Age no barrier for keen student

At the age of 49, Yuan Mengyuan, a dorm supervisor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, has enrolled for a master's degree and will begin her studies while her son is also studying. 
Age no barrier for keen student
Ti Gong

Yuan Mengyuan, 49, has enrolled as a master's student.

Yuan Mengyuan, a 49-year-old dorm supervisor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, will have to quit her job because she has enrolled as a master's student.

Yuan will not only be one of the oldest master’s students in China next semester, but she will begin her studies while her son is also studying. 

Yuan, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language and literature from Fudan University, has been working as a dorm supervisor since July last year. Her classes have been in the evening or at weekends, so didn't affect her full-time job where she works every other day.

She works 12-hour day shifts at the overseas students’ dorm.

“I chose this job because I wanted to practice English, but it turned out that I’m too shy to do that,” she said.

English was a prerequisite for her to get bachelor’s degree, and studying it also helped her score well in her enrollment exams for master’s as she was aiming to study teaching Chinese as a second language, and she made it.

Yuan, who studied biology in college and was a school teacher for a year, said she always wanted to teach again even if on a voluntary basis.

She retired a few years ago from a bank in Xinxiang, Henan Province, to reunite with her husband who is a professor at a Shanghai university.

“I’m thankful to many people who made my dream of becoming a scholar come true, including my family who have been supporting me all the way, the bank which let me retire early and my current colleagues who are kind enough to exchange shifts with me to enable me to study undisturbed,” Yuan said.

For her, English has been the greatest challenge as she only knew a few words when she started to study it in 2017.

“The grammar is relatively easy to master, but it’s very hard for me to remember new words,” she said.

To conquer the language, Yuan said all she could do is to recite words again and again.

“The first thing I did in the morning was to recite the words I learned the previous night, and I have been doing this for over 700 days,” she said. “For younger people they can remember something after reciting it three times maybe, but for me I will have to do it 30 times.”

Her efforts paid off. Yuan passed the national Grade-4 English test for university students after just one year. 

She said she started to intensely prepare for the master’s enrollment exams, which are usually held in January, in October last year, and part of the reason she did it was because of her son.

“He had the same goal, and I hoped to study along with him to encourage him to work harder toward it,” she said. “I know it works on young people because I think my younger classmates have been looking up to me as an inspiration.”

Her son will soon start to work on a master’s degree in mathematics at Fudan University.

Having been reunited with her husband for just three years, Yuan now faces separation again as she is going to study in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China.

“We have promised each other to visit each other every other month,” she said. “It’s not much of a problem to be separate today because communications are very convenient.”

Special Reports
Top