by Yinya Liu
On a breezy and drizzly September afternoon, I arrived at Dublin airport, the first time I left China and went abroad. I did not know at that time that I would stay in this country for seven years and experience so many aspects of it. After these seven years, Ireland is like my second homeland.
The subject I chose to study at NUI Maynooth was Philosophy. Many people have asked me why I chose this subject and why I chose Ireland to study this subject. The answers to these two questions could be very long, but to keep it short, I chose Philosophy because it is a subject to study general and fundamental problems in a critical, systematic and rational way which reveals the curiosity of the human being. And the reason I chose Ireland to study Philosophy was because of the country’s long academic history, especially on philosophy of religion, the excellent scholars and the serene environment for research.
I applied for a John Hume Scholarship before I came to Ireland and I was awarded this scholarship for my doctoral study. In the meanwhile, I also taught tutorials for first year students on modules including ‘Introduction to Philosophy’, ‘Philosophy of Religion’, ‘Moral Philosophy’ and ‘Logic’. Language, especially various accents and the different uses of philosophical terms, was a huge challenge at the beginning for me, but it was also a great opportunity to improve my linguistic ability. My research topics are about the concept of responsibility, the use of language and the role of the other under different cultures, thus my research and teaching and life at NUIM are mutually beneficial: my research provides various perspectives on observation and understanding of different cultures, which is helpful for my daily and teaching communication; my teaching and living at NUIM provides me direct experience and reflection on my research. This is explicitly embodied in the teaching on a module ‘Introduction to Chinese Philosophy’. I have found that more and more Western students are interested in Chinese thought and in Chinese culture, and some of my students have chosen to write their essays or BA dissertations on comparative philosophy (e.g. comparing Aristotle’s Aretê and Confucius’ Ren) under my supervision.
I also would like to express my gratitude to the Department of Philosophy at NUIM. The Department has continuously supported my teaching on Chinese culture and religious studies. The head of department, Dr. Michael Dunne, provided opportunities for me to order reference books on Chinese philosophy, culture and Buddhist philosophy to the university Library. In this way, NUIM has a special collection on these topics and students can borrow these books from the Library either for their research when they attended my courses or for personal interest. Through this opportunity, I introduced Chinese culture and religions to Irish students and the feedback from and discussion with local students also helped me to understand my own culture and research better. I was the only Chinese student or even Asian student in the Department at that time. The lecturers and other students were very kind to me and travelled with me to several famous sightseeing places in Ireland.
After I graduated from NUIM, I continued to teach Buddhist Philosophy and Confucian Ethics for postgraduate students and final year undergraduate students at NUI Maynooth as an occiasional lecturer. I also taught Chinese language and Chinese culture at the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies of Dublin City University. I was happy to share what I had studied and researched in Ireland, and what I taught was indeed beneficial to the students who studied either Philosophy or Chinese language.
Based on my research and academic background, I got a job as ‘Programme Coordinator’ of International Strategic Collaboration Programme (ISCP) with the Research Support Office at NUIM in June 2013. This programme is funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and intends to promote the scientific research collaboration between Irish and Chinese universities, research institutes and companies. I mainly work at the ISCP Beijing Office but I also travel between China and Ireland in order to organise conferences and to attend meetings. It is not a small shift from a philosophy teacher to a programme coordinator, but the cores behind the differences are similar – to build up a bridge for communication and exchanges on science, philosophy and culture.
If Ireland is like my second homeland, then NUI Maynooth is like my second home. The people who work and study on campus are so friendly, the University’s research reputation is rapidly increasing, and more and more international students from all over the world study at NUI Maynooth. As a member of this big family, I do like my second home and welcome you to this nice place to explore more!