A rich co-curricular life adds to Henry’s many skills.

Finding a warm welcome in Australia inspires Henry to contribute to campus life.
Finding a warm welcome in Australia inspires Henry to contribute to campus life.

When Hongwei ‘Henry’ Mou came to Australia in late March 2019, he was already part-way through a degree in Marine Science at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao (not far from his home city of Weihei in Shandong province). Henry’s agent had recommended Australia when he first asked about studying overseas. He was looking for an environment that was diverse and inclusive. “After researching for myself,” he says, “I found that UTS is the top young university in Australia. The idea of a young university was very interesting to me. A place with modern values that would be open to all kinds of students.”

A new pathway and a new language
He was very nervous when first arriving here, particularly about his English. He says, “I couldn’t speak whole sentences. I just put one word and another word together and tried to make sense. But I remember the first time I went to the bank – it was in Haymarket – I started trying to speak English and they said to me, ‘Oh, you speak Mandarin, don’t you? Most of the staff here can speak Mandarin. Don’t worry.’”

Henry began his pathway to UTS by studying Academic English at UTS College, a program that develops English language and academic literacy for an English-speaking university. “Honestly, the Academic English helped me with my study. When I started at UTS, I found it helped me understand how to do a presentation, how to write an essay, how to write a report and how to do group work with English speakers,” he says. “But my daily conversations helped me most with everyday English. From the beginning, I was involved in the Student Activity Club as a student helper. Volunteering for three or four months made me more confident to speak English.” Henry advises other students from China to take every opportunity to speak with locals. He says, “Even though Mandarin is very common in Australia, especially in some big Sydney suburbs, it’s good not to rely on it too much. If you try to communicate with people who cannot speak Mandarin, it can help you develop your language skills very fast.”

A supportive friendship
At UTS, Henry studies Biomedical Engineering. He says, “My former degree was Marine Science, but it included physics and chemistry and biology. I found that I was most interested in the chemistry and biology, and I enjoy mathematics as well. I like my degree, but what I enjoy most about uni life is my friends.”

In his second semester at UTS, Henry met his best friend, Emily. “Emily is studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering, Bachelor of Business double degree. Some of her subjects are a little bit different, but we support each other. Like tomorrow, we have a presentation and today we wrote the script together. She helped me craft my pronunciation. And when we write a report together, sometimes she helps to fix my grammar. She’ll say, ‘Oh Henry, what’s the meaning of these sentences? It doesn’t make sense!’ She can speak Mandarin and English. They’re both native languages for her because she immigrated to Australia with her family when she was very young. That’s why her English is so good. But her weakness is maybe how to make a spreadsheet, how to format a report or do a slide. So, her weaknesses are my strengths. We work together and support each other for over 10 subjects.”

Contributing to the student community
Although he works hard at his studies, Henry finds time for a rich co-curricular life. “My best experience is being vice president of the Traditional Chinese Culture Association. We organise events – traditional Chinese festivals, like the Lantern Festival on campus. I was the host. We also have workshops, like the guzheng – it’s a type of musical instrument – and traditional Chinese dance classes. The club president has some ideas and I have some ideas and we work together to run cultural events not only for UTS but also for the public.”

He also keeps busy working as a student ambassador and enrolment officer, and says he gains separate skill sets from each of these roles. “As a student ambassador, I need to know about UTS and UTS College, and share information about my uni life and experience,” he says. “It hones my communication and teamwork skills, and I get to practise my English. As an enrolment officer it’s still teamwork, but I need to work with data, solve problems for the students, and reply to their emails in a professional way. I worked for a student centre in China, but now I need to transfer those skills in a new language, and a different culture – like replying to emails. In China, we don’t use the email so much.”

Future dreams
Henry loves the university environment. He says, “UTS is a very welcoming place, just like UTS College and I feel like I belong. One of the jobs I have in mind for the future is to have a full-time position there. My other future dream job is to be a biomedical engineer. My friend Emily wants me to study for a PhD with her and maybe, if I have the energy, I’ll consider it.”