, or the government. 
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Biggest takeaway from PKU?

From an academic aspect, Chan’s biggest takeaway was writing skills. By writing frequently, she was able to improve her working speed and attention to detail. The freedom of selecting courses also gave her the chance to think in an interdisciplinary way. 

Overall, as the University motto says, the belief in embracing diversity is Chan's biggest takeaway from PKU. She is touched by the students and teachers who believe in this concept, and PKU offers them a place to undertake various types of sociology or try different lifestyles. Some of the graduates she met are working in Africa or traveling all over the world now. 
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If you can say a few words to your freshman self, what would you like to say?

“It is a good choice for you to major in sociology at PKU, so you don’t have to be too anxious about an uncontrollable future because the experience in college is the most important thing. Forget those utilitarian worries, just live in the moment.”

This story is featured in PKU News' "Graduation 2024" series.

Interviewed by: Chen Li-Tsai
Written by: Chen Li-Tsai
Edited by: Wu Jiayun
Photos by: Courtesy of the interviewee