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Shannon Gilbert (U&G15) comes from a small village in rural South Wales. She moved schools frequently when she was younger, as well as being home educated for a number of years, before completing her A levels at a comprehensive HE college in Llanelli. She went on to spend four years as an undergraduate student at Churchill in Asian & Middle Eastern Studies and began her MPhil in Modern and Contemporary Chinese Studies in 2019.
Shannon was delighted to be awarded the Simon Henry MPhil Studentship which supports a Churchill student reading an MPhil in Chinese studies. The Studentship, which is funded by alumnus Simon Henry (U79) with some part-funding from the Cambridge Trust, covers course fees and maintenance costs and it opened a window of opportunity for Shannon to continue her studies right away – something that would otherwise not have been possible due to the scarcity of available funding and her own personal circumstances:
Until my DoS made me aware that this studentship was available I had been in a state of some anxiety about what I would do after graduation. The loans available for postgraduate study primarily cover tuition, so I would not have been able to get together enough for maintenance. As the eldest of five children, I would not have wanted to put an extra financial burden on my family, either. Knowing that I would have funding if I met my offer was a great load off my mind. This was especially true as I prepared for my final exams; it allowed me to concentrate on the task at hand, and helped keep me motivated, as I knew I’d definitely be able to take up my offer if I got the results I needed.
Shannon also benefited from College support via a grant from the Wing Yip travel fund at the end of her first year as an undergraduate student, which enabled her to go to Taiwan for two and a half months in the summer. The trip provided a first opportunity to use her second language in a native setting and she recalls it as being an amazing experience which increased her enthusiasm for her degree.
When asked what she likes most about the College, Shannon describes her enjoyment of the setting and the benefit and relaxation she derives from having access to the relative quiet and calm of the spacious College grounds after a busy day in town. She has also noticed the location seems to be good for animal life, ‘I have been excited to spot not only squirrels and rabbits, but also foxes, hedgehogs and (once) a muntjac deer in and around the College’.
In her spare time Shannon enjoys reading, drawing, watching films with friends, and keeping up her spoken Chinese by chatting to her friend in Beijing. In first and second year (as well as part of her year abroad) she also participated in fencing.
Looking ahead to beyond her MPhil she would ideally like to continue her studies and move on to a PhD, whilst also doing something that allows her to retain and develop her language skills. For now, she is enjoying the opportunity the Studentship has provided to continue her studies and remain at Churchill for one more year!
I have had so many wonderful and unexpected experiences during my time at Churchill, and I cannot overstate how fortunate and grateful I am to be able to continue here for another year. This simply would not have been possible without this generous funding offer.