My name is Flora and I recently earned my Masters degree in journalism from the University of Sheffield in the UK. My time overseas was very informative and has played an integral part in shaping my perspective today. After graduating and returning to China, I explored many different career options. While I had the choice to take a more traditional path, I ultimately made the decision to join the SVG team because of the unique time I spent abroad.
Before going overseas to study, I had never really been exposed to western culture and so I was very interested in the differences between Chinese and the western culture I observed. One of the most striking aspects about student life in the UK was the balanced lifestyle. In China, it is very common for students to spend most, if not all, of their time studying. My university in Britain had over 300 sports clubs, societies and communities groups run for students and by students. Also, there were countries from all over the world represented in the study body. I believe that due to the diversity, there was a strong sense of mutual respect on campus that I had never witnessed or experienced before.
During my time abroad, I was also struck by the common courteous between strangers. As I saw individuals treating strangers fairly and equally, I began to make a larger effort to do the same in my life. My Chinese friends often spoke of receiving help from people they just met when they were lost. As a result, I decided to spend my spare time volunteering through a city volunteer association. I learned that many people have a passion to help disadvantaged individuals or people who are often discriminated against such as the physically disabled to asylum seekers. While volunteering with the China Next Foundation, an organization made up of Chinese National volunteers in the UK, I witnessed 50,000 people from across the country come together in Manchester. They were bonded together by their vision for a healthcare system that can help more people.
Working at SVG has allowed me to help grow this newfound perspective and passion for civil society and to think more openly and creatively. Since the nonprofit sector in China is still emerging and many of the organizations we work have limited resources, the work is much like in a start-up environment. Having to think more nontraditionally is very exciting and I enjoy the very open and collaborative work environment here. Hearing about the work these grassroots organizations and SVG do inspires me to dig deeper and work harder. I believe this change in perspective is bringing change to my friends and family around me. They are now more aware of the types of NPOs and charity work with which they can be involved and how growth in China’s nonprofit sector can ultimately improve their lives.
I have met many people who have tirelessly been working to improve China’s social sector. I know there will be times where the work will seem hopeless but as I have already seen change in the short amount of time I have been working with SVG, I am excited for the change we will ultimately see.
Contributed by Flora Zhu