Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards

Q&A with Katie Chua

2022 Yenching Academy Scholar

2020 alum, English: Language & Literature and Business: Marketing

University of Washington alumna, Katie Chua, Class of 2020, has been selected as a 2022 Yenching Academy Scholar within the Yenching Academy of Peking University in China. Chua earned degrees in English: Language & Literature and Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. She shared her own experiences of applying to the program and what she is planning to study in a recent Q&A interview. 

The Yenching Academy of Peking University aims to build bridges between China and the rest of the world through an interdisciplinary master’s program in China Studies. The program provides full fellowships to its scholars to engage in interdisciplinarity learning about China from both Chinese and international perspectives, participate in field studies, and learn about Chinese history and culture. Yenching Scholars have the opportunity to work closely with their academic mentors and create their own study paths by choosing from one of six academic concentrations as the focus of their master’s thesis work. Learn more about the Yenching Academy of Peking University.

Q: How did you hear about the Yenching Academy program?

I was first familiar with it when I studied abroad at Peking University in 2018. That’s when I began to understand what the program was and learned that it even existed. After that, I went to a couple of information sessions when I came back to UW, and from there, I learned more about it. 

Q: Why did you decide to apply for this program? 

I graduated in 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic or in the midst of it, so I definitely had a lot of questions up in the air, primarily, what next? For me, corporate wasn’t really what I wanted to go into. I had a few internship experiences, and that’s originally what I intended to do, but I decided, maybe that’s not for me. Instead, I was really inspired by my English classes and I love literature, so I thought I wanted to do further education. I still do, hence this program. 

I originally applied for PhD programs in the US, mainly because those are fully-funded, but I didn’t get accepted anywhere. Looking back now, I think it was actually a really good thing. I was in this impasse of life where I didn’t really know what was next, but I felt this really strong desire to learn more about my past and family history. I am Chinese American. My mom is from Hong Kong, so she doesn’t have the strongest connection with mainland China. My dad’s from Malaysia. It’s really interesting thinking about the Chinese diaspora, which has always interested me and my research. I just also felt a strong desire to learn Mandarin Chinese because I don’t know it as well as I want to. I started thinking a bit more about what I wanted to do and I knew it was two things; I wanted to continue studying literature, and I wanted to learn Chinese. Yenching is a place that seemed like it would allow me to do both, so that was my motivation for applying.

Q: What is your proposed thesis project?

 I proposed studying Chinese science fiction or speculative fiction. My research at UW focused more on Asian American literature, but I had  started to delve into speculative fiction by  taking a couple classes. It’s really cool to think about the future and how we interact with time. It also brings in so many other things, like how we interact with technology and how we think about the future. I had read quite a few Chinese science fiction books translated into English, and I just was like: ‘This is super cool. But also, what does it tell me about China? About time? About language?’ 

Q: What advice do you have for other students interested in applying? 

 It’s really being intentional and thoughtful about why you want to specifically do this program. With this program, it’s very China specific, so you would need to have a clear reason or unique angle of why you would be interested in learning something about China. From the people I’ve met in Yenching, everyone’s interest in China is unique and different, and that’s what makes the program really cool. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to in the program?

I am most looking forward to using my interest in language in two different ways: learning Mandarin and continuing to study literature. Of course, there are so many other things that make this future endeavor exciting: the people, the location, the experiences, but I’m a nerd at heart and I am excited to have the opportunity to devote my time and energy to scholarly pursuits once again!

Here are some places inside of Yenching Academy, where Katie will study!