Jerry Zezhou Li
After moving from China to the UK and completing an access course in Surrey, I found myself wondering where on Earth I should go next. One day I took a trip to the Isle of Wight and passed through Portsmouth. The city grabbed me – the history, the sea, the liveliness of it all. I knew where I had to go next.
That September I enrolled on a hospitality management degree at and the first 2 years flew by.
The experience was incredible, especially the lecturers who really treat students on their level, like a partner and not a client. But even so, I thought a BA would be the end of the line for me, that my academic journey was coming to an end. At that time the idea of an MA or a PhD seemed so far out of reach.
That was until I began my placement year and saw first-hand the doors a Portsmouth degree could open.
I spent the year in top hotels in London and Shanghai, where to my surprise I was actually able to offer ideas and advice.
At first my expectations were perhaps getting a little work experience in a small company somewhere, but it turned out that my lecturers had contacts at places like the Four Seasons! I spent the year in top hotels in London and Shanghai, where to my surprise I was actually able to offer ideas and advice. It made me realise just how much I’d already learnt and I started to think… how far could I take this?
So I spoke to my lecturers who helped show me that academic life didn’t have to be this old fashioned thing with dusty books and thick spectacles. In fact my lecturer was only a young man himself. He explained how an MSc could be exciting and focussed on the real world, and he was right!
On the course we looked at how cutting edge products are researched and brought to market and even how to start a business from scratch. That year gave me the bug.
Now I’m about to start a dissertation with a focus on wine bottle labelling, where I want to apply all these exciting new ideas into what is quite an old fashioned market.
I found a niche that I love and now I can’t get enough.
If you think about it, hundreds of years ago, wine was served in a stitched goat’s belly. Then a few decades ago it moved to the glass bottle that we all know. But since then it’s hardly innovated at all. Even when wine companies do innovate, it’s communicated so badly that people think change means bad quality. We can do so much better for the environment, for customer experience and for wine company’s sales.
I know that with Portsmouth behind me I can help start that change.
Perhaps there’s a misconception that academic has to mean philosophical, that it’s all ideas and no action. But my upcoming PhD in packaging development will be working with real companies on very tangible concepts. I can see how that misconception comes about, as even at BA level, I wasn’t the most impassioned student. Then I found a niche that I love and now I can’t get enough.
That’s all you have to do really. Find your passion and Portsmouth will help you follow it.