Visiting 7 Kings

7 kings cropped

Dear reader, I hope you’ve been keeping well. You may have noticed that the flow of posts has been slow on my blog this year. As I’m not one for excuses I will just say that I’ve been wrapped up in some personal things and therefore have not been as efficient in managing my dedication to this site. I cannot guarantee that I will be back to frequent uploads immediately, but I do hope to share more content with you soon. The post I hinted at previously is on the top of my list but I’ve been hesitant to get deep into composing it as I hold the topic in high regard, 不过 I’ll follow my own advice and take it in small steps~

I don’t think I am aware of so many as 7 Kings being in existence, are you? I finished my year abroad at Peking University (Beijing, China) in June, and recently I came back to England after some short travels. Two weeks ago I was invited by a former Mandarin teacher of mine to visit him at the school he now teaches in, Seven Kings. He invited me to meet some of his current students and told me that I could possibly inspire them by my own academic achievements.

My visit was timed to coincide with a trip by a class of Beijing high school students who came to England to experience British schooling. This had me fortunate enough to experience the day from a few more cultural perspectives. For instance in one class where students were prompted to guess my age most of the British students assumed I was either 15 or maybe even 17, whilst the Chinese students thought I was 23 or 25. I revealed that I’m actually 20 years young, and told my teacher I was once almost denied entry to a 15 rated film because the usher thought I was 12 (until we showed her photos from my at the time ‘recent’ 18th birthday celebrations😅😑).

I experienced a lot in a short day~ I first met my teacher’s colleague and sat in on a meeting with the visiting Chinese teachers. After a brief tour through sections of the school we met some of the students taking a “D&T” class (Design and Technology), and I must say the display of some of the students’ creations were most impressive. I then joined a few of my teacher’s lessons (more on that soon), and afterwards was brought to have lunch in the staff room. Who knew that teachers have their own hot food served to them by a singular lunch lady!? It was a strange privilege to have found out through experience haha!

Whilst having lunch a member of staff who had been eager to talk to me when she saw me during the morning tour approached me. In the morning she thought I was the Translator for the Chinese group and couldn’t think of an excuse to chat. I was humbled by her eagerness to meet me and by the things we spoke about. As a fellow Muslim wearing a headscarf she told me she was proud that I could speak Chinese and that I attend Oxford. I told her a bit about the year in Beijing that I had just completed, and how my experience seemed quite different to those around me as it was to an extent seen through the veil of my headscarf. Just as I told her, this is something I hope to share with you at greater length in due time. Whilst I was humbled to see how our conversation made her so happy, it also felt a bit strange. Perhaps I felt undeserved of the extent to which I was complimented throughout the day; however I discovered that whilst my achievements may not be so special in my own eyes, at the very least they have certainly inspired a lot of people, including those whom I don’t know personally. After introducing myself to one of the classes I met, a teacher explained to me that the students were especially excited that a ‘brown person could speak Chinese’. So what I’ve come to realize is that whilst it might not mean much to myself, some of my accomplishments have motivated people who don’t necessarily have ‘blonde hair and blue eyes’ to dream outside their comfort zone. I can’t see anything wrong with that. In fact I just recalled that on our way back home from the airport our taxi driver happened to be talking about me at one point, not realizing I was sitting at the back seat of his car. I won’t go in to what he said, but what I learnt from that strange experience was that our stories reach people without us realizing, and we can inspire people without intending to. This isn’t just about me, you should know that there are people out there who recognize the things that you have done and probably look up to you in ways that might even seem small. Just keep trying to try your best and let the rest happen naturally~

After lunch I headed back to my teacher’s class to assist with a few more lessons. The lessons I came to were mostly Mandarin, with the exception of one French class. The students were from Year 8 to 10, roughly aged 12-15, and each year group came with a different vibe 😛 I forgot what it was like to be taking my GCSEs (end of High School qualification in the UK) so whilst joining the Mandarin classes, it was quite refreshing to revisit vocabulary and sentence structures from when I first started to learn Chinese.

All the lessons I assisted in involved introducing myself to the class, opening the floor to questions, and helping the students with their work. For Mandarin, the students were revising the exam topic of ‘jobs’ before commencing their summer holidays. In one class as part of a class exercise, the Chinese visiting students asked the British student they were sitting with about their ideal jobs. My teacher also got a student to test me from across the classroom. They asked “你想做商人吗?”/ “Do you want to be a business person?”. I said no. “In my opinion earning lots of money is not what’s most important; I would like to take opportunities that will make me the happiest”. I’m sure I’ve said this before and of course this opinion will differ from person to person, but I myself am on the pursuit of happiness.

