Global Academics: Working & Living in China
What is it like to be a Global Academic? Watch our video with Dr Mark Crowley to find out what it is like to work and live in China.Transcript
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About this video
Dr Mark Crowley is an Associate Professor of History and holds the distinguished Hubei Provincial ‘Chu Tian’ Research fellowship for the period 2014-2018 at the School of History, Wuhan University, China.
He obtained his BScEcon Hons in Politics and Modern History at Cardiff University, an MSt in Modern History at Oxford University and his PhD from the University of London’s Institute of Historical Research, where he held an Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Award with the British Postal Museum and Archive.
He has worked in China since March 2010 and at Wuhan University since March 2011.
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My name is Mark Crowley. I am an associate professor at Wuhan University in Central China. It was one of those things that I had never actually been to Asia, so I had done quite a bit of travelling over North America and I had been down to South America and gone over to Australasia, but I had never been to Asia. So it was one of those things out of curiosity, and as a historian myself I had never studied Chinese history. But the wealth of history that is in China, including things like the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square
and the Forbidden City, it really did appeal to me. So I wanted to experience a little bit of the Asian culture that I had never been exposed to before. One of the things that I have found is that the Chinese were incredibly hospitable. Everywhere you went there was food provided. Food is a big part of the Chinese culture, and where I live is in the centre, so what we get is that the summer is extremely hot and Wuhan people will not
admit really that it is that hot. For me, as a British person, if you are living there in the summer and the summer can get up to 40 degrees or above, which is very hot and the sun is very strong. What I did find, to be honest, was that it seems to be that the hot weather lasts for significantly longer than the cold weather. So it will start getting hot towards the middle of April and it doesn’t actually get
cold, or cooler, until November. The reason I decided to go to Wuhan, rather than a bigger city like Beijing or Shanghai, was because I was desperate when I went to China to physically put myself in a real, complete, Chinese environment. Because if you go to somewhere like Beijing or Shanghai, it is much more westernised and you could get by in these cities by completely speaking English and being surrounded by fellow ex-pats. I didn’t want that.
I wanted to really go for the full Chinese experience when I went.
Most of the universities in China are campus universities. Wuhan is a campus university, but the thing that struck me the most about the university itself is that the vastness and the absolute size of it. I remember once thinking there are so many students here, and I made enquiries and I asked how many students actually live on campus and are registered here? And I was told that there were 50,000. On a daily basis, if
I’ve got to do some administration or speak to university staff, I can do that on a basic level in Chinese. But still, the vast majority of collaboration I do in terms of research is in English. It is an incredibly difficult language to learn. You have no baseline to begin with, it is completely new. So, for example, now I can hold relatively well a basic conversation in Chinese, but if you asked me to write it I can’t write it.
But, from my perspective, and from the perspective of my university, if anyone wants to go out there to work and to work as a professor or as an associate professor or lecturer in China, the universities in China don’t care deeply about whether you can speak or write in Chinese. They are more interested in what can you produce in English? Because the system in China, if you produce an article or a book in English it is actually of higher value than it is if you produce something in Chinese. Because an
English language publication is deemed to be international in terms of research impact and research power. You produce something in English and it gives the university and yourself more research impact and power, which is what they are after. To become major international players in the future.
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