Pui Chi Lai: ‘I like figuring out and solving problems’
Pui Chi Lai (35) has a lot on her plate, being a study adviser and coordinator of studies for two bachelor's programmes and two master's programmes. Alongside her job, however, she does not sit still and follows a PhD trajectory at the University of Macau.
‘I am the study advisor and coordinator of studies for the bachelor African languages and cultures, the English-language bachelor South and Southeast Asian Studies and for the master and research master African Studies. As a study adviser, you are the first point of contact for students and you help them complete their studies as well as possible. As a coordinator of studies, you also help to keep the study programme running and you maintain contact with lecturers and the education administration offices. They are in fact two different positions, but at this faculty these positions often belong to one person.’
‘Every day, I answer a lot of e-mails and talk to students, but I am also responsible for timetables and the information in the Prospectus. If students have any problems with their studies, they can contact me. I then discuss the possibilities that they have and help them plan their studies. I also have a lot of contact with colleagues, for example about timetables, but often there are small urgent things that come up, such as arranging lecture halls or meeting rooms. The combination of contact with students and colleagues makes my work very varied, every day is different. I enjoy my work most when I have to figure out and solve problems.’
From Leiden and Amsterdam to Macau and Hong Kong
‘I also studied in Leiden: a bachelor's degree in law followed by a master's degree in Public International Law. During my master's I took courses at the Faculty of Humanities; I took Japanese and Chinese as electives. After that I did a pre-master and master’s in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology of Non-Western Societies, in Amsterdam, I like to try out all kinds of things. It's nice to walk around Leiden University again.’
‘In addition to my job, I am now doing a PhD in Political Science at the University of Macau (near Hong Kong). You could say that I need the pressure. I lived in Macau for two years and then another year in Hong Kong to attend lectures and collect data. Originally I speak Cantonese, so fortunately the language barrier was not that bad. For my PhD I study oligarchy (a government formed by a small group of privileged people who have all the power, ed.) and elite in colonial and post-colonial Hong Kong, something that can be clearly linked to the current political unrest in the area. I was there during the Umbrella Movement of 2014. Thousands of people took to the streets then, as they do now, to protest.’
‘I had the freedom to do and try everything’
‘Everything I've done may seem very random, but the combination makes sense. I have always wanted to do something with human rights and my PhD combines all these aspects. In Hong Kong there is a big difference between rich and poor; the elite has a strong presence which has an impact on society. When I lived in Hong Kong, I also volunteered for a non-profit organization that is committed to safeguarding human rights. I'm glad I had the freedom to do and try everything, but I don’t know yet what I want to do in the future. I really enjoy research, but as a study advisor I have a lot more contact with people.’
Does she have any free time? ‘Yes,' she laughs, 'I often go to movies and museums. It's always fun to have dinner with friends, enjoying good food like in Hong Kong, I do miss that.’
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