Catherine Perry

The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius once said: "Wherever you go, go with all your heart." For Catherine Perry, studying Mandarin at ANU has been wholehearted pursuit that has taken her to the top of the world.

Catherine, a Tuckwell scholar who earlier this year completed her Bachelor of Asian Studies with a high-distinction average, placed in the world’s top 10 at this year’s Chinese Bridge language competition.

Organised each year by the Confucius Institute Headquarters, the competition begins with around 5,000 university students worldwide. Following regional qualifiers, roughly 150 participants from around 100 countries then compete in the international final in Changsha, Hunan Province.

Broadcast to hundreds of millions of viewers, the Chinese Bridge final sees competitors demonstrate their linguistic and cultural knowledge through a series of tests and performances. Under the theme "Dreams Enlighten the Future", Catherine’s speech examined the "One Belt, One Road" economic initiative.

Currently completing her Master of Finance at ANU, Catherine said the Chinese-government initiative appeals to her as an aspiring investment banker.

"I’m really interested in project finance and building infrastructure in some of the less developed Southeast Asian nations. Given the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, China is going to be an influential player in this infrastructure development space," she said.

Following her speech, Catherine then performed a famous musical composition on the pipa (Chinese lute). Her near flawless performance was even more remarkable considering she only began learning the instrument in September 2016 during her semester abroad at Peking University.

"When I was there (in Beijing) I decided I wanted to do something more ‘cultural’ and not just study the language, so I decided I’d learn a musical instrument," said Catherine, who upon returning to Canberra continued taking lessons with her Chinese teacher via Skype.

Catherine’s success proves that, through hard work and a positive attitude, the pathway to fluency in an Asian language can be faster than you may assume.

"For a lot of Mandarin learners, starting out can be quite daunting. Even if you’ve learned a European language before, it’s a very different experience (learning Mandarin). That’s why it was great in the tutorials having teachers who would work with each student individually to make sure they were up to speed and staying on top of the learning materials," said Catherine, who also speaks French and Japanese.

"My first year of Mandarin was extremely positive. We had it for 10 hours a week, which was a lot but also essential when starting out. The teaching quality at ANU is very high. Because the teachers are the same throughout your degree, you get to know them very well. They understand you as a learner and their approach, though intensive, pushes you to do your best."

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Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team