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Passion for East Asian Cultures Ignited the Spark

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pku.edu.cn | Updated: Sept 19, 2021

From Nitzan Schwarz, an Israeli student of Peking University.

Nitzan Schwarz is an undergraduate student at Guanghua School of Management. Prior to joining the "Future Leaders" program at PKU, she studied East Asia and Management in Tel Aviv University, Israel. Her studies have allowed her to bridge the gap between her love for Asia, studying, and the management abilities she has acquired throughout the odd jobs she has done.

Designing the symbol of an Israeli Government Department

In Israel, every person must enroll into the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) once they reach 18. During my 3-year service, I did a variety of jobs, but I am most proud of myself for designing the new symbol and managing the budget for my directorate last year, for which I received a certificate of excellence.

A directorate symbol is the directorate's major identifying feature, that which links all of the soldiers in it and differentiates them from other directorates.

Despite the fact I was not related to design in any way, due to some circumstances, I've had to design the symbol myself. Teaching myself photoshop and bringing my personal computer to work, I worked closely with the different levels of command for two months to bring to life a symbol that everyone felt would encompass best both the history and the future of the directorate. Every time I see a soldier walking with the symbol I made dangling off his shoulder, I am reminded of this time in my life, of the work my office and I put in, and the unique experiences I got to experience as part of this process. It makes me happy knowing I was able to leave a visible mark in a place that has been a significant part of my life.

An avid reader and writer

Since childhood I have been an avid reader and writer. Books are both my escape, a way to experience things I never have or never will, and an outlet for my emotions, ideas and creativity. Whenever I had spare time, I would pick a book and read. Sometimes when I don't have spare time, either. When the thoughts in my head became too loud, I would pick a pen and put it down into writing. Sometimes it would be four sentences, carved into the paper like scars, and sometimes it would be pages on pages of writing, of people jumping out of the paper and begging for their stories to be told. My drawers are full of such beings, knocking to be let out.

Origin Story: Anime as a gateway to East Asian languages and culture

Anime served as a window into a culture I was unfamiliar with. Through anime, my eyes were opened to the East Asian culture, and soon I found myself reading comics and novels from Korea and China, as well as watching media and content in those languages and listening to their music. The joy I found in learning about these cultures lead me to pursue a degree in East Asia.

In addition, it was these cultures that ignited my passion and talent for languages. My courses about China made me especially fascinated with its history and literature, wishing to be able to experience them in their original language. My love for writing and reading has taught me much about the importance of phrasing and word choices, and I feel it is instrumental in knowing the original language to be able to fully experience and appreciate a story. Not to mention, learning languages is simply a lot of fun.

Connecting all of these together, over the last year of COVID I have opened a server on discord dedicated to talking about East Asian content. Connecting people who love East Asian comics and content, we debate with each other on the stories we've read, the content we've watched, themes and motifs, points of interest, etc. While the server is still small, at 500 people, it has loyal visitors that are open-minded, always up for in-depth debates, are perpetually curious, and even participate in weekly voice chats. While my hope is for this group to grow even bigger and be a place for online meeting between cultures and opinions, I am very proud of its progress thus far and I'm excited to continue moving this project forward.

“The Future Leaders program doesn't only teach about China, but of the world.”

I feel a great connection and fascination with the East Asian cultures. I wish to not only read and learn about them, but actually experience the culture, customs and language firsthand. China was one such location of interest due to its unique position in the global business context. With every year, China becomes more important and more influential to international economics, and Israel is no exception on the matter. As such, having the chance to study management in China was very appealing to me, as it would allow me a bigger, more in-depth understanding on such a major player in a way only learning about it from the outside could never do.

But the reason I chose the Future Leaders program went beyond dry management and academic progress. I chose the Future Leaders program because of the incredible potential I saw in it to foster dialogue between cultures and views. The Future Leaders program is all about bringing together people from all over the world to study together and exchange ideas. It's a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience open and constant discourse, learn about different societies, and influence others' opinions of your own. The Future Leaders program doesn't only teach about China, but of the world. It doesn't just teach management, but leadership and debate. It builds meaningful and lasting connections.

Inclusion and belonging in the "Future Leaders" class

So far, the program has impressed me greatly, especially when you take into consideration the difficulties of operating in a pandemic. Running a pilot of a program is hard enough as is, but ten times harder when a core portion of your students cannot come physically into China and must be taught via remote control. How can you make sure they feel included? How can you help students connect with their classmates when all they see of each other is their torsos? How can you ensure a school experience as close and as productive as possible to the on-site experience? These are just a few of the challenges a program such as the 'Future Leaders' must deal with during this challenging period. I, for one, think the program has really excelled in answering these questions, especially when it comes to helping us feel included and present during the classes. From the first classes in Guanghua, the professors and the setup made it clear that we are as crucial and integral a part to the classes as the local students. We have a voice during discussions and have easy and direct access to the TAs for any problems or questions. I really feel like the program has done above and beyond to ensure we don't feel like outsiders or strangers within it, and I feel that is truly commendable.

Meet Our "Future Leaders" is a featured series on stories of PKU "Future Leaders" International Undergraduate Program students. It aims to introduce program students coming from Peking University and our partner schools all over the world and share their experiences and thoughts before and after studying at PKU.