The day was filled with memorable moments, like the year 8 class’ reaction to my self introduction 😂, and also some of the questions I was asked by students. Something that stood out was a girl asking me “Can someone who’s stupid but works really hard get into a posh University?”. It’s sad because she clearly wasn’t ‘asking for a friend’, and I’m sure I asked myself something similar in the past. I told the class that no one is ‘stupid’, and no matter where you’re from or where you are all that counts is hard work. To another student who had ample compliments for my so called intellect I said; “we’re both students, we just have different textbooks”. It’s true isn’t it?

I don’t think there’s an exact ‘moral’ to this whole story, I would just like to remind you that you are only limited by your mindset. Oxford is one of the best academic institutions in the world, of course its amazing, but at the same time it’s just a name. Many things are just names with ideas attached to them by different people with mindsets shaped by their experiences of the world. I hope you can follow what I’m saying. The area you’re from, a stereotype that may be attached to you, you’re dream destination; when you get down to it they’re all just names. All that is important is working hard, and the extent to which you can achieve this is based on the mindset you choose to adopt. It’s not always easy, but that’s why I’ll repeat what I said earlier. You just need to sincerely try to try your best, for yourself; and leave the rest to fate. 💜

If you become an assistant teacher for a day, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Xinyan.

The picture I included at the start is from one of the group photos taken with one of the classes of British and Chinese students. I chose to edit the photo, as it felt more sensible to cover people’s faces for Internet safety, rather than share a photo of a group of children without their individual consent. I’m sure you can understand this~



Heya 🙂 It’s been a while since my last post and of course a lot has happened since then so I decided to put out a little update. I haven’t really planned anything for this, but I just wanted to talk to you without the pressure, you know?~

I did forewarn that my blog would undergo a lack of scheduling from the beginning of my year abroad in Beijing onwards, but I’ve had some topics in mind that I wanted to write about and just never did. The reasons are that I’ve been a bit ill, very busy; and kinda stopped wanting to post for a while. The last reason is probably linked to the first, but it’s nothing to worry about~ I noticed that there have been more new followers to my blog over the last few months, welcome and 谢谢!^^ I also thought you guys, and those who read my blog as a whole deserves reassuring that my page is still active~

A few more things to add. Theres a post that I gradually compiled notes for during my first term in Beijing and should have been up at least a month ago, but hopefully sooner rather than later 😁 The theme is something to do with identity and I have a feeling that you’ll like it, so please look forward to that~ Recently I have been reflecting more actively about taking a subsidiary language during the next academic year of my course (Chinese Studies) and I am deciding between Japanese and Korean. If you have any opinions or advice on this decision than please do share! 🇯🇵🇰🇷 If I can convince myself to translate my thoughts into words, you could expect a post on that too once I return to Beijing for my second term. Fyi: I’m on ‘Spring break’ at the moment and have returned to England, but due to return soon! 🇬🇧🇨🇳

I have lot’s of stories from what’s happened so far this year, but we can save them for another time😋Let me know how you’ve been and if you want me to research anything specific whilst I’m in China etc!

If you have a lot to do, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Xinyan.

八月三十一号 - 31st August



这是我第一次独自旅游,只有一些同学跟我一起 (坐在一样的飞机). 我觉得今年的经历当然会给我们更多的独立,已经快要过两个星期而且我觉得自己长大了很多。比如最近我们给了房东付钱。。。那么多钱啊都在我手里 x_x都给她了,看起来省钱没有办法 T.T 但是我总是说‘杯子是半满’是吧?~所以办法就是星期一去北大登录以后我打算去银行开户头,希望将来能减少上个星期的困难一下(其实我们经历了很多嘿嘿)。

在这个阶段我认为同学之间的支持和鼓励很重要。我很幸福得可以告诉你我们都安全。而且我想,除了一些压力以外我们都开心。我自己也很激动因为我特别喜欢说汉语所以住在北京已经给了我很多机会提高我的口语~ 并且很多人(我同学和不认识的中国人)告诉过我的汉语很棒原来如此我也很开心😊

我最近的帖子包括比较一样的内容可是我想翻译成中文(但是我就开始了从写着中文哈哈)。分享什么故事?噢,几天以前一位女人给了我工作。我在衣服商店站着跟服务员问问题当时这位女人就来给我回答。然后她跟我一直在聊天,觉得我的汉语听见北京人一样 o.o 简单的说她对我很有兴趣^^结果她想我给她女孩儿教学英语(帮助她考试的准备)。第二天我们就见面了在她的办公室!她在清华大学做工作,太牛了!不过因为我被北大录取所以我觉得北大是第一名!我和她女孩儿的个性有很多一样的特色但是我不知道我们的计划。我对这份工作没有那么好的感觉,一方面我能继续这份工作练习我的教学能力另一方面如果我退职这份工作我相信将来能接受另一个更合适的机会。





