The Warmest Encounter
To any high-school student who is a lover of English, Liz Wan, a senior student from the Department of English of CUHK, would say this: ‘if you are passionate about English literature, linguistics, and would like to be intellectually trained and emotionally supported, then our big warm family would be a good choice for you.’
As an ardent lover of English language and literature, Liz listed the Department of English as her first choice when she was deciding on her major four years ago. Founded since the establishment of CUHK, the Programme emphasizes the importance of the nurturing of critical thinkers and effective communicators in English by providing comprehensive training in speaking, reading and writing to students.
The Department of English is divided into two streams: Applied English Linguistics and English literary studies. What made the Programme particularly attractive to Liz was the great balance between the streams, which was not commonly seen in other universities. In addition, there was a sequence of well-designed courses on communication skills to help students unleash their potential in both streams.
Before studying in CUHK, Liz assumed that the focus of the literature courses would primarily be on unveiling the hidden meanings behind the texts. To her great surprise, the Programme had assisted her in grasping a considerable amount of complex ideas, on top of the intricate relationships between literature and politics, literature and philosophy, etc. The wide range of courses offered by the Department also gave her many pangs of enlightenment and ignited many intellectual fireworks in her mind.
Among all the courses taken, the Oxford Summer Programme gave Liz the most unforgettable and life-changing experience during her bachelor’s study. She recalled, ‘We learnt about literature and international affairs from the knowledgeable graduates of that University. The tutors challenged us to put what we had previously learnt into practice, and inspired us to think more broadly and deeply.’ In addition to becoming more independent, Liz also learnt many indispensable life skills and broadened her horizon that summer.
Other than the immersion programme at Oxford, the Department of English also offers a two-week cultural tour to the UK. Most of the students in the Department will spend at least one term of studying abroad. If students do not take the overseas option, they can still explore their interests in different aspects via minoring in other fields. Popular minor programmes for students in the English Department include Japanese, Journalism, Law, Modern Languages, Translation, etc.
Another valuable experience to Liz was completing the Independent Research Project (also known as Capstone Project) in her final year. Students could freely choose an area to work on, and they were then coached one-on-one by a professor with relevant expertise in the chosen area. To Liz, this experience was priceless not only because it was her first taste of doing formal research but also because it affirmed her decision to pursue further studies. The skills that she acquired and the training that she had for articulating and defending the ideas during the Capstone presentation could be applied in her future studies and daily circumstances.
In Liz’s opinion, one of the factors that make the Department of English so special was the democracy and flexibility offered. She explained that not all of the courses listed were offered every semester, but the Department would conduct a survey to consult opinions from students and would make efforts in arranging the best course combination for students every semester.
Prof. Jette Hansen Edwards, the Chair of the Department of English, added that the sense of belonging is also crucial for the Department to act as a cozy family for students. There are 60 new students in the cohort each year. To assist them in adapting to and thriving in the Programme, some student-led societies would organize various departmental-level activities. According to Liz, newcomers would be inspired and supported by the professors and tutors, whom Liz described as ‘helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.’ Students could also meet some like-minded friends by participating in different kinds of activities held by English Society and its subordinate committees. ‘I have built some of the best relationships in my life with numerous people here. I am acquainted with almost everyone in my cohort and many from other cohorts, and have become closer with a bunch of them. I have learnt a lot from my friends and have been inspired by them, too,’ Liz commented.
While most of the people think that becoming teachers after graduation is a norm for English graduates, Professor Hansen Edwards pointed out that it is not the only option for their graduates. The undergraduate courses provide training to students in understanding nuances of different forms of communication. They have therefore been cultivated to be capable of navigating the social and professional worlds fluently. In fact, many of the alumni have devoted themselves to different positions in various sectors, including public relations, management, government and public services, etc.
Instead of entering into the workforce immediately, Liz will continue her academic pursuit by studying an MPhil in the English Literary Studies stream in the coming year. When concluding her remarkable journey in the past four years, Liz expressed her gratitude to the Department, ‘I am extremely thankful to the Department for their immense support and guidance throughout the process. Of course, I would be lying if I said that my past four years were easy and care-free, but what I am certain is that they have been the best four years of my life, and all the tears and sweats I shed were well worth it.’
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018