Yifei Shao - Golden Interns Award Winner

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1. Have the courage to try despite imperfection, embrace self-reflection

During the 2022 summer holidays, after having finished his second year of intensive studies, Yifei Shao immediately went to the Tsinghua Centre Global Studies and DC Think Tank to take part in an internship. As a new type of civic think tank that focuses on globalisation research, the DC Think Tank takes playing the role of civic wisdom and promoting history from a positive perspective as its mission, and adheres to the research goals of forward-looking, pertinent, professional, constructive and independent. It emphasises research areas in China-US relations, globalisation, global governance, regional economic integration, the Belt and Road Initiative and rural revitalisation, among others, and is committed to playing a unique role as an independent think tank in economic and social development.

Yifei found the constructivism, critical thinking, and courses such as comparative politics, history, security studies learned at UNNC helpful for him to study China-US relations, and other topics during his internship. In addition, Yifei also participated in the 10th World Peace Forum hosted by Tsinghua University and the 2022 SCO Summit Youth Talk in Beijing during his internship, conveying to the world the Chinese Gen Z voice on international governance. After successfully completing the internship, Yifei also promoted cooperation between DC Think Tank and the UNNC Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS), as well as the establishment of an internship site. He hopes that through these actions, he can provide UNNC students with further choice in their career planning in the future.

Yifei’s biggest takeaway from the internship is that for international affairs and international relations students, the most important thing is to dare to try more and to not to limit yourself. Each person’s journey is unique and mistakes are natural along the way. It’s vital to review, reflect, evaluate and improve as much as possible through internships. This might be the meaning of holding the "Golden Interns Award". "We must embrace uncertainty. Not everything will happen according to our expected plan. We must maintain a calm mind, firmly choose the path we want to choose, and embrace the changing future with an open mind," said Yifei.


2. An international education facilitating the dream of international relations studies

The experience of participating in Model United Nations Conferences as a student in high school led to Yifei’s strong interest in the field of international relations (IR), which laid the foundation for him to choose IR for his undergraduate degree. Following this dream, Yifei quickly noticed that UNNC’s English teaching and international education was conducive to cultivating his international vision, which in turn could help his studies in the field of IR. Yifei therefore joined UNNC and started on his international higher education journey. In addition to intense school work, Yifei participated in the UNNC Model United Nations Club and was elected as the president. He also participated in many activities with the Football Association (FA) and served as the head of the FA training department. Yifei strived to balance between his studies and extracurriculars, seeking an organic balance between the two.


3. Exchange programmes and finding interest and passion

In his third year of studies, Yifei started his exchange journey at the University of Nottingham, UK. A Global Security module sparked a discussion between Yifei and his roommate. They agreed that there are many grand narratives deeply implanted in specific cultures in the discipline of international relations, and society’s attention has to some extent drifted from the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda to Web 3.0, Metaverse, and OpenAI. With the intensification of climate change, the transnational, global and scientific nature of environmental issues should attract more attention and emphasis from the discipline of international relations. Issues related to the hole in the ozone layer, soil degradation, the energy crisis, and sustainable development have also driven Yifei to rethink the ‘bottom-up’ research method of humanities and social sciences.

During his stay in the UK, Yifei also observed many subtle phenomena. In his opinion, there are differences between the upper decision-making institutions and the public on the level of understanding and action on climate change and sustainable development (conflicts of long-term goals and short-term interests). There may be relatively big problems in the assertion that various international institutions under the global framework are regarded as extremists. At the same time, the game between policymakers and citizens in determining their respective priorities is worth consideration. These are all research fields that Yifei is considering delving into in future.

Yifei joined the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust at the suggestion of his environmental history module professor,and became a volunteer in the Nottingham Attenborough Nature Reserve. During this voluntary experience, Yifei gained a deeper understanding of the importance of harmonious coexistence between people and nature, and also strengthened his idea of in-depth research in the field of environment and sustainability in the future.

During the exchange, Yifei and his classmates also participated in the 2023 Sustainable Development Goals Case Analysis Competition organised by the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University. Participants chose one of the 17 sustainable development goals (Yifei and his teammates chose Goal 13 - Climate Action) and conducted public policy case studies. At present, the project has passed the first round of the competition, and Yifei and his teammates await further news.

After completing his one-year exchange study programme at the University of Nottingham in UK, Yifei also successfully applied for the summer school programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He was also elected Student Ambassador for the LSE Summer School Programme, and achieved first-class GPA results upon finishing summer school. At present, Yifei is working with his colleagues to promote enrollment into the LSE summer school project in Greater China.


4. The final sprint towards graduation

Talking about his plans for his upcoming final year of undergraduate studies, Yifei expects it to be very busy but fulfilling. Due to the interests he cultivated during his exchanges and internship, he was able to give advance consideration to his dissertations, his application for a master’s degree, and plans to work as a research assistant for academics. Yifei is very grateful to UNNC and his degree programme for cultivating his critical thinking, enabling him to evaluate and objectively analyse issues from multiple angles based on rationale and facts. As well as this, Yifei emphasised that UNNC has also cultivated his perception and empathy skills, enhanced his ability to interact with people, and honed his teamwork spirit.


5. Winning speech

“Winning the Golden Intern Award hasn’t been about showing off the label. My intent in participating has been to break the stereotype that being a graduate leads to unemployment for international studies students. But, there are countless choices ahead of us. As long as we step branch out purely studies, we have countless possibilities. Thanks again for the support and encouragement from friends at the DC Think Tank and the staff at the UNNC Career and Employment Service Office!” Yifei said.