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Student Testimonials

See what some of our current and recent students have to say about the course.


"I had already had some experience with China before I joined AMES in October 2015. Particularly my gap year at a university in Hangzhou (which you definitely need to visit if you haven’t yet) had equipped me with a fairly broad knowledge of not only the Chinese language but also Chinese society, history, and politics. Knowing some things is often, though arguably not always, useful. But don’t worry if at this point you can’t memorise the dates of all dynasties or every 5-year plan since 1953. Rather than amassing facts, I recommend that you use the time between now and the potential start of your degree to explore a wide variety of material on or from China. See how you like Chinese silent films from the 1930s, Little Apple from the Chopstick Brothers, or calligraphy from the Song Dynasty. If you can, spend some time in China (there are lots of funding opportunities through various bodies of the Chinese government), or pay a visit to museums exhibiting communist propaganda posters from the Cultural Revolution or other forms of high art. The point is: find out whether you can develop an interest in some aspect of China and its tradition that can keep you motivated throughout four years of intensive study. You have already come to the conclusion that nothing is more fun than immersing yourself with ‘things Chinese’? Great! Then you have no excuse to not apply!"

                                                                                                                               Sarah Eisenacher (2017, in her second year)


"I applied to study Chinese without any experience in the language, just French and Italian at A level and an interest in China. While some of my classmates had studied Chinese before (and if you have, go for it), most differences had evened out by end of first term. If like me you haven’t been able to study Chinese, Japanese, Arabic or Persian before, don’t worry. The course is designed for beginners and starting from scratch won’t hold you back."

Aron White (2013)


"The staff of the Department of East Asian Studies are inspiring and often very witty as well. Many of them are also well-known academics, so you're learning from some of the most knowledgeable people in the field. The faculty staff have always been very approachable and friendly in my experience, and none of us could have come so far without their help. I think it's also important to point out that the courses in the Department of East Asian Studies very much focus on independent learning, and what you do and how far you go is always up to you as a student."

Hugh Grigg (2013)


 "I don't remember exactly why I chose to study Chinese, but I like to tell people it's because I wanted to earwig at bus stops. The language is a fantastic challenge, but it's the way this is linked to history and culture which makes studying China quite so rewarding. AMES at Cambridge is a course that grounds you very thoroughly in every aspect of language, history and culture. To achieve this, the pace is intense from day one. I have mornings of classes and spend the afternoon reading, preparing or otherwise pouring over the many characters we are given to learn each week."

Greg McMillan wrote this when he was a second-year student in 2013


"The highlight of my time at Cambridge was the second half of my degree - studying abroad at Peking University and doing Part II back at Cambridge. After two hard years of learning characters and getting the basics, I learnt how to put the language into practice and became more comfortable applying it to academic and professional pursuits. As our language improved, we had the freedom to pursue our interests, in my case modern history and politics. In my final year, with the assistance of faculty staff, I was able to publish two papers.

After graduation I started work at a large e-commerce company in Manchester. I manage business development and manage a small team responsible for trading strategy. We improve the channels through which we sell cross border, and I help the company grow and understand  the opportunities and challenges in this diverse, complex market. I represent the company in China, leading negotiations with Chinese tech companies such as Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu and project-managing infrastructure development (i.e. customer service centres and warehousing).

You leave AMES a generalist with an understanding of a region. This has its advantages, but also its challenges. I work as a bridge between two groups of specialists, but had to make mistakes and learn very fast to add value to this process, and now am trusted to solve the problems that that arise between these groups of people. Since you add genuine value and understanding, people seek you out to help them ‘do China’ in all kinds of industries. Studying at Cambridge puts you at an advantage against many others in this position. Firstly, because the AMES course gives you a thorough linguistic and cultural grounding, which joint degrees at other universities simply cannot. Secondly, because your final two years teach you to think, which is at the requirement at the core of managing the complex, multi-party, trans-cultural, fast-paced problems you encounter in commerce."

Greg McMillan wrote this in 2017, after having graduated in 2016