Dialogue with a Truly International and Inspirational Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen

Photographed by Veikko Somerpuro & owned by Julie Yu-Wen Chen

Photographed by Veikko Somerpuro & owned by Julie Yu-Wen Chen

After two years’ break, my professional interviews are back. Today I am virtually ‘meeting’ one of the most international women I know and admire. I hope that you will find our dialogue an interesting and inspirational read.

Bio: Julie Yu-Wen Chen is the new Professor of Chinese Studies at the Department of World Cultures at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Julie is Editor-in-Chief of Asian Ethnicity (Routledge) and Assistant Editor of the Journal of Chinese Political Science (Springer). She formerly held academic positions at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, University College Cork in Ireland and Academia Sinica in Taiwan. She was also visiting scholar at La Trobe University, University of Virginia, University of Tokyo, University of Tübingen, University of Nottingham, and University of Macau. In 2011, Julie provided testimony in the public hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on “China’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and Players” in Washington D.C.

Junying: A very warm welcome, Julie. Please select two or three words to describe yourself.

Julie: I am a person who wants to live a simple and fulfilled life.

Junying: Where do you come from originally and what do you do for a living?

Julie: I grew up in Tainan, Taiwan. I am a political scientist by training. I am currently professor of Chinese studies at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Junying: How lovely. Actually I’ve just returned from Taiwan recently, and I will be visiting University of Helsinki in four weeks’ time. In fact, I will be meeting you for real which is very exciting for me.

What is the biggest challenge living in a foreign country, in your case Finland?

Julie: I have lived in many countries (Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Japan, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic etc). I think the biggest challenge is to learn the local language and get integrated into the host society. Sometimes because of my busy work, I don’t have much time to learn the local language. This creates a barrier between me and the locals. Mingling only with university colleagues and students in an English-speaking environment is not healthy. It is better that I get to learn the local culture and society. I am quite new in Finland. Life is super busy in the first few months. But I have allocated sometime this summer to learn Finnish.

Junying: Wow, that is quite a collection of countries and cultures in terms of geography and diversity. Fascinating! I hear that it is not the easiest of languages to learn. Best of luck!

How many languages and dialects do you speak?

Julie: I speak Mandarin and Taiwanese. These are my mother tongue. When I was an undergraduate student, I chose French as my foreign language. I also spent one year in Montreal, Canada to improve my French. This does not mean that I speak French with Québec accent. It might be more likely that I speak French with my Taiwanese accent than with Québec accent.

My conversational ability of French used to be good. But I haven’t been able to use the language for many years. Right now, I can only read and listen.
As I did my PhD in Germany (I wrote my dissertation in English), I also have basic German ability. It is a shame that I no longer use both languages in daily life. Sometimes I just try to read German and French articles (in a nostalgic way) to remember the languages.

Junying: How wonderful! Which words or phrases do you overuse?

Julie: My colleagues at the Confucius Institute of the University of Helsinki said my 口頭禪 is “put these pictures on Facebook”.

Junying: I love that. I seem to be doing that almost every day, taking pictures and sharing them with my Facebook friends :-).

What quality do you most admire in another person? Who, living or dead, do you most admire?

Julie: When I was young, I admired talented people and people who are as ambitious in career as I am. But as I grow older and as I become more into my role as a Christian, I start to change my taste. This does not mean when I see talented or ambitious people, I don’t feel a sense of excitement. It is just that I value more of a person’s inner true character and personality than what they present to the others outside now. A person with a lovely heart, loyalty, honesty, pure mind and sincerity would win my admiration.

Junying: I agree with you. All above fine qualities and admirable. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Julie: People who always see evil in others and criticize others.

Junying: I also agree. What is your greatest achievement so far?

Julie: I am happy that I am able to work in the University of Helsinki as a professor of Chinese studies. This is a dream come true. I like my job, the challenges I face, my colleagues and students.

Junying: Many Congratulations, Julie, on landing your dream job and enjoying it.

Do you have any regrets? If you do, what is your single greatest regret?

Photo by Veikko Somerpuro

Photo by Veikko Somerpuro

Julie: I did have regrets in my life before. But as I grow older, I try to get rid of regrets as soon as possible. That is to say, if I find there is still a regret in my life, maybe words unsaid or things undone, I immediately tackle it by saying the words and doing the things. Currently, I think I am 99% regret-free. The 1 percent might be related to my family. As I live outside of Taiwan, I rarely see my family. It would be great if I could have spent more time with my family in Taiwan.

