Graduate Profile: Xueqiong Feng, BA, Economics
Graduating this June with a BA in Economics, Chinese international student, Xueqiong Feng says she first came to study at SFU from Wuhan, China because her parents’ encouraged her to study in North America. “My parents value a North American education and a school in Canada was their first choice for me. They believed studying at SFU would give me a bright future.” Feng speaks fondly of her family and recounts how they steered her towards studying in the Arts because it would be “easier for a girl.” Contrary to the idea that Arts courses would be easy, however, Feng says the hardest courses she encountered during her degree were actually in Philosophy or Psychology, where “complicated theoretical ideas” and “discipline-specific jargon” made it difficult to understand concepts and articulate one’s critical thinking and analysis.
Taking many breadth courses across Arts and Social Sciences—in Criminology, Linguistics, Philosophy, and Psychology—Feng says she decided to major in Economics because it is a discipline widely applicable outside the university and the skills you gain—like data collection and statistical analysis—can be used in many fields of work. Feng says her favorite course was Statistics 403: Intermediate Sampling and Experimental Design. In this class, she explains, the final project asked students to choose their own topic and question and collect simple original data. They were to then analyze the data and draw conclusions. Feng says, since the topic was wide open, she decided on questioning whether or not short-term memory is different between young women and young men. “I chose to collect data at random from people passing through West Mall Centre. I made a list of numbers for people to try and memorize and then I took short surveys of 40 people: 20 women and 20 men. In my analysis, it turned out that there was very little difference in the women’s and men’s abilities to remember the list of numbers, with the exception of one guy who somehow remembered them all! I concluded that there was no significant evidence to show differences in women’s and men’s ability to remember the numbers.”
Despite the simplicity of the data collection, Feng says she was surprised at how such a simple exercise spurred many follow-up questions from her professor and how it made her think about how much she would refine her process were she to do the project again. “It’s like, when you’re studying statistics and looking at case studies, you’re coming up with analysis and conclusions based on questions and figures that have already gone through a lot of trial and error and perfecting. I realized how much of that work is done for you. When you’re working with your own raw data, even in a very simple project, even if you think through every step carefully, you miss things, you make mistakes, you have missing information or assumptions that you have to deal with after you collect your data. It takes multiple tries and you have to keep trying, keep learning, and you have to seek out and use resources to help you refine your approach.”
Feng likens this lesson in data collection to her own personal approach in finding opportunities and experiences to enhance her academic life. “You have to find and make use of the resources around you while you’re in school. It isn’t easy if you’re kind of lazy and assume these experiences will be given to you. And it’s pretty easy if you open your eyes and ears while you’re on campus.” She likens the wealth of opportunity to foraging for food in an abundant environment: “It’s like there is all this food out there and you can have it—in fact, you need it. But no one is going to go get it for you. It’s up to you to do the work of finding it.” Feng sought out every opportunity she could while at SFU; her resume shows a host of professional and volunteer positions she’s worked during her time at SFU including: a Recreational Sport Assistant, a Campus Tour Guide, a Residence Orientation Leader, an International Mentorship Program Mentor, Activity Volunteer for the English Language and Culture Program, a Convocation Usher, and a Caller for both SFU Advancement’s Annual Alumni Appeal Campaign and the FASS Calling Campaign. In addition to these roles, Feng also completed levels 1 and 2 of the SFU’s Passport to Leadership, a series of workshops designed to foster student’s leadership and professional development skills.
One of the most memorable experiences Feng says she had while completing her degree was going to Meji Gakuin University in Japan. “I chose to do the Japan exchange program because I believe experiencing different cultures is so important. It’s partly why I chose to study as an international student at SFU. Being immersed in a culture for more than 1 or 2 days gives you more perspective and more chances to relate to different cultures and build communication skills and cultural knowledge.” Feng says she took several courses in current affairs, arts and humanities while on exchange and the discussions that came out of the classroom were thought-provoking. “One thing that came up a number of times during classroom conversations while I studied in Japan was marriage, family dynamics and how Japan’s population is decreasing. To economists, it’s really interesting because population decreases impact world economies, workforces, as well as social issues. It was really interesting to discuss these issues while we were actually in the country.”
Feng is currently working as a server in a busy restaurant but actively searching out opportunities to work in her field. While she says she would prefer a job assisting in research, she’s open to a range of opportunities in the years ahead. “I would love to find a job helping collect data or researching data for a project. Being a traveller at heart, gaining cultural experiences is also important to me. So who knows? Maybe I will work for a few years and go to graduate school afterwards in the US or the UK.”