Beijing beginnings


It’s been just over two weeks since I’ve come to Beijing and I can’t believe we’ve managed to 办so many事’s. Unfortunately the domain of my blog seems to be one of the many sites blocked in China (shout-out to the people who I see reading my posts from within China…I see you👀), which is why this post is coming to you later than I had planned. I’ll leave it at that for now but this does tie in well with my previous post~

Whilst I’ve travelled a lot in the past (within the UK and to other countries) there’s usually been at least one ‘adult’ figure travelling with me, so this was my first time taking a flight on my own. But China is only around the corner, right?

Our course can seem a bit strange for many reasons. It’s very independent in that you have to book a plane ticket and organise your own accommodation etc. Whilst it may seem like this is because it’s an Oxford course, this seems to be unique to Chinese Studies o-o 好奇怪 For the first few nights a few of us stayed at a hostel we booked in England prior to arriving. It wasn’t amazing, but it also wasn’t bad. For one night there was a complication with my booking and due to that I can now at least say that I’ve experienced what living in a Chinese dorm would be like. I’ll leave it open to your imagination😉

Every year a handbook of ‘Studying at Beida’ is given to students at the end of first year before embarking on their Year Abroad. The year above has the task of editing the handbook with details that may have changed each year and I think I will put forward a note to warn that there will be a lot of walking. We walked a lot during the first week especially, but I guess its good it was before the health-check…

On our first night we went out to have dinner with the rest of our classmates who had also arrived in Beijing. Perhaps the restaurant we went to had a busy day because the waiter kept returning to our table to let us know that a meal we ordered had sold out. Most of our food eventually arrived and it was quite nice, but quite an interesting experience for most of us xD I think the waiters were equally confused since we ordered singular meals as it’s common to share dishes in China.

The first few days involved looking at apartments, looking for banks and 找到-ing Western Union for classmates to withdraw money, and then withdrawing the maximum from ATMs to save up for our initial instalment of rent. Due to all of this money business I had to restrict my purchases, but I recently went shopping with a friend from Oxford who came to Beijing^^ I also went to the ‘Electronic City’ in last week with a classmate to check out things like phone-cases (although all the nice ones seem to be for Iphones -.-). I hope to explore that area more since it’s nearby to 北大附中 – The Affiliated High school of Peking University, which is where I stayed last time I came to Beijing. –Btw we’ve now rented a penthouse apartment!

What else has happened? I turned a water canister into a recycling bin using a cleaver, a craft knife and a lighter. I was offered a job by a woman who was impressed with my Chinese sounding ‘like a Beijing person’ and subsequently met her daughter the next day to teach her English. A lot of cool things happened that day (I got to see Qinghua University which is to Beida how Cambrige is to Oxford) but I don’t plan to continue with that particular job. We registered our residency at a Police Station, and we plan to register at Beida as soon as possible. We have Collections taking place fairly soon (Oxford termly assessments)…which is just cruel T.T

I’ve also been speaking a lot of Chinese, which is great fun! I engage best with spoken elements of a language and speaking Mandarin has always been my favorite part of learning Chinese. The rest if my class prefer the written element of our course like our history paper the ‘East Asia Survey’ and practicing written Chinese. However I’ve been trying to create a lot of opportunities to practice my spoken Chinese like in Taxis for instance and I’m grateful to have been complimented on it quite a bit^^ People have been telling me to make vlogs (video logs) with my new camera and so it’s something I’ve been considering. My flat mates also told me I should start a blog about fashion or photography but I’m not so sure 😅 I’ve been told to make vlogs and a fashion blog in the past, but we’ll see *害羞*


Another interesting thing that happened was our health checks. It seems like people staying in China for a long duration are required to take part on a health examination. A friend of mine who is doing an internship in Beijing over summer was required to do a health check aswell. It was quite strange and parts of it definitely were not accurate. We took a taxi to the center (we got there an hour early😴) and filled in a form, once that was given in we went into different rooms divided between two floors in which different examinations were set up. We had a blood test, x-ray, ‘eye test’ (the doctor just pointed at a letter on a board and let us walk off once we immediately identified it), ECG and more. All of this for £40~ But at least I now know my blood type!

