A young professional scholar
Chinese PhD programmes can learn from the Dutch curriculum design and skills training, according to Jingwei Zhang.
I started my PhD at UiL OTS, Utrecht University (UU) on Oct of 2009. I graduated from Nanjing University (NJU) earlier that year and got a government-funded scholarship (China Scholarship Council). Nowadays, Chinese students have many options for studying aboard. The Chinese government encourages its students to study outside of China and then to return to China in order to foster talents in various fields and have them serve the country. Generally speaking, the main difficulties for Chinese students is therefore not getting an opportunity to study abroad but adapting to a new science system and a new living environment.
The main reason for me to choose UU to pursue my PhD degree is that I had been full of confidence to adapt to its research environment before I was here. Thanks to the previous collaboration between UU and NJU where I attended the NJU-UU Linguistics Seminar held in NJU when I was a NJU postgraduate student. And I met my present supervisor and got the feel of the research atmosphere of UiL OTS at that time.
I am interested in the variationist research of sociolinguistics and I would like to continue working on this. My present supervisor has the same academic interests. I am happy with the supervision of my supervisors. They exhibited openness to my research interest. They address adequate time for discussion my research, being receptive and sensitive to my ideas and opinions, and give sufficient and useful feedback on each step of my research progress. They also provide help when I have difficulties as a foreigner living in this country, like renting a room, moving house, etc.
Regarding living in the Netherlands, the only difficulty is I cannot understand Dutch. Luckily, most Dutch people are fluent in English. So the communication is not a big problem. But I am sure there must be more fun to live here if I can speak Dutch. The public transportation here is extremely convenient (much better than US) and its bicycle culture will make you feel like you are in China. We can easily find all kinds of tasty cuisines from different countries, including authentic Chinese Sichuan and Cantonese dishes.
Another reason for me to choose UU is that UU is one of the most important cooperative partners of NJU, my home university, especially in the research area of linguistics, urban planning, physics and medicine. In the past few years, I tried my best to strengthen the UU-NJU cooperation in the linguistic area. After my dissertation, I would like to go back to NJU to continue working for the collaboration and bring the advanced PhD training program and the linguistic curriculum design to China.
For example, UU provides us PhD students sufficient research facilities and funding to attend domestic and international conferences. Netherlands National Graduate School of Linguistics organizes linguistic summer school and winter school for PhD students. We are invited to an extra-curricular training programme TASK (Team Academic Skills organized by the Humanities Faculty, the Graduate School Humanities, and four research institutes: ZENO, Integon, OGC, UiL OTS) to learn how to be a professional young scholars. TASK programme consists of courses like Academic Professionalism, Academic English, Teaching, Stress Prevention, Managing Work Relations, etc. They are all designed to solve or avoid problems we may encounter during PhD. It is worthy for the Chinese PhD programme to learn such experiences and then to train its own young scholars with more comprehensive qualities.
In sum, I enjoyed my time in Utrecht and would like to recommend UU to other Chinese students.