Cotton Wang Enjoys the Challenge that Uncertainty Brings

Huimian (Cotton) Wang is a 24 year old Masters of Marketing Communications student from Hainan, China. She completed her undergraduate degree of Culture & Communication from the University of International Relations in Beijing, China.

" I am not travelling a thousand-miles away from home to Australia for another holiday. I am here for something bigger."

Q: You come from a small island in China, tell us about growing up there. what makes it special to you? 

A: Firstly, in the sense of demographic, I am a Chinese minority ethnicity known as the "Li" nationality which are the indigenous residents who inhabit the Hainan island and account for only 0.1% of the total population in China.

Growing up in a small tropical island also makes me feel a bit special culturally, especially when I moved to big a city like Beijing. Hainan is very chill, slow-paced and with lovely local people and food. It used to be a simple fishing and farming province until 2010 when our government started branding it as the "International Tourism Island ". For me, I feel like it just suddenly shifted into one of the most popular holiday destinations with luxury holiday resorts, hotels and Golf courses... I've gotten lost every time when I've been back home during the school holidays. It's still developing so rapidly. I'd recommend you to visit there if you are interested in places like Hawaii or Maldives, and it is now visa-free for 59 countries including Australia.  

Although my hometown is now looking totally different, my "chill-islander" personality has shaped, I'm easy-going, laidback, and like joking about everything and good at coping under pressure..maybe that's why I chose Australia for my post-graduate study destination? However, different from most of the "islanders" like my family, I'm more "ambitious" and am not ready to settle down, always trying to challenge myself. For me, the further from home the better I feel——I have been away from home since I was 12, and I barely feel homesick because I am already so used to it. But I do feel "foodsick" from time to time when I think of those tropical sugary fruits and high-quality seafood.

Q: How did the opportunity to intern with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation come about, what has that experience taught you and how has that shaped your career ambitions?

A: The internship was advertised on the unimelb internship newsletter, and as soon as I saw it in the email, I started preparing my CVs, cover letter and interviews (yes when I didn't even know if I could be shortlisted to the interview step), but I just knew that I had to try my best to get it. Because I had started looking for internships and graduate jobs at that time, and I knew how difficult it would be for an international marketing student to find a satisfying job opportunity here in Melbourne, as it just has too much talent from all over the world. 

After the 3-month internship, I think I will need at least a 10,000-word internship journal to reflect how much I have learned. This organisation is amazing, all the co-workers there are so decent, intelligent yet respectful, and friendly. It's a very diverse workplace for sure, so I got to meet professionals from all different background, and it's fantastic to just listen to their stories regardless of if it is work-related.

This experience has given me more confidence to build up my career ambitions——I used to think that it might take me a few years to achieve the career goal of entering a big Australian company, but the fact that I've just become a formal employee of the ABC after the internship is so inspiring. It has also taught me how much the Australian society values international people as it's a very multicultural nation, and how much we could contribute as an international people to help with the local communities in terms of the cultural engagement and many other things. As a 24-year-old international student, I always tell myself to just be ambitious, cause it's the right thing to do for me at my 20s. I am not travelling a thousand-miles away from home to Australia for another holiday. I am here for something bigger. If one day I have to go back to China, I want to go back with a competitive skillset which I've acquired while living overseas. 


Q: As a Chinese student you mentioned you wanted to break out of your comfort zone, what advice would you give to students who want to do the same but maybe don't know how to...

A: Watch the ABC! I know it sounds like I'm marketing it, but it did help me to better understand Australia in both a linguistic and cultural aspect. For international students including me, sometimes speaking English doesn't necessarily mean you can engage in your local friends' conversations, and I always know this. I moved out of my first apartment with Chinese flatmates (I still love them for sure!) and I found my current house with my funny Aussie housemate, he introduced ABC to me, and we watched it together quite often and he is always so keen to explain all the in-jokes to me.

I overcame my shyness and actively teamed up with non-Chinese students to do group assignments. When I was really bored I would go to the local markets to talk with the local artists——Australian people are so chatty! They won't charge you anything for a fun chat that could improve your English or cultural understanding. The key is to conquer the shy-attitude which as I know is something rooted in many oriental cultures. But I always remember that I am in Australia now and I'm encouraged to fit in with the culture here. Don't be afraid of making grammar mistakes, just chat and learn! 

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Q: Now that you're about to complete your masters degree, how would you compare education in Australia and China?

A: According to my personal experience, Australian education requires more self-learning abilities, group collaborative skills and critical thinking skills. You are allowed to question anything from both the textbooks and the lecturers, which I didn't dare to do during my Bachelor's degree. Another difference are the experiences you have in your student life. I spent 4 years living in a student dormitory, sharing a room with 3 other people, and spent all of my time with my college friends. They were my stones and our connections were so strong. But here in Australia, we live in our own apartments or houses, and that makes me more independent.

Q: What has living in Melbourne taught you about yourself? How has it challenged you?

A: There are too many temptations in this city, cause there are always fun things to do. I've learned how to focus on my goals even though sometimes it's difficult to resist not getting distracted. Another important thing that I've learnt is getting along with different people, trying to understand their thoughts from their perspective. Sometimes when I looked at things differently with my non-Chinese friends, I told myself that there's no right or wrong, it is just culture. And we can learn a lot from those different opinions towards the same things, and it's intriguing for me. 

Q: What does your family expect from you? What do you expect from yourself?

A: My dad is very open-minded and he wants me to go as far as I can, my mum is more like a traditional Asian mum who wants me to go back home and stay with her (but I think she has realised that it is not gonna happen in the next 10 years at least). But they both expect me to be happy and have enough freedom and confidence to choose the life I like. Mum used to expect me to be a Chinese civil servant which was a bit hilarious for me...I completely respect this type of stable lifestyle cause it's really just a personal choice, but I know it's not gonna be my choice for this life. I am expecting more challenges that might sound like a mission impossible for the current version of me. I really enjoy uncertainties that make me want to continue improving myself and getting ready for the next challenge. 

Q: What is your favourite class you've taken at MBS and why?

A: All the MBS classes have been useful for me, and one thing I really appreciate is that unimelb allows us to enrol in classes that are outside of our program. My favourite class was an overseas subject that took place in Florence, Italy last year. It was called "Culture, Business and Leadership in Florence" which was held by the EMA (Executive Master of Arts) program. We spent a week in Florence, one of the greatest cities, with great friends. We were immersed in the authentic European winter with good wine, food, Christmas markets, local friends, and of course knowledge that come from the tours instead of the classrooms. We visited traditional Italian cultural business from espresso machines, luxury handbags, fashion shopping websites to museums, Palaces...and we had the chance to talk with those business owners and listen to their stories...It was amazing. I met some of my best uni friends from that subject. It still felt like a dream to me. I want to say thank you to unimelb again because I was awarded a scholarship to that overseas subject. I didn't spend it all on wine and gelato! 

Q: Looking into the future, where do you see yourself in a few years?

A: I will probably be working as a cross-cultural marketing or communication specialist in an organisation that brings cultural engagement to the communities. I want to live in a large house but still close to everything, so I can have a nice brunch with my friends during the weekend. Or maybe I will be doing a PhD here, or have already moved to another country? Anything but settling down. 

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