Junying: I totally understand that, Julie. Like you, I’ve lived in another country for many years, and finding time to visit family and spending time with them has been a real challenge.

If you could choose, what other profession would you have liked to attempt?

Julie: Maybe a priest….I don’t think I am qualified though because I never have proper training to be a priest. I think the job of a priest is also more challenging than the job of a scholar. What I mean is that, I think a priest would have to face more diverse kinds of people than what I would encountered in the academic setting. I don’t know if I like that and if I am able to live that kind of life.

Junying: Sometimes we don’t know what we are capable of until we try, so I am sure that whatever you attempt to do, you will do it successfully.   

What do you do to rewind after a stressful day at work?

Julie: I am not a very sportive or outgoing person. I just love to stay at home, listening to music, make a nice meal for myself, and if possible, have a nice sip of wine.

Junying: That sounds very relaxing.

cover225x225Do you enjoy reading? And what is your favourite book of all time?

Julie: I have read 99% of Brazilian novelist, Paulo Coelho’s books. I like his writings because they are life-transforming and encouraging in nature.

Not all of his books are as interesting and inspiring as his famous novel “The Alchemist” though. I have The Alchemist on my ipad. When I need encouragement or a smile in my heart, I just read some pages of The Alchemist again.

Junying: That’s a wonderful recommendation. I have quite a few of his novels on my bookshelves and The Alchemist has been on my to-read list for a long time. Now it will be my next read. Thanks!
What is your motto?

Julie: In our current era, saying that this is my motto is not going to make me win the hearts of the world. But yes, this is my motto: follow Jesus.

Junying: It’s an excellent motto, Julie. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Julie: There is no perfect happiness. Our life is meant to have ups and downs. One moment of sorrow could turn into joy. One moment of joy could also turn into sorrow. I think what is important (and yet difficult to achieve) is to have an unwavering stability and hope in our soul, no matter what kind of circumstances we are in.

Junying: I am totally with you there, Julie. It is the ups and downs in life that make us who we are.

Finally, what three things would you add to your bucket list?

Julie: I am not bragging: There is nothing that I really lack in my life. I have got all I aspire in my life. But if you want to push me, maybe these TWO could make me feel EVEN MORE content of my life.

  1. Meet David Pawson in person and listen to his sermons in the UK. David Pawson is a prominent bible teacher. I listen to his sermons online every week.
  2. Invite my mom to Finland. This is not easy as she never travels abroad, speaks no foreign language and knows nothing about foreign culture and way of living. I also don’t know how she would handle the jetlag and cold weather. Her winter is 20 C. That is the summer of Finland! This would also mean that I have to fly to Taiwan to bring her to Finland and then bring her back to Taiwan. Even the cost is not a problem, I need to find a period of free time to do this.

Again, I don’t give regret a chance in my life. So, most likely I will make these two things happen ☺

Junying: Julie, thank you so much for spending time with me and sharing with my readers glimpses of your work and life. I’ve enjoyed having this conversation, and I look forward to talking with your face to face in April.


Helsinki Cathedral - We Wish Everyone a Wonderful Easter!

Helsinki Cathedral (image from internet) – We Wish Everyone a Wonderful Easter!

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#Taiwan (4) Connection: National Taiwan University of Arts #NTUA

Brokeback Mountain, Directed by Ang Lee

Do you remember the scene where Jake Gyllenhaal’s character said: ““I wish I knew how to quit you”?

Tears welled in my eyes and touched my very soul when I watched Brokeback Mountain, an Oscar winning film directed by famed Taiwanese director Ang Lee.

There were no tears, simply very cheerful occasions when I visited his alma mater NTUA, during my two trips to Taipei, first on a sunny day in October 2015, and then just over a week ago in March 2016.

NTUA was about to celebrate its 60th Anniversary when I visited in 2015

NTUA was about to celebrate its 60th Anniversary when I visited in 2015

After returning from my ‘virgin voyage’ to Taiwan last October, I wrote a few blogs about my Taiwan impressions, her sights, sounds and people, not to mention her vast offerings of food. This time, I will share with you a little bit of my work. It was, after all, what got me to Taiwan in the first place.

On learning that I was to lead BCU’s partnership activities in Taiwan, I approached a number of institutions on that compact and beautiful island (Formosa, as it was known before, is translated as Beautiful Island in Portuguese). A carefully planned itinerary was in place when I landed in Taoyuan International Airport.

