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Student Testimonials

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


"My decision to apply to study Chinese Studies was driven by a motivation to understand China from the inside, through the detailed study of its language and culture. Although the study of non-Western cultures is still considered somewhat of a novelty amongst people in the UK, I can wholeheartedly say I have no regrets about the decision I made. Rather, I would urge more people to pursue the study of this fascinating and important country and embark on a truly unique path in life, full of adventures.

The Cambridge course aims for you to reach an advanced proficiency in Modern Chinese by the end of the degree, which means the pace of learning is quick and intense. Learning to speak and write Chinese is by no means a small feat, but the sense of achievement is just as great. The small class sizes (typically no larger than 10 people) and supportive, high-quality teaching means your Chinese comes on in leaps and bounds term by term. I am really looking forward to reaping the rewards of my studies thus far during my upcoming year abroad in Beijing. The study of Classical Chinese alongside this deepens your intuitive understanding of the language as well as opening up the pleasures of reading pre-modern philosophy, prose and poetry in its original form.

The course also allows you to study various aspects of East Asian culture alongside intensive language work. Over the last two years, I have covered topics ranging from post-war Korean cinema, to Heian Japan and even China's reaction to Brexit. The freedom to study many different academic fields under one degree is very exciting and the faculty will support you in pursuing whatever academic interest you may have. The small size of the faculty means you end up building very close relationships with your classmates and professors.

Cambridge is a beautiful and comfortable city to live in, full of many interesting and ambitious people. The student community is really buzzing and there are so many things you can get involved with! Alongside my studies, I have found the time to help organise an international student film festival, take Spanish classes and keep up old interests in running and yoga. Whatever your interests, you are bound to find a society that suits you."

 Alexander Johnstone (2017, in his second year)


"I had already had some experience with China before I joined AMES in October 2015. Particularly my gap year at a university in Hangzhou (a city 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


When it came to choosing a subject to study at university, I was at first torn between Chinese and History as my main interest lay in Chinese history. Eventually, I decided that it would make little sense to study Chinese history without knowing Chinese and decided to apply to read Chinese in Cambridge. What was helpful was that I knew that the course in Cambridge would not only give me the chance to acquire a solid knowledge of the Chinese language, but also would give me the opportunity to develop my interest in Chinese history. Looking back now, I am certain I made the right decision. During my four years studying Chinese as an undergraduate, I developed a solid grasp of both modern and classical research. At the same time, the many history options the degree course offers allowed me to develop my interest in Chinese history. By the third year, I had developed an interest in the history of modern China, particularly the history of modern Sino-German relations. As a former German colony, Qingdao, where I spent my year abroad, proved the ideal place to further pursue this topic and start work on my final year dissertation. It was also in Qingdao that I decided to continue my research as a postgraduate after graduation, as I felt that there was much more I wanted to explore than what I could do in my undergraduate dissertation. During my fourth year, I wrote a dissertation on the German colonial presence in Qingdao and started to write applications for postgraduate study and funding.

Luckily, I was eventually accepted to stay at FAMES to do a PhD on German banking in modern China, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (read more about this here:  Even though life as a PhD student is very different from undergraduate life with much more freedom to pursue one’s interests, my training in Chinese language and Chinese history have been the basis for my postgraduate research. It would have been impossible to read original sources in Chinese and navigate the vast historiography in modern Chinese history without the solid training I received as an undergraduate student. The level of modern Chinese I acquired as an undergraduate also made it possible for me to present my research in Chinese at conferences in China and cooperate with Chinese colleagues.  Finally, writing my undergraduate dissertation gave me the basic skills that I could build on when writing my PhD dissertation. Graduating soon with my doctoral degree, I will move to Tokyo to continue my research on the history of China’s modern finance with a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Tokyo, funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The skills I gained as an undergraduate will not only continue to help me in my research but also prove valuable as I tackle the challenges presented by yet another new country and language.

Ghassan Moazzin (Chinese Studies, 2008-2012)












 Alex with a classmate in Taiwan