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An Open Letter to the Next Class

SchwarzPost世民新语 2017-05-18 09:48





We all knew it from the start- that one year will go by really quickly. As our cohort nears into the final parts of our year in Beijing, the nostalgia has begun as we think back on our time and memories here. Over the past few weeks, I am thankful to have had the chance to meet some of the scholars from the next incoming class and I must say I am impressed by your zeal and excitement and also a sense of connectedness even though our community is only beginning to grow. A couple of you have asked a lot of questions about how to make the most of your time in the coming year and the writer in me has decided to pen down some of the discussions that we had. The following piece details a few of the learnings that came from some of those discussions we had. Disclaimer that this only represents my own synthesis and reflections and that this is not meant to be prescriptive but rather to serve as lens and frames to think about. As with all things in life there is never one single template, for it’s up to each of us to thread the path most suited for us. With that in mind, here comes 5 little nuggets of reflection.
我们其实从一开始就意识到了—— 一年的时间会转眼即逝。当我们走近这一年的尾声,难免会对今年所做的一切感到留恋,并更积极地反思希望能回馈我们的书院。在过去几周,我很幸运有机会认识下一届不同的几位学者,从短短的交流中能看到你们各自的兴奋,并让我感到我们苏世民社群的归属感。你们也提了很多问题,尤其是关于怎么能够好好把握短暂的一年最充实地度过这段时间。因此,与你们的讨论给予了我很多的启发与灵感,而这篇文章就总结了我们一起讨论到的一些反馈。特别声明一下,这文章只代表我个人的一些看法,目的不是要教导谁,而是想提出一些值得思考的问题。生活的道路永远不只一条,最终走的路还是要自己创出来的。基于这出发点,文章想鼓励我们思考以下的五个小点。

Know what you are coming here for

"You get one life, so do it all."

– Bobby Axelrod (Billions)

A few of us have a weekly “Billions” watching club at the college and Bobby Axelrod is no doubt one of our favourite characters from the hit TV series. Yet in our context, his philosophy is hard to put into action by the simple fact that time will always be limited, trade-offs have to be made and for that you need to know where your priorities are. One year will go by quickly and unless we have a clear awareness of what we are hoping to get out from our time here.


How then can we think of what those priorities should be? One framework that came from our discussions was to see it as 3 balls to be juggled- career development, personal learning, building friendships. Career development focuses on both long-term career exploration and skills/ experience building such as through attending workshops or working part-time. Personal learning revolves around wider knowledge accumulation and personal reflections- specifically by virtue of being in China, we may want to think about specific aspects of China that we would want to learn more of. The final bubble on friendships is self-explanatory but the art is in thinking of the myriad of activities, interactions and groups that we would form (because choosing how and who we spend our time shows where our priorities are). Note that these are only directional areas to guide thinking, but it’s up to us to set out what our specific objectives in each of those areas. Thinking of those objectives will only be the first step, discovering what means or ways to achieve those (be it external events, travelling, self-initiated projects) will be the next important thing to consider. To this point, remember that the programme will not spoon-feed us with opportunities, it’s up to each of us to actively initiate and pursue the things that we want to see and do. (For starters, quite a few of the most memorable activities have all been student-driven)
那么到底怎么才能找到我们的核心目标在哪呢?一个简单的思路是想着三个方面—— 发展事业,深造学业,建立友情。 事业发展关注与寻找自己长期的事业方向,同时也为提升职场技巧做准备; 这可通过去不同工作坊或实习来实现。深造学业包括知识累积和个人思考—— 我们项目重点关注中国议题,因此值得探讨中国有哪些方面是我们想深入研究的。最后,建立友情不言自明,但关键是通过什么活动与组织来促成这点。这三个方向当然只是一个思考的方向,详细的目标还是需要我们自己设定。目标定了只是第一步的开始,下一步还要想什么样的途径或机会才能体现出目标。 我们要记住,书院只能提供一个平台,但我们想追求的机会,还是要自己积极地争取。

But stay open to explore what comes up

While setting objectives are important, it’s also vital to remain open to how the year actually unfolds. This plays out both at a practical level as well as at our mindset. At the practical level, it means maintaining enough flexibility for the unexpected things that show up. Often through it’s through maintaining willingness to explore new things that allows us to discover more about ourselves.
定目标当然重要,但我们也应该持开放思维与灵活度来迎接这一年。这包括两个层面—— 一个是在日常生活中,另一个是在思维上。在日常生活中,我们应该保留一定的灵活性来迎接我们没预料的事情,因为通过探索新的事物才能让我们更了解自己。


More importantly, at a mindset level, the biggest personal learning that I took away was just the importance of staying open-minded in learning. Many of us will come with very well-grounded and thought out views as reinforced by our many years of education and experience. Against that backdrop, it will take continuous effort to challenge ourselves to withhold judgment and instead allow ourselves to reconsider new viewpoints. This is especially given both the unique context and characteristics of China and also the wide diversity of backgrounds that our fellow scholars will bring. There might come a time when it gets easy to become cynical and to stop trying to listen and that’s when it’s good to remind ourselves to step back before re-engaging.

