Here’s a profile piece I wrote while undergoing my journalism studies. The assignment brief was flexible and only required a written profile on an assigned partner. The focus of the profile was determined individually. My final mark for this assignment was 78%.
Yiwen Jiang: the girl with an overflowing book bag
It is a surprisingly warm afternoon for October when Yiwen stumbles into the coffee shop clutching the strap of her overflowing book bag. “Hi, my name is Yiwen,” she tells me breathlessly somewhat flustered. “Even?” I ask. “Yes. Yiwen,” she nods, with corners of her lips curling into a smile. An awkward silence follows, both of us too shy to say anything. As if Yiwen has had enough, she sits back in her chair, crosses her legs with newfound ease and folds her hands over her knees, “I think what’s really interesting about me is my love for basketball and Kobe Bryant,” she confidently declares with her accent especially heavy pronouncing the player’s last name. Puzzled and amused, I remember there is a purpose to this meeting. I listen to her talk about her love for the game, her aspirations of becoming a sports journalist and a lecturer that inspired her in school to pursue her dream. She has peeked my curiosity, I ask to hear more about this lecturer. “I became diligent at school, top of the class, because she inspired me,” Yiwen explains with a thoughtful expression on her face, “she was a friend, someone to talk to after class, she inspired me and motivated me, but most importantly she eased my stress. We still keep in touch!”
Yiwen was born and has lived most of her life in Shanghai, China and is the only child or as she referred to, ‘she’s from a nuclear family’. She comes from middle class and her parents’ hold jobs in ‘stable professions’ as Yiwen put it – her father is a policeman and her mother is a teacher. “My mother would always have holidays at the same time as I to keep an eye on me,” Yiwen explains. She carries on describing the years she spent playing piano, her continued struggles of falling in and out of love with the instrument. “I started playing when I was three years old, then I stopped,” she takes a second to gather her thoughts before she continues, “I was ten when I picked up playing again. I remember I wanted to play other instruments, but my mother insisted that I had to learn to play piano excellently before I could play other instruments.” I ask her if this upset her to which with sad eyes she shakes her head as if having rehearsed before what she is about to say next: “No, playing the piano was very beneficial to me, it was good for my brain development, concentration and practicing every day made me disciplined.” I notice she is looking everywhere but at me when she says this, I silently ponder if she did not understand my question due to the language barrier or if she deliberately chose to not explain her true feelings. “Now I have stopped and I haven’t played for years,” she notes, swiftly changing the topic to her school years.
She tells me about her high school experience, her always excellent grades and how she spent hours upon hours reading. “Reading is a good way to spend time, it has helped me develop a sense of sensitivity,” she points out. I ask her to tell me about her time at the university before she moved to England to study her postgraduate. “I didn’t do too well during bachelor studies, I was disappointed with my marks. I am the hope of my parents as the only child and I felt pressured to do better,” she admits the last part practically whispering. She is fiddling with her fingers and looking at her lap before she raises her head and looks me in the eyes, “my parents support me studying abroad because they know it is my dream,” she explains. I ask why it has been a dream of hers to study abroad. Yiwen talks passionately about the education system in England and how different it is from China, she says she has never seen such practical approach to subjects with the exception of the English class that was thought by the lecturer that she now calls her friend and inspiration. “I was always monitored at home, but I think it was how my parents showed they cared. They knew all my friends and would always pick me up from school. I like it here, but sometimes I miss home,” she explains. It feels like we have come a full circle, I ask Yiwen if she wants to return home after she finishes her studies. She nods and flashes me a smile that is not timid or shy but full of hope and anticipation. Yiwen finishes the cup of tea she has been nursing in her hands, picks up her overflowing backpack and heads out. I sit there, lost in my own thoughts, pondering over the girl that has travelled across continents to meet the heavy expectations put on her shoulder. Ironically I note that her stuffed to the brim book bag probably feels light in comparison.