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Living on the EDGE: Zoe Xiaoying Ma

Fiona Ren

Fri Feb 10 2012


STUDENTS aren’t all accustomed to saying their Ps and Qs, but it doesn’t mean they’re rude, says PhD student Zoe Ma from China. She sheds light on some cultural differences that have given international students a bad name.

What’s your name, and how old are you?

Zoe Ma, actually Xiaoying Ma – but after the first month I was here, people still couldn’t say it, so I got help from one of my local schoolmates. Now I am Zoe, and everyone is happy and tell me: “Wow, it is much easier to say Zoe!”

How old am I? You could be young or old no matter how old you are. You are what you feel,  I am old enough to know what I want, and young enough to be always curious about new things, take chances, to face up new challenges, and that’s part of the reason I was chosen to be here for the EDGE program I guess.

Where are you from? Where and what course or program are you doing?

I am from the capital city—Beijing China, but lived in two other cities Benxi and Dalian for some years. I’ve also travelled to quite a few cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Yellow Mountain of Anhui, Taiyuan, Yungang Grottoes of Datong in Shanxi, Shenyang, Anshan within China, I am always amazed by the beautiful differences, and am looking forward to going to more places.

I am doing a PhD in Business—management of education at Swinburne University of Technology, and I am enjoying it. I feel lucky to be able to study at a very nice university with a very friendly environment here in Melbourne.

How long have you been in Melbourne for and why did you choose to come to Melbourne?

I have been here in Melbourne for two and a half years already, and I like it more and more. I chose to come because of my love for sports and coastal cities, and Melbourne’s reputation for higher education and sports is well-known. Apart from that, people here are very friendly, and I feel like I have made a smart decision to come here.

Did you come alone or with family?

I came alone knowing nobody, but now, I have many friends from multicultural backgrounds.

What got you into the EDGE program?

The desire to be better at leadership skills and career management for my near future career got me into the EDGE program, because I do strongly feel that I need some practical skills apart from the knowledge I have learnt.

What does leadership mean to you?

I think leadership is to lead, influence and inspire others in your team or organization to accomplish tasks and projects, to direct them in a way that makes it more coherent and effective rather than just management. It makes the team workers want to achieve high goals with motivation, therefore, to inspire them into higher levels of teamwork to fulfill your tasks and projects to achieve your goals efficiently.

What or who do you draw inspiration from, and why?

From my mum, she is an independent modern woman, who never stops learning new things; she has experienced a lot in her life, but still is always confident, optimistic, friendly and helpful, and whatever job she does, people love to work with her.  So, I want to be independent, successful and optimistic like her.

What, in your opinion, is the most common misunderstanding/stereotype that people have of international students in Melbourne?

That international students are rude. There are big cultural differences when it comes to manners. I’ve learnt that it is very important to say “please and thank you” as a way of being polite, otherwise it would be considered as rude.

In China and some other Asian countries, people don’t normally speak please or thank unless it is or close to a life threatening condition – otherwise you will be considered as hypocritical or fake. So whether you’re shopping, eating at restaurants or after getting some minor help from others, we just nod with a big smile.

So it’s the difference between verbal and body languages.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to play sports in my spare time. I play outdoor soccer with mixed groups a few times a month, table tennis five to seven times a week, pool billiard once a week. I also go roller skating from time to time, and go to different beaches or suburbs to enjoy the beautiful nature with friends on some weekends with wonderful weather, or watch an old movie with a group of friends to end a week.

What are your other talents/hobbies outside the classroom?

Interpreting and translating from English to Chinese (Mandarin) or vice versa, pencil drawing, fashion, ballroom dancing, modern dancing (for relaxing), light hiking, walking.

If I had a million dollars I would… use it as an investment to start my own business.

If I only had $5 I would… get some work to earn some money first before I can do anything I want.