Prisca Tang — English Literature and African Studies (B. Arts)

Prisca Tang has recently graduated from McGill University after completing her undergraduate career in the faculty of Arts, double majoring in English Literature and African Studies. She shares her experiences in finding your passion, journalism, and life after McGill.

Interviewer’s note: the first portion of this interview is related to the interviewee’s academic career at McGill University. The second portion of this interview is related to an internship opportunity acquired by the interviewee.

Tell us about what you studied at McGill.

I graduated from McGill University in the Winter of 2020 with a B.Arts in English Literature and African Studies.

Interviewer’s note: for more information regarding the department of English and/or the African studies program, please refer to the following:
https://www.mcgill.ca/english/
https://www.mcgill.ca/islamicstudies/undergraduate/african-studies

Academic Career

What have you been up to since graduation?

After graduating I moved back to Macau and began working at a small press company as a journalist.

What are some pros and cons about your program?

I graduated with a double major in English Literature and African Studies from McGill and while I love both of my majors, if I could do it over again, I would have preferred to study Liberal Arts instead.

English Literature is actually very interesting, and its great since a lot of the professors in the department are generous with their time and willing to help and answer questions. However, the workload can be overwhelming at times with the amount of reading and writing expected from you on a regular basis.

For example, I remember in my second year I had 13 essays to write within the span of 8 days, just to give you an idea.

African Studies on the other hand is nice change of pace in that its a multi-disciplinary program so, you get to learn a little bit of everything regarding developing countries. But, be warned! Since the complementary courses in many different departments, registration can be a pain since a lot of courses overlap, especially when you’re doing a double major in English Literature and African Studies like I did.

What were some valuable involvements at school that taught you about yourself and oriented your goals?

While the academic side of McGill is one thing, some of my most valuable learning experiences were outside of the classroom. I think that being in clubs, like HKSN and, just talking to classmates taught me most about myself and helped me get to where I am now. It was especially important for me because meeting different people, from a wide variety of backgrounds, and listening to their stories made me reflective of myself. And, I think this would apply to anyone who’s earnest enough to lend and ear and listen to what people have to say. Sometimes you’ll meet bad influences, and that may lead you down the wrong path for a time, but you’ll also meet friends along the way who have your best interest at heart and will pull you back on track if you lose your way. That being said, the bad experiences are just as important as the good ones, if you can look back on them with a constructive mindset, you’ll grow to be a better person who knows more about themselves.

McGill attracts a lot of different people, many of which are smart, motivated and successful individuals. You may stumble upon them in your classes, or a club but, you may naturally find yourself surrounded by those people who will help to motivate you and orient your goals. Thankfully, this was the case for me, and in my second year I had an epiphany. Originally, I had intended to study political science or become a lawyer, but my true passion was always in writing. That may sound like something coming from left field but, I actually had some experience writing in a professional setting prior to my epiphany. I took a semester off and by luck, landed at a press company which opened my eyes to the industry.

It seemed like the perfect match for me, I could be a writer and incorporate the things I was learning in university.

Now that I had a destination in mind, it made it much easier for me to organize the steps I needed to take during my undergrad to become a journalist out of university. And since then, I tried to write for school newspapers and magazines at every opportunity I got, which also made it easier for my future internship applications in journalism. So, if I had to sum it up, I’d say to keep an open mind, meet as many people as you can while you’re in a community of like-minded individuals and, be honest with yourself!

What’s one thing you regret doing/not doing during your McGill career?

If I’m being perfectly honest, I have a lot of regrets looking back on my time at McGill. The one big thing that sticks out to me would be that I pushed myself too hard in my first two years. There’s a huge adjustment period coming out of high-school and into the world of university and, my confidence might have been misplaced. I put too much on my plate at first which led to much unneeded stress for a younger me.

I wish I had slowed my pace and taken a moment to pause, breath, and, remind myself that it’s okay to take breaks and that it’s okay to not feel okay all the time.

There’s no rush to graduate! Why rush possibly the best years of your life? It’s not worth the extra stress of cramming for assessments, and not being able to make time for friends. Mental health is paramount above all else, it’s perfectly alright to not do stellar in a course, and to take a semester off if you just want to recharge. Take care of yourself! I wish I had known that sooner looking back.

What’s one thing you’re proud about during your McGill career?

There are a lot of things to be proud of looking back but, if I had to choose one, I think I’d be proud of the people I met during undergrad. Since joining HKSN way back when, I’ve become more confident and extroverted and, had the opportunity to meet people through hosting events with the club. I’m glad to have stuck around with the people I did, because I made some great friends out of it. They’ll be there for me whenever I need them, and vice versa. It harkens back to what I mentioned when talking about valuable involvements, in the end, meeting, maintaining and making new relationships takes effort, and I’m proud to have put the work in because I know that these friends will be life long.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I can’t stress this enough! Meet as many people as you can, and lend an ear to what they’ve got to say and their perspectives. Maybe everyone you meet won’t provide you with a take-away that you take to heart but, increasing those chances can be seriously beneficial to your own goals. Obviously, you won’t be able to “copy” someone else’s path to success, everyone is different but, that doesn’t mean there aren’t learning experiences or advice to be found.

Remember, life is a marathon, winning at the starting line doesn’t mean you’ll win the entire race so, take your time and move at your own pace.

Internship Experience

Tell us about your summer internship and how you acquired it.

Over the course of my undergrad at McGill, I had three internships and four part-time jobs. My first internship, I found through personal connections but, the latter two I scored through online applications and leveraging the experience I gained during my first internship. If you’re curious, they are as follows;

1. Chinese Newspaper Company — Reporter

2. English Online Blog — Blogger

3. English Newspaper — Journalist

4. (Part Time) English Online Magazine

Tell us three things you learned from this internship.

Short and sweet; I learnt that I enjoy working as a reporter, I cannot work as a Chinese journalist and that I don’t particularly enjoy writing blogs from a first-person perspective.

How did this internship steer the course of your career?

From all of my internships, I found that I prefer working in the newspaper reporting industry over online blogs. Despite my preference to write life-style articles, I found that there’s more to learn when working for a newspaper company.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

One little tidbit of advice, if you’re willing to work for free, you can always find an “internship” in the field that you’d like to pursue. Sometimes that first step is more important then the petty cash you’d earn, you want to be able to use the experience for future applications and score something even bigger later. Take baby steps, they will lead you to where you belong.

The Hong Kong Student Network is an undergraduate club at McGill that celebrates and promotes Hong Kong culture.