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How my parent’s work ethic inspired me to succeed – For Alumni, By Alumni

Jackie Yip (BA 2018) has travelled the globe and immersed herself in every opportunity that has come her way. Using the work ethic her parents instilled in her and the support offered at Cardiff University, Jackie filled a few short years with a lifetime’s worth of experiences. 

My parents never went to university and I don’t think my dad even finished school.  

They arrived in England as immigrants from Hong Kong at a time when Chinese takeaways were booming, so they rented a tiny takeaway on Gloucester Road in Bristol and lived in the single bedroom apartment above it.  

When my twin and I were born, I remember sleeping with my sister on a double bed, my mum sleeping at the bottom of it, and my dad sleeping on a single bed in the same room. They would work seven days a week to make a living. As kids, we started helping our parents in the shop when we were about nine years old, taking orders and sweeping floors. My work ethic is all down to those years I spent watching and helping them.  

When it came to applying to study music at university, my parents had no understanding of the UK university system and were shocked by the application procedures and the cost of study. They couldn’t even take me to my auditions because they had to work.  

I remember having a difficult conversation with them about how we were going to be able to afford it all. We struggled with the student finance forms as English wasn’t their first language and I, being new to this, didn’t know how to proceed. We got through it in the end and I was able to secure a loan, but I also took on a second job to make sure I could finance my studies without burdening my parents. I worked six days a week in the summer and then went straight to work at the takeaway in the evenings.  

All this struggle paid off! I got into Cardiff University, which was great because part of the appeal of Cardiff was the bursary that I qualified for. I secured £2000 to cover some of my living costs for the next three years. This made such a difference and it meant I was able to pay my rent and focus entirely on my studies. It allowed me to take every opportunity.  

Thanks to the Student Support Centre, I discovered that the Global Opportunities department was offering funded internships and study opportunities abroad. I successfully auditioned for the University Orchestra and travelled across Europe in the summer of my first and second year to perform – fully funded by the University. I also successfully secured a competitive internship in Hong Kong in the summer of my first year, also funded by the University. I returned from Europe and flew straight to Hong Kong for a month! 

My parents were amazed that I was able to do all this through the University and they didn’t have to worry about how I would afford these opportunities. In my third year, Global Opportunities supported my year abroad to Helsinki, Finland where I got to study music at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. I even got to play piano for the President of Iceland! Whilst I was there, I was flown to China for the University Orchestra’s performance debut in Xiamen.   

The icing on the cake was when I successfully ran in the Student Union elections of my final year and secured a graduate job as Vice President Education and Students’ Union President the following year.  

Although it sounds like an incredibly busy few years, I still made time to go home and help my parents. The bursary and support I got meant I was free to make the most of these opportunities without having to worry.  

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my parents weren’t able to work in the takeaway. This meant they had no income and wouldn’t have been in a position to help me if I needed it.  

Many of my friends and current students aren’t able to secure summer work or jobs at the moment and their time at university is severely impacted. The support I received changed my life and is still ongoing, even in the most challenging of times, and it makes my parents and I so proud that we chose Cardiff University.  

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