Graduate Guangguang Yang tells us about what life was like as an international student in the 2010s
From a small village in China, Guangguang Yang arrived in Portsmouth in 2009. Graduating top of his class from BSc (Hons) Electronic Engineering, he was given a scholarship for further study. He fell in love with the city and stayed for 9 years. Today, Guangguang is an Associate Professor and Researcher at Foshan University.
The seaside city of my dreams
I grew up in a small village at the foot of the mountains, in the centre of China. I am a mountain boy at heart but, since I was young, I wanted to live abroad. At the time, my hometown Qinyang was quite underdeveloped.
People in my village didn’t understand why I was spending so much money on my studies when I could spend it on a nice house. But I didn’t agree - to me, Qinyang was quite isolating. I dreamt of being near the sea, so I chose Portsmouth to fulfil my dreams.
I didn’t feel nervous before I moved to Portsmouth, I was excited as I could finally chase my dream. It was a great opportunity to improve my English, too. In China, we would only ever read and write the language, not speak it. I thought since I’m going there, I must open my mouth to communicate and learn more about the culture.
Falling in love with Portsmouth
I moved to Portsmouth in 2009 to complete the final year of my Bachelor’s. I quickly fell in love with the city, the sea and the food - it was very expensive to eat seafood in my village, so I made the most of it.
In my first few weeks, I would ask so many questions. My supervisor said I was special because I wasn’t scared to ask. There were four Chinese students in my class who were very shy and nervous. They didn’t have the confidence to ask questions, for fear of getting them wrong. I wanted to build my knowledge and learn everything.
I lived in Burrell Hall in my first year, so we had breakfast and dinner included, which worked well as I didn’t have a lot of money after my tuition and accommodation fees. I think I had £200 for the year, so I didn’t get to shop. This changed once I started my PhD and I loved shopping in Gunwharf Quays and buying clothes from different shops.
I also spent a lot of time with my good friend, Saleh, and we are still in touch regularly. We worked together, studied together and shared knowledge. Portsmouth gave us a lot of good experiences. Our favourite thing was to visit the seafront to swim and fish. We’d always catch crab and lobsters. I did spend a lot of time in the library too!
A family affair
At the end of my Bachelor’s, I was not expecting to be top of class due to my language barrier. I found that engineering was more about mathematics and coding ability, which was no problem for me.
I was offered a scholarship and funding to complete my PhD. Most of the money I earnt was saved so I could support my sister and wife to study at the University too. My sister is now married to a local guy and lives in Portsmouth.
My wife and I have great memories of our time together in Portsmouth. We would enjoy the seafront, sunbathe on the beach and cycle to Portsdown Hill to pick garlic chives.
My passion for Portsmouth
I found it difficult to get a job in Portsmouth after my PhD so, in 2018, we made the difficult decision to move back to China. We’d planned to visit the city every year but because of COVID-19, everything has changed. This is a pity. I miss my University, friends and supervisor David so much. We hope to return soon with our daughter, whose English name is Judy.
Now I work as an Associate Professor and Researcher within the School of Electronic Engineering at Foshan University.
Portsmouth set me up for my career. Within my current role, understanding English is very important. Since I’ve been in my current role, our faculty’s academic production has increased - doubling in the last year. I’m very proud of this.
The most rewarding part of my job is meeting a lot of great students, it also keeps me young! I offer them guidance to help shape a better future for them and change their lives.
Whenever I have students that want to further their studies abroad, I suggest they go to Portsmouth! I remember all of my tutors were so lovely, knowledgeable and patient. They would learn so much from them.