The theme of the day (that I originally wrote this at least) is probably otherness and optimism. As I’ve mentioned before I’m on the team of the ‘glass being half full’ and so whilst there may have been stresses about things like adjusting to our new life I’ve been reminding myself and others of how far we’ve come and that we needn’t worry about things that are out of our control so long as we continue trying our best. Also people have rightly been a bit self conscious for sticking out as a foreigner, which brings me on to the theme of otherness. Personally I don’t find it a big 问题 since I’ve pretty much always been different, but I have been asked things like ‘你是哪国人’ (where are you from) a lot more than my classmates, and have had a lot of questions about my headscarf and religion. It can be awkward depending on the situation but I see it as pursing my duty to educate people about a curiosity sparked from lack of opportunity to experience other cultures. -Although I have seen quite a few Muslim women wearing headscarves since being here~ During the taxi ride from the health check our 司机 asked about my scarf and why my friend in the backseat wasn’t wearing one as well despite her being British like myself. He was in disbelief when I simply said that it’s because we’re different people. Adamant as he was and also curious as to whether my dad wears one as well as my mother (a headscarf is only worn my women but the concept of the hijab of general modesty applies to both gender, fyi), to which I asked if he was ‘the same’ as the man in the car ahead of us since he was presumably Chinese. He claimed that he was because they both had black hair -.- but sometimes you cant win. My point is that no two people are exactly the same and that’s amazing. Your differences make you as unique as your fingerprint, so embrace them ^-^ A quote that came to mind today is that you should be yourself, since everyone else is already taken~ Ameen.

A lot has happened since we’ve been here, and whilst it’s nice being occupied it sort of makes you feel like you’re losing your head sometimes. On a side note I’m quite pleased with how my writing style has been progressing. It fluctuates along with my general progression, but that’s kind of like growing up, and lately I’ve felt more and more like an adult.

If you have moved to another continent and have to be an adult, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Also I’ve just uploaded a similar post written in 简体字 Chinese, check it out here if you want to try reading it!~

Year abroad✈️

我在这个品台几乎过了三年!噢!如果你是‘新的来这儿看我帖子的人’我欢迎你!How has your summer been? I realised recently that mine is being cut short by 2 months this year, but that’s because of the subject of this post.^

The commencing academic term will mark the start of my year abroad in you guessed it…China! Beijing to be more specific, and I’ll be studying there for the second year of my degree. I haven’t spoken much about my course but perhaps you might be able to venture a guess? It of course has something to do with China in that it is Chinese Studies. What does that actually mean? 首先 I think it’s best to think of it as ‘China Studies’ as we learn spoken Mandarin as well as both forms of written Chinese; Classical Chinese (which deserves a whole separate post one day); philosophy; history; literature, and a bunch of other nerdy things related to China! *Exhale*

Another detail I have missed out thus far is where I’ve been studying. For the past year I’ve been studying at The University of Oxford, 其实 it feels a bit strange to reveal. Of course due to the esteemed reputation of the institution along with the ‘unique’ subject I’m reading, I will gladly accept your questions and try my best to answer them^^ In the meantime you can read about some of the radical stories I’ve noted down from my teachers this year in my previous post.

When I applied for the course I did find that there was less material to prepare myself for what to expect in comparison to other courses with a greater amount of students. For that reason I have been considering talking a bit about what my course entails as well as some other 有意思的 details in another post once I receive authorisation. -I do have some materials prepared…

I also wanted to 谈一谈 about what my year abroad will mean for my blog. If you haven’t already realised, since creating this blog in 2014 I’ve been uploading posts at least once a month~ However for the coming year I do not plan to follow this regularity as strictly as I previously have done. I’m sure my list of topics will grow due to my lifestyle being immersed into Chinese culture, I will just give myself more 自由 over scheduling, at least that’s the aim😝

I think that’s it for now~ Rather than uploading my post a few hours before a flight as I’ve done in the past, today I’ve gone for just a day before😅.

If you are going to study abroad, good luck 世界🌏🇨🇳

此致敬礼欣妍–From Xinyan.

Character Anecdotes


我知道我的新帖子来晚了, 真不好意思. 考完我大学一年级的考试以后我以为没有那么大的压力, 不过我最近的情况是比较特别的啊. 但是没问题,我乐于接受挑战!今天我写的是今年上课的时候听见的一些汉字故事~ 你们已经知道我对语言有兴趣, 所以今天写的帖子就是原来如此… I’m not sure exactly how to describe what I’ve planned for today’s post, but as you can see from the title I have rendered it as ‘character anecdotes’. 可是 what does that actually mean? As you may very well be aware, I am very interested in the stories behind Chinese characters (or general linguistics) and so when my teachers have gone off on anecdotal tangents during lessons I wrote down some of the main points of interesting stories. Today I will share some of these that relate to the Chinese language.