One of the institutions which kindly received me was NTUA, and as it turned out, I was able to meet some of the most fascinating people: Ivan Li, Dr Mei-Ling Chu and President Chih-Cheng Chen.


Ivan, Rob, Junying, President Chen, Dr Mei-Ling Chu, Dr Victor Liu and Dr Yi-Cheng Chiang

Ivan, Rob, Junying, President Chen, Dr Mei-Ling Chu, Dr Victor Liu and Dr Yi-Cheng Chiang

I must admit that I did not expect but was overwhelmed to sit and chat with the top man at NTUA, a very busy, yet utterly gracious gentleman. I think we connected straight away. Dr Chen was educated in France and worked as the Director of Taiwan Culture Centre in Paris, a true cosmopolitan and Europhile.

On the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, I returned to NTUA. Ivan met me and my colleague at the front gate. As he took us to the home of International Affairs, I had a sense of familiarity akin to homecoming. This feeling was reaffirmed when the Dean of International Affairs, Dr Mei-Ling Chu gave me the biggest smile and warmest hug. My heart melted at the genuine warmth and hospitality which I have experienced time and again in Taiwan. It’s soul-lifting.

Friendship and bond between hosts at NTUA and guests from BCU

Friendship and bond between hosts at NTUA and guests from BCU

Again, I was able to meet with Dr Chen, despite his hectic schedule. We enjoyed a quick catch up and an fruitful exchange of ideas on partnerships between our two institutions. I was delighted when I was informed of the President’s imminent Chevalier (Knighthood equivalent) award by the French government. On his way to Paris, he was to pay us a visit in Birmingham.

Press release from NTUA website

Press release from NTUA website

So last Thursday afternoon, a day after my return from the Far East, Dr Chen, Ivan and I were reunited in my part of the world, bang in the Heart of England. I was thrilled to be able to play host for a change.

Following the formal signing of agreement between our PVC Professor Makhoul and President Chen, taking the advantage of a few hours that our guests were able to spare, we proudly showed them our city centre campus, particular Parkside, home to our Art, Design and Media. In a dash across the city, our visitors from afar took in glimpses of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and BCU’s fabulous School of Art on Margret Street. We even packed in a live performance by one of our Taiwanese members of staff, Beetung Goo when we watched her perform on her French Horn.

This is one of the joys of my job, to seek out and bring connections across the globe between like minded people for educational and cultural benefit. This is enhanced when the people I work with are of such high calibre.

Tour of Birmingham Conservatoire and talk of future collaboration

Tour of Birmingham Conservatoire and talk of future collaboration

On this positive note, I will end today’s blog. I would, however, again send my most sincere congratulations to Dr Chih-Cheng Chen on his prestigious award and honour!

Bienvenu a Birmingham!

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Thank You, #University of #Helsinki #ChineseStudies

Professor Yu-Wen Chen

Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen

Five weeks from now, I will be travelling to Finland for the first time. Why?

You will find out exactly why from Professor Julie Yu-wen Chen‘s recent post which I am reblogging below. I can’t wait to visit University of Helsinki, a wonderful partner institution of Birmingham City University. I am particularly excited about the prospect of meeting and exchanging ideas with my colleagues at  University of Helsinki Chinese Studies and Confucius Institute at University of Helsinki. Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen is Director of U0H Chinese Studies as well as CIUH, and with great efficiency and ultra professionalism she has organised the two speaking events and my visit.



By Julie Yu-Wen Chen

Trilogy Cover

In late April, Dr. Junying Kirk from Birmingham City University will deliver two talks at the University of Helsinki. It is time that we introduce Dr. Kirk to our UH community!

Born and raised in Sichuan Province in China, Dr Kirk was educated at Chongqing University and Nanjing University in China, obtaining a BA and a postgraduate diploma in English Literature and English Language Teaching. This was followed by postgraduate studies in a number of UK universities, including University of Warwick, University of Glasgow and Leeds Beckett University.

Dr Kirk has many years of experience in the different sectors of education, both in China and in the UK. She is considered an expert in the participation and cultural adaptations of International students in the UK. As a cultural consultant, she designs and delivers cultural training courses for a number of clients including the University of Nottingham. She is passionate about cross-cultural communications and bridging the gap between the East and the West. She has a strong social media following and her blogs reach out far and wide.

Dr. Kirk has also self-published a modern ‘Journey to the West’ trilogy, faithfully recording many of her personal experiences as an international student and that of many of her fellow immigrants.

