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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Zhongwen Zhang

Zhongwen Zhang
Zhongwen Zhang
China (Mainland)
MSc in African Studies
Doing Now
Secretary, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Beijing

Why did you decide on the M.Sc. in African Studies at CAS?

I had many reasons. First of all, I was influenced by the global reputation of the University of Edinburgh. To be honest, among the universities that issued offers to me, the University of Edinburgh holds the highest ranking. Secondly, family business had a strong influence on my decision as to what I should study. We do not have a single market in the huge continent of Africa. I firmly believe that China-Africa business is becoming prosperous. Thus, before exploring relatively undeveloped African markets, I realised that I ought to gain professional knowledge in advance. The M.Sc. in African Studies at CAS, in turn, has provided me with knowledge concerning the current politics and economy in Africa. Thirdly, I hope to live a meaningful life, to understand the world and to help others. Africa is the place, I think, where I can best do this.

What did you gain through this year study?

I gained very much. Besides academic and critical thinking, I realised how ignorant I was about Africa. I am used to thinking of the continent and its people only as poor and hopeless. However, after my study and a month of fieldwork in Zambia, I found vitality, civilization and prosperity. Africa is definitely vibrant. Also, I was impressed by Sino-African cooperation that covers so many fields. It is this in particular that I did not know before. In addition, as a Chinese in a foreign university, I strongly feel that patience and a willing attitude are the key ways to reduce misunderstanding between people of different cultures. It is easy to accustom ourselves to our familiar rules and surroundings. If we are unwilling to get out of our comfortable circles, it is disingenuous to claim to respect different voices. Only with the joint efforts of teachers and students can we gain mutual understanding and respect between people of different cultures.

After one-year study and life in Edinburgh, did you feel any change on yourself?

Yes. I become more confident and braver - and much keener on travel! Whenever I feel I need to speak out, I will do that rather than keeping silent as before. I more confidently face challenges and still believe that - despite feeling embarrassed sometimes - I can gain from being bold. I now feel that whenever I want to do something, I should make every effort to realise it instead of worrying if I should go ahead. I now believe that these things I have learnt are just as valuable as the Masters degree certificate!

How did you get to your current position since graduating?

Thanks to my degree, I managed to get a position as an intern in the United Nations. After the internship, I applied for my current position. I don't think that I would have reached this far without my MSc. in African Studies degree.