Finlay Collings: I'm Here to Learn from China's Growth Miracle
2023-06-14 10:17:33
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“I am academically interested in China,” said Finlay Collings, who is currently pursuing a master's degree in economics at Peking University HSBC Business School (PHBS). Impressed by Chinese culture and its growth miracle since a young age, he became interested in pursuing a master's degree in Shenzhen right after completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Manchester.
It was through a Chinese professor at Manchester that Collings first learned about the economics program at PHBS, PKU’s business school in South China. Acknowledging China's growing global economic influence, he felt motivated to gain a firsthand understanding of its culture and economy. The PHBS program quickly became his preferred option and his only concern was the possibility of remote learning due to the pandemic.
Collings shares his first impressions of the school
“It’s been a privilege to be here on campus,” remarked Collings, as he sat on the cozy sofa on the fourth floor, enjoying the sunlight filtering through the glass ceiling.”When comparing his campus in the UK, which had more historical charm and was spread across different locations, he acknowledged that the modern design of the campus and PHBS building had “exceeded his expectations.” The architectural design incorporates eco-friendly principles and reflects a people-centric philosophy. The outer walls utilize energy-saving glass to optimize natural lighting, while the protruding ‘thinking boxes’ on each floor provide an excellent private environment for group discussions.
Sunlight filters through the glass ceiling of the PHBS building 
“It’s a nice community, so you really feel at home quickly when you get to know people and find that you've got so many people to turn to and who can definitely understand your problem,” said Collings, describing the school as “relaxed and welcoming.” Despite the significant adjustment to a different country, he found that the timely support from the international office and his classmates alleviated his feelings of being overwhelmed and helped him to settle in. “Even if you need to ask your professors for help, you can just knock on their door,” he reflected.
With a strong background in economics, Collings felt it wasn’t that challenging to handle the heavy study load. He has particularly enjoyed Professor Chen Liang and Professor Chu Chia-Shang’s courses: “They don't use slides and I like their teaching style. It’s much more engaging in that way because with the slides you might daydream a little in class!”
Taking advanced courses, Collings thought it a bitter-sweet experience as he and his classmates “all suffered together although also learning a lot together by the end.” He candidly admitted, “At the beginning, everyone was so scared of Professor Chen Liang because his course was so difficult.” To keep up with the class, he needed to be “all ears” and take pages of notes to grasp the professor’s deep understanding and detailed explanations of the subject matter. 
Collings’ enthusiasm has extended beyond the classroom and into various activities. “When I arrived, I was invited to train with the PKU football team and everything was very professional,” he shared. The team regularly practices together on campus every Tuesday night and actively participates in matches. For Collings, being a part of the team is also a great opportunity to integrate with Chinese students and improve his language skills, as all his teammates and coaches communicate in Chinese. “Two phrases are good to know: 加油 (come on) and好球 (good shot). If you learn them, you'll be ahead of the game,” he revealed.
Collings prepares the food for the International Cultural Day 
A recent memorable event for Collings on campus was the first PHBS International Cultural Day, where students had the chance to set up their own booths and showcase the unique cultural heritage of their countries. Collings decided to prepare some of his favorite classic British foods, including bacon and egg sandwiches with brown sauce, beans on toast, and Yorkshire tea. "The day itself was a success," he recalled, "we completely ran out of food, even though there was some disappointment at the lack of fish and chips!” He also arranged games such as guessing the number of sweets in the jar and apple bobbing. “You should see how many people tried the apple bobbing and actually managed to get an apple!” Exposed to the cultural diversity of the event, he looks forward to setting up the booth again next year and sharing some more British culture.
Collings with other international and Chinese students during International Culture Day
Outside of classes and activities, Collings finds pleasure in listening to music and reading outdoors. He particularly enjoys nonfiction novels by authors such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky and George Orwell. However, he expressed his desire to go beyond reading books and stories, explaining, “I want to see with my own eyes where China is heading.” Collings is excited about the internationalization and rapid development of Shenzhen, which adds to the appeal of studying at PHBS. He remarked, “Shenzhen is such an exciting city, and you can complement your studies with exploring China at the same time. That's what makes it really wonderful.”
Collings with the tennis team on world tennis day 2023
Unlike those who approach China and its economy from a Western perspective, Collings tends to probe fundamental aspects of this ancient civilization. He enjoys meeting like-minded individuals, which has been rare for him in the UK, and admitted that “I’m interested in how the cultural philosophy materialized into Communism and Maoism from Taoism and Buddhism.” Identifying himself as a Marxist, Collings said that his growing familiarity with China and his understanding of its culture have further ignited his curiosity in exploring the connection between these two ways of thinking. 
When asked about his future plans, Collings mentioned that in the short term, he would like to apply his understanding of China and its economy to his thesis. In the long term, he expected his academic experience at PHBS would enable him to shape his perspective of the world: “I’m here to learn from the growth miracle that's been experienced in China, and hopefully, I will keep learning, see how the Chinese economy mitigates future risks, and take that knowledge back home."

By Annie Jin