Youzi – The Wanderers

Gemma Thorpe

游子 youzi / The Wanderers

Chinese students make up the largest group of international students in Sheffield; there are currently over 2500 Chinese students registered at The University of Sheffield, compared to just 300 in 2001.

More Chinese restaurants and Asian food stores are opening along West Street to cater for this increase, along with karaoke bars near London Road, and shops beginning to advertise in Chinese characters. For many students, this is the first time they have been abroad. University life in China is vastly different, with 8-10 bed dormitories the norm, and on-campus canteens providing most meals.

This generation are the children of parents who experienced the Cultural Revolution, a dark time in China’s history when higher education institutions were closed down, creativity was suppressed, and travel abroad banned. Many parents want their children to have the opportunities they were denied. Furthermore, China’s huge population makes competition for University places and graduate employment at home even tougher; studying abroad can offer new perspectives and the chance to develop fluency in English, a much sought-after trait in the job market.

This series of photographs aims to show personal insights into this phenomenon, to demonstrate the varied lives and experiences of young Chinese people in our city, to share their stories and perspectives of life in a new culture.

The work was developed in close collaboration with the students themselves and academic David Forrest, and was kindly supported by the Arts Enterprise fund at The University of Sheffield. More of the work can be seen here:

游子 comes from a Chinese poem, Youzi Yin (Song of the Wanderer), which speaks of the bond between a mother and her son who leaves home to work far away.