For Huang Bihui, an alumnus of Duke Kunshan’s pioneering 2022 undergraduate class, the university was a means to connect with her Chinese roots while studying in a multicultural English-speaking environment.
Now the DKU alumnus is a scholarship student at Beijing’s prestigious Yenching Academy, a postgraduate college of Peking University, studying for a master’s degree in philosophy, and has ambitions to work in the field of cultural heritage.
Bihui was born in Islamabad, Pakistan but her parents came from Guangxi province in southern China. When it came to applying for university, her father was keen that she should go to a Chinese university, in order to connect with her family’s roots.
“Growing up, I was used to being in a multicultural and English-speaking environment, so I opposed meeting my father’s expectations,” she says. “During application season, my high school counselor encouraged me to look at Sino-American institutions, and just so, DKU emailed him about recruiting undergraduate students.”
Bihui excelled at Duke Kunshan, throwing herself wholeheartedly into both academic and social life at the university. She was a founding member of the university’s photography club, gave a speech at the graduation ceremony and worked for the international social media team, among many other activities.
Now at Yenching Academy, Bihui is involved in research analyzing the Daoist principles in Chinese garden architecture using the gardens of Suzhou, which are a UNESCO world heritage site, as a case study. Suzhou is a city famed for its beautiful gardens, which were mostly built by scholars and date back 1,000 years.
When not engrossed in study Bihui works on a developing a culinary guide to Beijing, mapping out the city’s restaurants and cafes. In a city with thousands of restaurants, from tiny backstreet eateries making simple dishes, to incredibly opulent establishments, it is a mammoth task, “but one I will not drop,” she says.
Just as she was a central figure in the social life and campus activities of Duke Kunshan, Bihui has also gotten involved in helping at Yenching Academy. She has hosted events for the academy scholars, was on the executive committee for this year’s Yenching Global Symposium and has assisted new students in navigating the campus and daily life in China’s capital.
She has also remained closely connected to Duke Kunshan, working on a research exhibition at the university and acting as an interpreter for an arts and music festival workshop there. In addition, she has stayed close to several friends from her time at DKU and is in contact with the rest of the inaugural class.
Looking back on her time at Duke Kunshan, Bihui says the university, “prepared me in many ways.”
“Other than making me very comfortable with being in an interdisciplinary environment, I can use many soft skills gained during my undergraduate studies,” she says. “For example, my strong time management skills have allowed me to work on multiple roles simultaneously, and my leadership skills helped me navigate team situations easily.
“I am also more tolerant and open-minded about things, and I find it very intriguing when I can sit and talk to different individuals about topics they’re interested in or are experts in. I enjoy intellectually stimulating conversations and am glad I found that in Duke Kunshan and Yenching Academy,” she adds.
After Yenching Academy, Bihui has ambitions to work for an art gallery or museum, ideally involved in projects that concern visual archiving or cultural preservation of intangible cultural products. She would also be interested in pursuing a role in student affairs at a higher education institution, she says, or communications in general.
For prospective students considering following her path to Duke Kunshan she advises, “Come with an open mind and don’t be afraid of challenges.”
“Being adventurous and resilient is one of the ways to get through DKU, and I hope you cherish the opportunities given to you,” she says.