In her home country of Taiwan, Shuyi Hsieh works within the Ministry of Culture. After learning about Queen Margaret University's (QMU) MA Arts, Festival and Cultural Management course at the European Education Fair in Taipei, she leapt at the opportunity to learn more about the management of cultural organisations within this ever-evolving and multifaceted sector.

About you

Tell us a little about yourself such as your hobbies/interests that are related or not related to your course of study.

I was born into an open-minded Chinese family, where both my parents respect and support my career plans. I started working part-time in the National Theatre and National Concert Hall in Taipei when I was in my second year at university. The job allowed me to meet many outstanding artists, and I have since fallen in love with art and culture.

I like to listen to both modern and classical music. I also love to read books, fiction in particular. I think fiction helps me develop my imagination, and not be limited in the real world or bound by scientific laws.

Why did you choose to study at QMU and what attracted you to the course?

With my great enthusiasm for the culture industry, I became a civil servant and am currently working in the Ministry of Culture. My role is to promote and plan local cultural festivals.

My aim is to encourage Taiwan to be more courageous in its approach to innovation in the arts.

The MA Arts, Festival and Cultural Management course offered by QMU provides a holistic approach through both theoretical learning and placement opportunities.

[Before applying], I Skyped with one of my lecturers – Anthony Schrag. It was after speaking with him that I knew QMU was the right choice for me. He was so patient, answering all of my questions, and even provided me with information on timetables, course requirements, future developments, etc.

Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh?

Many of my friends at university went to the UK to pursue further studies after graduation. From talking with them, I learned that the teaching style here does not spoon-feed students. Instead, UK universities encourage students to express their ideas and discuss them with their professors, so that students are able to analyse problems and give their opinions confidently.

From my postgraduate study, I would like to learn how to think outside the box to fuel my creative thinking, so that I will be able to further enhance my professional capability with a new approach at work.

For someone like me who is working in the events promotion industry, it is a dream to be able to participate in the world famous Edinburgh International Festival. It showcases films, music, theatre and literature, attracting tens of thousands of artists and visitors from around the globe each year.

It is my dream to join the largest visual arts festival in Scotland, and learn to plan and deliver large-scale-international cultural events to enhance my professional capability.

About the course

Has there been a particular course activity you found especially interesting?

The most enjoyable aspect of the course, so far, has been Arts Management in Practice module, which allows us to gain first-hand experience from senior staff or managers working at some of the most prestigious arts organisations in the country.

I not only gained valuable information through listening to these excellent artists and organisers, but had the opportunity to visit places outside Edinburgh, like Glasgow and Dundee. Without this course, I might never have learned about these interesting organisations.

What have been some of your challenges with the course and university life? How have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge for me is the teaching style of my lecturers. They are all very professional and experienced but the educational system in Taiwan is totally different. In most Asian countries, teachers are used to making clear notes on the blackboard and students only need to write them down and bear in mind to use them in exams. However, lecturers here tend to interact with students and inspire us to think for ourselves rather than only throw things for us to follow. In the beginning, I struggled to keep up with lessons. Things improved, however, when I decided to record the lectures, which I review afterwards, so that I can focus on the discussions in class.

Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in this course?

The course offered by QMU focuses not only on theoretical but also practical aspects, and is so comprehensive that it will cover most of your needs. If you want to learn arts management skills, which can be applied into the real world, QMU is the best choice. Not to mention, the University is in the perfect location - you can enjoy the festive atmosphere of Edinburgh’s city centre as well as a peaceful and scenic life on campus. The only advice I can offer is to be prepared to take advantage of all the exceptional opportunities here!

Enhancing our student learning and personal development

Have you joined any schemes/initiatives to enhance your learning and development such as a mentoring scheme, volunteering scheme, etc.?

I am involved in the Resolution Run, a 5k or 10k run for people of all abilities. The charity event takes place at Cramond, a pretty part of Edinburgh located next to the sea. The event has been organised by the Stroke Association in support of stroke survivors and their families. I am so glad that I have the opportunity to be involved in such a meaningful event, and it will also be a great opportunity to learn some practical experience of events delivery.

I will also be volunteering at Capital Sci-Fi Con 2019 for CHAS. Capital Sci-Fi Con is Scotland’s only not-for-profit convention, with all proceeds going to the children’s hospice, CHAS. The Capital Sci-Fi Con 2019 project is especially relevant to me because I can provide assistance to more people in need and apply my academic knowledge to real events at the same time.

Have you won any awards/scholarship/internships, etc., that have helped you develop skills and experience?

I was awarded the Santander Scholarship – a financial grant of £5,000 - which helped me to accomplish my dream of studying abroad. Without it, I would not have had enough funds to afford both the tuition and living fees. It has also supported my arts experiences by enabling me to attend many interesting artistic activities such as the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, and visit many arts organisations.

What University services have you used to support you through your university journey and how have they helped you?

Academically, my tutor Anthony gave a lot of useful advice, which helped me to plan out my studies.

The amazing ELS (Effective Learning Service) offered me a holistic introduction to postgraduate life and gave me numerous tips on academic writing and study skills. They helped me become more self-reliant as I progress through my degree, and they are always so welcoming – they make you feel like a friend!

The Employment Centre also helped me a lot with writing my CV and showing me how to complete an application. They are patient and gave me practical instructions that I can tailor for every application I make.

Life as a student at QMU

What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?

I think it’s really important to prepare well before going to classes, and to make time to review afterwards. It will definitely help you in the long term.

Another tip is to discuss what you learn with your classmates. I joined a reading group formed by our student representative, and it helped me get answers to my questions and allowed us to exchange opinions, which widen my viewpoint.

What has been the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned at university?

I once submitted an essay at the very last minute, but didn’t realise until after the deadline that I forgot to include my reference list (I normally write the essay and reference list separately). This meant I left things too late to resubmit, and I lost two points on that assignment in the end.

From now on, I always ensure I submit essays or assignments at least two days before the deadline.

What are your plans after graduation? Tell us about your ambitions and where you see yourself in the future?

I have plans to organise a new range of cultural festival events upon successfully completing the postgraduate programme and returning home. I would also like to advance the traditional festive activities in Taiwan to a new higher standard by putting my knowledge in marketing management to use, and to resolve all kinds of problems in the events planning management and marketing with logic, creativity and execution.

I believe being creative is to build on the past and adapt, and that requires a solid theoretical understanding and hands-on experience. The knowledge and skills I have gained from QMU will be my most powerful support.

"The course offered by QMU focuses not only on theoretical but also practical aspects, and is so comprehensive that it will cover most of your needs. If you want to learn arts management skills, which can be applied into the real world, QMU is the best choice."
Shuyi Hsieh

Published February 2019