Kathy Lai came to Edinburgh in 2015 from Taiwan to study MA Arts, Festival and Cultural Management at Queen Margaret University (QMU), and is now running her own wedding business for Chinese people in the capital.
Here, Kathy explains more about her journey to Scotland, ways in which the course opened doors for her future career path, and the growth of her young business.
Tell us a little about yourself such as your hobbies/interests that are related or not related to your course of study.
I am passionate about business, and I enjoy learning about successful people who’ve established their own companies.
I am also interested in arts, festival and cultural events, and other creative things. I think life is an adventure, and I love spiritual learning, like meditation, to find my own inner power. I would love to be a life mentor.
Why did you choose to study at QMU and what attracted you to the course?
QMU encourages students to apply theory into real projects, so the chance to undertake a placement to learn and reflect really appealed to me.
Also, I learned that many of the students on this course are from all across the world, which would let me experience different cultures.
Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is a beautiful, historical city, and the environment itself is suitable for students who study such subjects like arts, history and heritage, festival and culture.
The cost of living here is also considerably lower than other UK cities, like London, for example.
What did you most enjoy about your course? What was the highlight?
The programme contains many practical business elements. It develops and then assesses knowledge, skills and use of tools for strategic planning, financial management, marketing, fundraising, governance and people management - all of which have prepared me well for starting and running a sustainable business.
How did your lecturers support your learning?
Whether asking questions in classes or by email, academic staff were very supportive and helpful. My PAT [Personal Academic Tutor] gave me great support, too.
What were some of your challenges with the course and university life? How did you overcome them?
The language barrier and culture change were a bit of a shock. I could not understand 100% of what was said in classes, so writing essays was a good way to review my learning, and the required reading helped me to digest the material. When I did not understand something, I spoke up and asked for help and I would receive it.
Did you take part in a placement as part of your course and if so, what was your experience?
My placement was such wonderful experience. I worked with a local market owner to organise events, such as Chinese New Year celebrations and a fashion show.
I also learned how to play a key role in coordinating events with local people. From those experiences, I became one of the members of the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce Scotland, and together we organized the 2016 Taiwanese Cultural and Food Fair to promote Taiwanese culture.
Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in this course?
I would recommend that students have some real-life work experience before undertaking this course. That experience will be helpful in order to better understand how to apply the theoretical knowledge in a real work setting.
If you are an international student, work hard on your English language skills.
Also, don’t be afraid in an unfamiliar environment. Embrace every challenge and try new things.
Enhancing our student learning and personal development
Did you join any schemes/initiatives to enhance your learning and development such as a mentoring or volunteering scheme?
As I mentioned, I joined the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce Scotland, and I also worked with our embassy closely to help with the delivery of some official events, like the Double Ten Festival. I also took the opportunity to meet arts organisations from Taiwan during Edinburgh Fringe festival, and supported them with the promotion of their shows.
Life as a Student at QMU
What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?
Enjoying everything that comes with being a student!
What has been the most valuable lesson that you learned at university?
Take the time to reflect on what you’ve achieved. It’s been a fantastic experience for me, learning new knowledge and skills, and to look at what I want for myself in the future.
Can you tell us more about what you’ve gone on to do following graduation?
I came to Edinburgh to pursue my master’s degree and fell in love with this ancient city. I got engaged, and while in Edinburgh we organised our “pre-wedding” photograph (like an engagement photo-shoot). However, I discovered it was very hard to find something suitable for Chinese couples, such as wedding dresses, photographers, makeup artists and so forth.
Chinese people love to travel overseas to take photos for their wedding album, so I recognised that there was a gap in the market for this kind of service.
After graduation, I met a Chinese business incubator who works at an Edinburgh university. By chance, she told me about an opportunity to apply for a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa to be able to start my business in UK. That’s how my business - OHPROMISE LTD. - was born.
OHPROMISE LTD. is the first Asian wedding brand established in Scotland. A group of professionals that are energetic, professional and creative, we provide customised and unique pre-wedding photography, wedding videography, planning, commercial film, wedding dresses, etc.
I believe my experiences, including postgraduate study at QMU, have equipped me with essential entrepreneurial skills for my own business, like through my previous jobs and post-graduate study at QMU.
"QMU encourages students to apply theory into real projects, so the chance to undertake a placement to learn and reflect really appealed to me."