Be empowered, not entitled

Many of us come in with already distinguished achievements and a year in Beijing will hopefully help to further build each of us up to create greater impact in our respective areas. Indeed, the programme by virtue is designed to challenge and inspire us to make an even greater impact on the communities and world around us.


Yet amidst the empowerment that the programme brings, it will do us good to remember not to feel entitled to things around us. We must remember that no one owes us anything just because we are a Schwarzman Scholar and that we do not deserve anything by virtue of our fellowship. The global political disarray that we have witnessed in 2016 has partly stemmed from an elite that has become entitled and disconnected from the very communities they are supposed to serve. It’s thus important to come away with the humility to keep learning and growing, to be grateful for the opportunities that we are given and to remain grounded to contributing in whatever little way we can.

Develop our convictions and values

Every now and then, there will always be that continual “mid-life crisis” struggle of trying to find our life direction and purpose. This is no doubt hard stuff, but perhaps it’s easier to identify direction when we are clear on our convictions and beliefs. At the end of the day, a sense of conviction helps us understand what we value, what motivates us and what kind of change we want to see in the world. Conversely, having ambition without conviction will only end up eating us from the inside.


A fellow scholar on the programme once shared 3 key questions that he thinks about daily in helping to shape his own convictions and vision:

① What do you believe
① 你相信什么

② What do you love
② 你爱什么

③ Who do you love
③ 你爱谁

What do you believe spells out what our values are and what our vision is for how we hope to shape the world. What do you love then relates to specific areas of interest as well as processes that we enjoy undertaking. Finally, who do you love prompts us to think about the people around us and demands us to learn to love and give more unconditionally than we would ever have. If we can come away from the year with greater clarity on these 3 questions, it will go a long way in helping to shape our convictions overtime.
“你相信什么”帮我们了解自己的信仰与价值观,帮我们建立自己世界观的基础。“你爱什么“ 是指我们对哪些具体的事物感兴趣及热衷的处事方法,这会帮我们找到现实信仰的渠道。最后,“你爱谁”鼓励我们多关心与关怀我们身边的人,并希望我们能学会无条件地爱护我们最亲最爱的人。如果你能在未来的一年,好好思考这三个问题,长远来看一定能帮你培养对生活更踏实的信念。

Live in the present

“I just try to live every day as if I've deliberately come back to this one day to enjoy it as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.”

– About Time

Throughout our years of going through a structured education system and work experiences, it’s always easy to think of the “what next” in life. Yet, be reminded that this one year is only a short temporary phase in the wider scheme of our careers and life. It would be a pity if our only focus is in continually thinking of the next thing that this year leads to.


My own advice would be to take a step back and learn to appreciate each day for the gift that it is. And so treasure every single moment there is, that way we would ensure we do not look back with regrets on what could have been. Because if we can learn to live more in the present moment, then every ordinary day becomes extraordinary.



The journey is yours to make, go do great things

Final words- this is an open letter precisely because it’s not about one person’s view but rather an invitation for discourse and reflection. The beauty of our programme by design is in encouraging discourse and debate from which learning and new insights can emerge. To that point, one final reminder is that for many of us, that the greatest gift from this year is the community that we have. And it's our collective responsibility to continue to build and contribute to this community, especially to embody the values that we want to represent. The upcoming journey is yours to make and we will all be looking forward to the great things that you do.

“At the end of the day, we are all part of a long-running story, and we just try to get our paragraph right.”

To that end, we are thankful to have been a part of this story

And we look forward to seeing you begin your chapter.


About Author


Alexander Ho Young Chan holds a Master of Public Policy from Oxford University and a Bachelor degree in Engineering from Hong Kong University. He has worked for both Bain & Company and the United Kingdom Cabinet Office. Alexander has led multiple community projects related to his interest in education, social mobility and inclusive economic development. He also served as the Oxford Strategy Group’s Managing Director and the Oxford Student Hub’s Vice-president, initiating projects on economic development, social enterprises and community service. Alexander is 25 years old and from Hong Kong.




















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