  • 睡觉 ‘eyes coming down’ + ‘consciousness’ = sleep.
  • 坐 means ‘sit’. The radicals show two people on earth (人+土).
  • 贝 Shell radical, usually used in words to do with money. This is because shells were an ancient form of money. This radical is also used in the word noble (贵), can you guess why? Also the character meaning ‘to congratulate’ is comprised of radicals meaning ‘add’ and ‘money’; 贺=加+贝。
  • 画 (picture) includes the radical 田 (field) 所以 “Put a field in a frame is a picture”.
  • Ancient Chinese uses less characters to save space.
  • 休 = A person resting on a tree (the radical on the left is one representation of a person, and on the right is the character for tree木).
  • After the sun and moon is another day 🙂 曰+ 月= 明.

Let’s end with a final quote from a teacher of mine… “I know it’s confusing but there is no second way, it is the native way”. The ‘native way’ and ‘Chinese way of thinking’ are things we heard a lot this year; I hope this post allowed you to better appreciate what they actually mean.

For now I’ve lifted notes taken from only one of my notebooks used this academic year. Even with just this I had a substantial amount of material for today’s post and also held back many interesting stories. I’ve created quite a few series on this blog now and so I shall add to it with a continuation of these anecdotes to come some time soon~ ^-^

If you are aiming to adopt ‘the native mind’, good luck 世界。

-Also, I’ve been meaning to address this for a while but I have come to realize that my usual end greeting 从欣妍 – From Xinyan” is grammatically incorrect. 从 is an example of a coverb, which you can understand as a verb that assists the main verb of a sentence. For instance I could say 从学院到我家用五分钟* which means ‘It takes 5 minutes from the college to my house’ (*it’s a basic sentence, but also an untrue statement, fyi). However 从欣妍 on it’s own is incomplete and just doesn’t work. Therefore from now on I shall be ending my posts in the same way that you would end a (formal) letter in Chinese. The format would be slightly different in a letter but 我不关心~ Maybe I can elaborate one day. I decided not to edit the end greetings in my previous posts just to mark progression, but we shall see. 最后。。。

此致敬礼欣妍–From Xinyan.

Person under the sun


I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my main things I love about the Chinese language is the stories you can derive from the characters that constitute a word. Some scholars (such as a Professor of mine this year) would argue against such a ‘pointless endeavor’. I can certainly appreciate that not all the ‘stories’ we share of the construction of a character are true, however it makes a character more memorable; and it’s good fun.

As you would have guessed, today I will be sharing with you a story about another Chinese character. The character I have chosen is very common and also very simple, which ties in to a phrase I have grown quite fond of over the past few years but do not recall sharing here on my blog. The phrase is ‘简单才能快乐’ which can be translated as ‘simplicity is the key to happiness’, or ‘简单=幸福’, ‘simple=happy’ as I sometimes shorten it. 虽然the theme of the phrase is simplicity, 但是I feel that it represents something greater, but it’s not a discussion I have planned for today. The character we will be dissecting is ‘是’.

是 (pinyin:shi) is one of the first characters I remember learning how to write, its very俭朴. 是 simply means ‘to be’ (e.g. 他是大夫 means ‘he is a doctor’), but it is also versatile in that it can be given as standard answer of ‘yes’ to a question rather than using the affirmative form of the verb in a sentence as you would usually have to do in Chinese. Sticking to the initial translation of 是, how does the character composition have any correlation to it’s meaning? It’s simple, a man under the sun.

If you observe the character closely you will notice that it is comprised of three parts, that is to say that it is to say that it is comprised of three radicals. Radicals can look different when used as an independent character so I have shown you the three clearly here: 日下人. 日means ‘sun’, we have encountered the second character in a previous post, it means ‘under’ 下, and the last character means ‘person’ 人. As a whole the character conveys that a person underneath the sun is one who exists, or that a person exists underneath the sun.

I found this 很有意思 the first time I heard this because the logic was quite simple but I overlooked it since it was such a common character. To echo my earlier sentiment, in learning Chinese I think that radicals themselves offer a breadth of knowledge. 简单的说, a lot of people find stories and pictures easy to remember which is why it can be helpful to explore these in relation to characters if that will help you remember how to recognise/read/write them. But sticking to the theme, I have only touched on a simple explanation as to why I find radicals helpful😋

Today was another one of my busy days and it so happens that I have a taxi collecting me at 3:30 for a flight, but I really wanted to post this. Strangely enough, this is the second time I’ve posted something just hours before a flight! xD but I shall leave it to you to find the post I’m talking about~

If this post has somehow made you reflect on existentialism (as it wasn’t my original intention 哈哈),

good luck 世界☀️✈️

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.