Chinese Studies Alumni

Clare Pennington

I’ve worked in China as the art editor at Time Out and a researcher/reporter for the New York Times Beijing bureau (Chen Guangcheng, other politics and culture stories). I had a traineeship at Reuters in Beijing, then took an MA at City University, was shortlisted for the Anthony Howard award for my research into privatisation in prisons, worked for the Sunday Times (world news, also writing for business, home news, News Review and Style) for about two years and am now editor at Agri Investor, which is a niche publication focused on finance. We also have a data research team and publish books in private equity, agriculture, finance, etc.

Oliver Bentley

Before I graduated in 2015, I knew that what was most important to me was going to China and improving my Chinese. This ruled out a lot of graduate schemes, which did not guarantee a lengthy stay there. Luckily, the Oxford Careers Service website advertised some internships at NetEase Inc., one of China’s biggest internet companies; within a few months of leaving Pembroke, I was in China, speaking Chinese every day, and using the skills I had honed at Oxford.

Since I am at the mobile gaming department, my work is quite varied. I have had to translate character biographies, localize content for the Western market, and research classic games. This does mean I get to play a lot of them! I work at the campus in Hangzhou, a beautiful city famed for the enchanting West Lake and the surrounding verdant mountains. After the internship finishes I hope to continue to work for NetEase, and at a later stage study a masters’.


Sam Smith

I graduated in 2012 and moved to China almost immediately. I worked as an actor and theatre director in Beijing for a year, and then moved to Shanghai where I spent a further year working with a small consultancy firm for Chinese and international companies. The founder is also an actor, and we ran workshops in Chinese and English for foreign and Chinese staff to develop company culture, and explore cultural differences with one another.

In 2014 I trained as a Chinese/English interpreter at the University of Surrey, where I was the first non-native Chinese speaker to do the course - I honestly would not have been accepted without the foundational language training at Oxford. I am currently studying a second Masters in International Affairs at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, with the intention of working for an International Organisation. Studying Chinese has helped me with most of my choices since graduation, and I’m so grateful for the range of experiences it’s afforded me. My former tutors have also continued to be very helpful in giving advice and references. The almost one-to-one tutorial system is unique, and I have very fond memories of both Pembroke and the Chinese department.


Leah Russell

I met my husband William (from Wadham) on our Chinese Studies course, and we've chosen pretty much the same path since graduating in 2008 -- so this is the story of two Chinese graduates!

Since leaving Oxford, we have moved around a done a variety of wonderful things, including:

  • Teaching ESL in China -- William taught university students and I taught in a range of different settings: an intensive language school, an after-school program, university lectures, private lessons -- even for the provincial speed skating team!
  • Teaching Chinese as a second language -- we taught at Brighton College for two years and William taught at Choate (a private boarding school in the US) for three years; we've also been teaching privately in every place we've lived.
  • Working at a refugee resettlement agency in the US -- for three years I taught ESL to refugees and worked as an employment specialist to find them jobs.
  • Writing a Chinese textbook series for GCSE and authoring the ISEB Chinese common entrance exams
  • Teaching Chinese papercutting and holding exhibitions of my artwork -- I wrote my Oxford dissertation on the folk art and spent many hours at Pembroke learning to cut paper myself!
  • Doing admissions work (for Brighton College and Choate) and some educational consulting for Chinese students applying to study abroad

Last June we decided to make a career leap, from teaching to videography. Why? For the exciting learning curve (like we had with Chinese, and again with education), and because we felt it would allow us to explore the world in new ways. Neither of us had touched a camera before making the decision; I can only imagine our confidence came from lessons learned at Oxford, and I feel so grateful for that.

The best thing I took from Oxford was self-empowerment: the belief that I could teach myself anything I like.