Thanks for the support of the Erasmus programme, Dr. Kirk is coming to town in April. Below offers brief introduction of her upcoming two events~~

Time: 25.4.2016 at 14-16

Place: U38 D112 (Unioninkatu 38)

Lecture: Different Routes in Establishing Partnerships in China and Taiwan

Establishing international partnerships is becoming increasingly important and fiercely competitive for high education institutions worldwide, and there is no exception for UK universities. Traditionally British Universities has had an advantage over many of their competitors but the world is changing fast, as the market for international students becomes more mature and sophisticated.

IMG_7773In this presentation, Dr Kirk will give an introduction on the current international market for student recruitment and the significant roles international partnerships play in ensuring successful market share and student experiences. She will share her experiences working as an International Partnerships Manager at a large UK institution and how Birmingham City University is doing in her partnership activities in China and Taiwan.

Common ground and different ways to establish partnerships will be discussed in her presentation. She will cite examples from China and Taiwan, offering insights into the cultural differences and business environments, and recommending good practices and what to avoid. There are challenges in establishing partnerships overseas given the many differences that exist between the East and West, and a number of barriers in terms of language, culture, people and political systems.

Meeting with Dr Chih-Cheng Chen, President of NTUA in Taiwan, March 2016

Meeting with Dr Chih-Cheng Chen, President of NTUA in Taiwan, March 2016

The presentation is aimed to be informative, interesting and interactive. There will be opportunities to ask questions and share good practice with colleagues from University of Helsinki.

Meet the novelist event, co-host by East Asian Studies and Confucius Institute, University of Helsinki

Time: 26.4.2016 at 14-16

Place: U38 A205

Lecture: My Journey from the East to the West

In this talk, Junying will share her fascinating experience as an Indie author. She will give a presentation on how she embarked on the long and sometimes difficult journey of writing, publishing and promoting her books.

Prior to her current work as an International Partnerships Manager, Junying worked as a freelance professional interpreter and translator, during which time she completed a modern day “Journey to the West Trilogy”: The Same Moon, Trials of Life and Land of Hope. Parts of the stories in her books are semi-autobiographical, recording many of her personal heartaches and triumphs, growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution, a very traumatic time in Chinese history. Many of her inspirations came from her interactions with people from different walks of life, especially her many years of working as a Police and Court interpreter.

NEWCOVERLOHHer books, since publication on Amazon and other on-line stories world-wide, have received great reviews. Here is what one reviewer said about “Land of Hope”:

“The author has taken a very complex and challenging modern issue, and expertly treated it with a clear compassion and detailed understanding, enabling the reader to discover harsh realities of the brutal and often little addressed issue of human trafficking. It is a book of extremes with characters of ultra confidence and manipulative brilliance, through to the petrified characters often deeply emotionally troubled, due to the nature of their experiences and life’s reflections. The book contains many frightening, unfortunate, and true messages, told with imaginative twists and turns.”

Junying will be delighted to discuss the many ups and downs as an Indie author, what inspired her to write and her future projects in terms of her literary pursuit.

Original Blog Here


Kiitos paljon,  Helsingin Yliolisto! 

And thank you too, Julie! 

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The Same Moon – Beautifully Written, A Passionate, Emotional and Dramatic Journey

It’s been a while since I promoted my work as an Indie author, and today I am  changing that. What better ways to do so than sharing with you some of my favourite reviews on my first book The Same Moon? My readers are far more convincing than I’ll ever be as far as my own work is concerned.

GoodReads has been a great platform, especially for Indie authors. It allows my books to reach audiences which I may never find otherwise. As you can see from the few screenshots below, some of these book reviewers are authors themselves, and they are from different parts of the world. For today’s selection, I’ve highlighted a few truly wonderful reviews and I am grateful to each of the reviewers: Peter Tieryas (USA); John Dolan (UK/Thailand); Jess Scott (Singapore); Eden Baylee (Canada); Tabitha Ormiston-Smith (Australia) and Casey Sheridan (USA).

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.04.14 Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.06.32 Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.09.16 Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.05.45

If these amazing reviewers have persuaded you to have a go at reading The Same Moon, you know what to do.

Finally, I’m going to travel in the Far East for a few weeks, so I’m taking a short break from blogging. In the meantime, I hope you get to know me and my characters through one of my books. I look forward to be reunited with you again on my return in March 2016.

Happy Reading!

Trilogy Cover

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