The prestigious Chang An Club hosted 200 alumni for the Beijing reception on 21 July – Sir Keith’s last in China as President & Rector, having attended more than 40 overseas alumni events during his tenure.
Professor Yike Guo, Director of Imperial’s Data Science Institute, who played a key role in developing the College’s Chinese links over the past four years, spoke about the President’s transformational cultivation of Imperial’s 5,000-strong Chinese alumni community.
Professor Guo said: “One day four years ago I was called into the boss’ office, and since then every year I have been with Sir Keith to China to visit the alumni. In these four years I have seen a great positive change. A recent poll in Shanghai said that 80% of Chinese students said Imperial was highly rated. I will miss Sir Keith’s intelligence, insight and wisdom.”
The Imperial College Alumni Association of China marked the occasion with an enormous farewell cake for Sir Keith, which Professor Guo described as “a gift for Sir Keith, but also a gift for everyone”.
Professor Guo went on to conduct a four-piece musical group as the audience sung along to a spirited rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’.
David Wu, Vice President of the Imperial College Alumni Association of China (MBA Management, 1996), reflected on Imperial’s fast-growing connections with China: “Sir Keith is the Rector who has come to China most often, he has done the most to encourage relations with China.”
Among the Beijing alumni were Chen Zhao and Yao Wang (both MSc Strategic Marketing, 2013) who had just started working at Mars on the same day as the alumni reception.
As Management Trainees, their first day induction involved quality testing Skittles, M&Ms, Snickers and Dove (branded Galaxy in the UK).
Zhao said: “My MSc in Strategic Marketing helped me to get the job as it gave me experience of working in teams. It also helped me understand Western business culture, which helped me make successful applications.”
She also caught up with old friends, including “my friend from high school, Fan Yang, who also studied at Imperial in the Business School. We were flat mates.”
Several others welcomed the chance to reunite and network, including Ge Jin (MSc Finance, 2012) who said: “I have met up with old friends tonight, met new people, and I have made some useful work contacts. I feel proud to have graduated from Imperial”
The Beijing reception came just two days after Imperial’s major eastern China reception in Hangzhou.
Many had travelled significant distances, including from Hong Kong, Ningbo, Chengdu and Shanghai to attend the 19 July event. Several alumni made a weekend of it, taking advantage of the event’s proximity to Hangzhou’s stunning West Lake.
ome had attended the Zhejiang University (ZJU) – Imperial Big Data conference earlier in the day, including ZJU’s Executive Vice President Professor Yonghua Song, while ZJU’s Wenqin Troupe entertained the crowd with a Chinese folk music recital.
Among the attendees was Xiosha Lin (MSc Innovation Entrepreneurship & Management, 2013), who missed life in South Kensington: “One thing I remember in particular from my time at Imperial is running in Hyde Park. You don’t get parks like that in Shanghai where I come from. It is great to have this green space in a big city.”
For Johnny C W Kwan, now Vice-President at BASF China, (BEng Chemical Engineering, 1978), Imperial’s academic rigour was especially memorable. He said: “What was best about Imperial was the calibre of staff and students. I still remember each lunchtime seminar with industry to this date.”
Alumnus Nina Xiong (Msci Mathematics, 2009) took a two and a half hour flight to get to Hangzhou from Chengdu – “a short distance by China’s standards – you could cross Europe in a plane in that time.”
Nina recalled good times at Imperial. “It’s so nice to meet old friends who also planned to be here. Hearing your accents again, it brings back memories of being at Imperial when I heard English voices every day. It’s been really good to hear the new information about the College – it makes me really want to go back and have a look!”
Nina, in common with others at the event, connected her current career success with her Imperial education. When asked about the five years since leaving Imperial, Nina said: “After Imperial I worked in Switzerland in commodities trading – Iron Ore in particular. I started off as an assistant. So much of the commodities go to China so they are the buyers in the market – the companies I worked for hired me because I speak Chinese and English, and the Imperial degree really helps. A good maths degree is essential, as they know you will be able to think well and work fast. The pay was excellent at the time but it was very challenging – it was a time literally of working 24 hours around the clock, you could be called upon at any moment.
Nina continued: “I then went back to China for a year before being hired by Deutsche Bank to work in Singapore. I had never been to Singapore before and that was a great experience. Afterwards I went back to my hometown in Chengdu, Sichuan province. I met my husband, we married and now we have a five month old son. Our parents are there and now I work for my family business.”
During the event, around 50 alumni joined an extremely active emoticon-strewn WeChat group where comments on the reception included “awesome”, “amazing night” and “thumbs up!”
Source: Imperial College