I’m quite an optimistic person, and I think I’ve picked a lot of that up from Essex. But my motivation also comes from good people who make a difference; people who contribute something and ask for nothing back. Barack Obama, for example, is a great role model of mine. He managed to be the first black president of America, and do it without any scandals.
I’ve tried to make a difference in my own way too, like when I was teaching in China I published multiple textbooks to give to my students, which was something I wanted to do for them. Six of them got accepted into UK universities and they took my textbook with them – it felt like such a great accomplishment.
I chose to do a gap year in China because it’s such an interesting country. Every single day was an adventure. It’s a fascinating place and I made a lot of friends. I’ve learnt a huge amount from the Chinese community at Essex too. It’s nice to be part of a diverse university.
I’m also proud of overcoming barriers that have been put in my way. I suffered four brain haemorrhages in the last three years and yet I’m still here walking and talking and I can tie my shoelaces with one hand! But you know what, if everything in life was easy it wouldn’t be fun or worthwhile. Sometimes I look at the amount of work I’m going to have to do when I start my PhD and I feel overwhelmed. However if it was something you could just get off the back of a cornflakes packet, everyone would do it and it wouldn’t actually have any value. The hard work you put in definitely allows you to reap the rewards in the end.