Tutor Q&A: From New Zealand to London School of Economics (LSE)

In 2015, young Kiwi Christine Deng, applied to five high-caliber British universities, University College London, King’s College London, University Manchester, University of Edinburgh and London School of Economics, and was accepted into all of them.

Currently, she’s studying International Relations at London School of Economics (LSE), dancing in hip-hop and contemporary groups on campus and acting as President of the LSE United Nations Society.

Recently, we spoke to Christine about her experience with Crimson, lessons she’s learned along the way, who inspires her, and any words of advice she may have for people looking to study abroad.

How did you find the application process to study at international universities?

In the UK, universities thoroughly assess your academic results, so you need to know the exact minimum requirements. Your results are really important - be it your A levels, IB or NCEA … once you get over that stage, then it is your personal statement that needs to really stand out.

Your personal statement needs to answer ‘why do I want to study this in particular, what evoked my interest in this and why I’ll be an excellent candidate for this institution … This is very different from the US where universities want to know what kind of person you are - not that the UK doesn't want to know that, but it’s really suitable for people who already know what they want to do. They also look at your extracurricular record, which is something I’d never considered. It’s much more complicated than the application process in New Zealand.

What gave you the idea to study overseas?

I had this idea of leaving New Zealand; I really wanted to go to a university abroad. For my dad that was the case as well. Coming from China he wanted me to go out and see the world, so that inspired me.

I had a dream to make it into an elite university in the US and the UK - that’s the place I wanted to go. The American dream was one I was really chasing. Thanks to Crimson, I was able to achieve goals of reaching a top-tier university … I had a leadership package, so I received Crimson’s help with extra-curricular activities. With Crimson, I organised a volunteering trip to aid teachers in Fiji and assist in developing sustainable teaching methods over there.

However, it wasn’t just the community and leadership qualities I received help with, it was the entire application process. For instance, the funding - I had no idea where to get that from and Crimson talked me through all my options … the leadership package was really helpful.

What advice do you have for young students who wish to study abroad?

If I have any advice for other New Zealand students it’s to think big, think long term. ‘Where do I want to be in my 20s? What will I be doing and who will I be around?’ Most importantly, once you have a goal, get started. Don’t think about the results too much. As long as you have a desire to achieve your goal, you will always do what you need to do to get there.

Do you have any role models?

Jamie Beaton [the CEO and co-founder of Crimson] is definitely one of my role models. I think he might be a role model for a lot of New Zealand students. He’s only 21 and he just graduated from Harvard at a record pace. Moreover, the idea to start a company at that age takes a lot of innovation, drive and courage. It’s not talent that matters, it’s the hard work and the energy you choose to put in … It’s the diligence, ambition, and courage.

While Jamie is constantly inspiring my drive to achieve academic success, my dad has definitely been my biggest role model throughout my entire life. He’s very hard working and very diligent. He used to tell me: ‘There’s no such thing as talent, there’s only hard work and diligence’ - that’s given me that fuel to keep going and made me the person I am today.

Is there someone you like to read about or watch?

I admire Barack Obama, he’s very charismatic and knows how to capture his audience. His emphasis on reaching out to young people aligns with that of my own.

You’re also passionate about youth issues. Can you tell us a bit about that?

For a while I worked with an organisation called Debate Mate, where I'd support underprivileged schools - I'd go in every week and teach students debating … the most important thing to do is to try and elicit that passion around debating. We really want to help these students leave their circle and be given opportunities … it was such a great job! I also participate in Model UN discussions … It’s a simulation of the actual UN discussions and conferences … it’s about being aware of the world. Being aware of policies and understanding the relations between countries … their history, their culture, their religion … understanding world affairs and what the best way to go about solving problems is … whether it’s about sanctions or diplomacy – I think it’s very relevant for the world we live in now.

What do you do for fun?

I like dancing, it’s a big part of my life … I did ballet for 10 years; however, I wasn’t going down the vocational route so I stopped that. After coming to LSE, I decided to take up that passion again, so I’m now in a dance club … we performed and filled the entire Epoch theatre, which is quite an achievement. It started off with ballet, which my parents encouraged me to take part in, but now I'm doing more hip-hop and contemporary genres because I decided to explore more avenues. I also have some little personal goals that I am perpetually working on.

I want to improve my Chinese. It’s my own heritage and I want to expand my knowledge of their history and its language. I’m always reading about Chinese news and about Chinese history. I also want to work on my blog and creative writing for both English and Chinese. Our U.N society at the LSE actually needs a blog, so I’m looking forward to working on that. I’m so lucky to have that platform so I can start working on my skills and publishing on there.

Obviously, you have quite a lot on at the moment. How do you find a balance in your day-to-day life?

My advice for really balancing your time is to always take a moment to step back and assess what you’re doing. As a first priority focus on your coursework because that’s what I’ve come to the U.K for … for a while I also worked with Debate Mate, which was a great initiative however difficult to continue with, given all of the study I had … also, I once saw an inspirational speech from a professor at an American university who only had a few months to live. He said to take those risks when you know you have a long life ahead but always keep family and friends close- they are the ones that will stick by you even if you fall.

How will you know when you are successful?

I think you can define success as how you see yourself and how others see you. Success, for me, will be reassessed during different age gaps in my life. While I’m under 30-years-old I will be taking a lot of risks, falling down, taking lots of rejections, so I can allow myself to grow.

Between 30-40-years-old, I think it will be a lot more about balance between work life and personal life. I think it’s important to find balance in that period and if I can, I’ll keep advancing my career.

From 40 - 50-years-old success will come from the experiences I’ve gained; How I have impacted on the world and how my friends, colleagues, view me. By this stage of my life, I would like to have recognition in my field.

Where do you see yourself 7 years from now?

What I’m hoping is that I will secure a job that I really want. Right now, I'm working on my internships - spring intern, summer intern then graduate placement. After I graduate I’m hoping to work in a field I like for about 3 - 5 years … after that I want to continue my education and complete a masters. I’ve always wanted to go to the U.S.A so I hope to pursue further education in America - that’s the dream.

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