An interview with a graduate: A special day during her student life

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Xinmiao Zhang graduated from the University of Westminster with a master’s degree in Media Management in 2014. During the one-year campus life, a special day, she believes, is of life-lasting value to her.

Now let Perfect Pitch take an insight look into the unforgettable day for all Media Management and International Media Business students including her.

P: Can you tell us what happened on that day and what makes it special?

X: It was the 2nd of May last year. Then we were having a course named “Responding to a Changing Media Environment”, which required us to present in front of three real investors with our business plans by the end of the term. It’s absolutely a rewarding experience, like a rehearsal for the day of great significance in your life. Unlike what we acquired from book knowledge, such training taught us how to transform our creative ideas into a business project and to present them on a stage. That’s why the day is quite special for me.

P: So what is your business plan then?

X: Our project was called SurfChina, an app which was dedicated to help foreign tourists with a thorough tour in China. Apart from detailed travel guides, it’s also designed with social function. In this way, foreign users can get to know Chinese friends of their destination before arriving in China, making the trip more convenient and joyful. For Chinese users, it offers an opportunity to make new friends and practice English while showing foreigners around.

P: How did you come up with the idea?

X: Our team was composed of six Chinese girls: Anqi He, Cheng Yin, Qiao Xu, Ying Li, Xinyuan Zhang and me. At first we were thinking about setting up a company to bring in children’s programs from abroad. However, predictably, such business would be limited by political factors. So soon the idea was shelved. But later we began to think that as it’s a trend to introduce foreign products and cultures into China, why not do something to enable foreigners to know more about China? Then I consulted some of my foreign friends and was told that they traveled to China out of the enthusiasm for Chinese culture; however, the language barrier was really a big trouble for them, particularly when sitting in a restaurant, they had to order the same dish every day as they couldn’t understand the characters on the menu. And in such moments they’d wish an English-speaking Chinese friend was there to offer help. Starting with the concept, we planned to create a bridge between foreign tourists and Chinese, especially students who are learning English. Meanwhile, we also believe that since most travel guides about China on the market are written by foreigners, they might miss places that really deserve recommendation. If they have a native guide to introduce local specialty, foreign tourists would authentically get access to the culture and customs here, other than superficial experiences.

P: What do you think was the most difficult part when preparing for the project?

X: I think it might be the different habits between Chinese and foreign users. For example, Chinese and western people have different opinions towards app design. Chinese users prefer software with integrated functions. By and large, they are unwilling to pay for apps. On the contrary, foreigners like apps with a simple function and are more inclined to pay for them. But it’s essential for our products to attract Chinese users first before getting foreign users. Thus it became a key problem to work out an app appealing to both Chinese and foreign users. Actually we received comments from the judges later, advising us to simplify the functions. Another difficulty lied in the differences of opinion within our team. Sometimes arguments arose. However, looking back on the whole process, I think arguments and doubts, which facilitated our thinking and discussions, contributed a lot to our success.

P: How did you feel on the day of presentation?

X: I was both nervous and exciting. Actually we were somewhat messed up that day. Something was wrong with the printer then. As the first team to do the presentation,

We worried that printed papers couldn’t be submitted to the judges on time. Then it’s the time planning. Six team members were supposed to have a speech. Thus there should be a reasonable division of time that each member took to speak. That’s why we timed out in the end. But I was very happy to see the accomplishment of a project that we had put so much effort into; moreover, it gave me a sense of achievement to share our ideas with so many people.

P: What’s the greatest benefit that you got from the experience?

X: Before that, for either work or study, I had little chance of collaborating with a group of people to complete a project. From the practice, I gained a lot of new experiences, for instance, when to insist on putting forward my own ideas and when to compromise for the sake of the team’s interest. Those can only be acquired from practices. Meanwhile, it also benefits my work and study, since team work has been an increasingly popular concept nowadays.

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Look  how University of Westminster students pitch their business plans:

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