A love of languages and art nurtured at Blue Coat led to Old Blue Drew Hawley-Higgins, Class of 2015, being invited as a VIP guest on the trip of a lifetime to China to promote relations between Liverpool and Shanghai.
She was contacted by a Chinese agency looking for Liverpool artists to take part in a UNESCO project called World Cities Day 2018, which began in the city and then moved to Shanghai for a week.
Her painting of Liverpool’s Chinatown Arch is now displayed at the huge China International Expo in Shanghai. She said: “I studied Art, French and Spanish at A-levels (the only modern languages available), but Blue Coat organised for me to go to Liverpool’s partner university Xi’an Jiao Tong Liverpool University, in Suzhou, to learn Chinese in summer 2014.
“That was my first visit to China and also a chance to start learning Chinese. It gave me a taste of an Asian language and I decided to read Mandarin BA Hons at Leeds University. I’m also taking a Cantonese module, which is tricky, using the same characters but different pronunciation. Cantonese is spoken by many British Chinese due to our shared relationship with Hong Kong, which I want to visit.
“There’s no shortage of career prospects using languages. You’re not limiting yourself to any sector or field and this is a valuable asset as I’ve found.”
Without speaking Chinese, she wouldn’t have been able to meet so many important figures, speak, accept dinner invitations or show her appreciation for her hosts’ hospitality, she believes. It also created potential future opportunities for her with the contacts she made out in China and their organisations.
“Mandarin is ranked as the most difficult language for English speakers to learn, after Arabic and Japanese. Learning the vast amount of characters takes years. It was difficult deciding which of my two passions to study; I chose languages, but I never stopped developing myself as an artist,” she said.
Having lived previously as a student in Shanghai, her VIP treatment came as a shock and she said: “I was hardly used to the luxury I was shown, staying in two famous five star hotels. I was shown historic landmarks like Broadway Mansions (designed by a Liverpool architect) and the Moller Villa, and the new Shimao Quarry Hotel, 88m underground. The Chinese certainly know how to host!”