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Pursuit of sustainable city in China drives academic excellence

Mar 12, 2019 Graduate Stories

Tian Yiqun has taken enormous steps on entering SUSTech. With a clear desire to improve the environmental pollution of her hometown in northern China, she set her sights on her goal and never looked back. With a supportive tutor as a successful guide, Tian Yiqun has found herself with an offer to complete a master’s degree in environmental engineering at Stanford. From her semester exchange at one of the most prestigious universities in Australia, the University of Sydney, Tian Yiqun went through the ups and down of her SUSTech journey.

Tian Yiqun freely admitted that her first semester at SUSTech was difficult to adjust, given that it was an all-English environment. Coming from Baoding in Hebei Province, this was something that she was not used to, and she struggled compared to her classmates. It was the support of her tutor, Chair Professor Zheng Chunmiao of the School of Environmental Science and Engineering, who encouraged her to move on from the past, giving her the inspiration to keep going.

An adjustment in her study patterns and time management saw Tian Yiqun make significant improvements compared to the previous semester, and ultimately improve throughout her degree. With every improving grade, she found soaring confidence in her ability.

“Although my total score is not the highest, I can feel that Stanford University has seen my potential in my gradual progress. I believe that I can make it, just as Zheng told me.” Tian Yiqun is the first SUSTech student to be accepted into Stanford.

Her motivation was not merely academic, but personal. Her hometown of Baoding historically has the worst air quality in China, and some of the worst air in the world. She has wanted to improve the environment of her hometown since she was a child.

This is what drove her to the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at SUSTech. The relationship she formed with her tutor Zheng Chunmiao has clearly been critical, as he supported her through both the best and most challenging times of her university life thus far.

Tian Yiqun spoke about going on field trips with her classmates and Professor Zheng Chunmiao to meteorological stations and sewage treatment plants. These excursions would pique their interests in specific environmental science issues. Tian also spent time on two different research projects, which inspired her to focus on hydrology and water resources engineering.

She is convinced that the support she received from faculty members and her classmates was essentially, as they were very patient and passionate, particularly in her hydrology class.

While Tian Yiqun was dedicated to her studies, she was not afraid to get involved in extracurricular activities as well. She was a renowned singer of the Italian bel canto style, and was active in both the dubbing and dance scenes on campus. Tian Yiqun learned how to host events, where she had to vastly improve her oral communication skills.

She laughed, “I often encountered some unexpected emergency when I was hosting. It was easy to deal with that problem and just shrug it off. Hosting events is challenging but rewarding..”

She also volunteered at many important conferences, such as the ESP International Ecology Conference. “At the meeting, I listened to many reports given by well-known scholars, and got to ask some questions..”

She was frank about the challenge of balancing her academic studies and her hobbies. “I wasn’t always good at it, but I was always motivated to do what I love. Even when I was exhausted, I was happy to finish what I had started.”

We asked if she had any future plans for studying abroad in the future. She replied: "I have no plans to settle abroad. I wanted to study abroad to learn more, to broaden my horizons and to step out of the comfort zone.” At this point, Tian Yiqun plans to return to SUSTech after she graduates from SUSTech to conduct scientific research.

Text: Liu Hui, Dong Zipei, Mo Xiaohan

Translated and adapted: Pan Anting, Liu Jiaqi

Proofread: Chris Edwards, Xia Yingying

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