Congcong Liu, studying BA (Hons) International Finance, was interviewed after attending the Catalyst course in 2016:
How would you describe the Catalyst course?
Catalyst helps you understand who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are and who you want to be. It teaches you to be a leader of yourself. It’s also a way to build connections with others and makes you re-define the world around you.
What motivated you to apply for the catalyst course?
I had only been in Plymouth for 10 months, wasn’t fluent in English and didn’t feel confident interacting with people. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, get to know myself and make more friends. Sometimes I’d felt confused about my future and I hoped Catalyst would help me see more clearly.
What have you learnt from the activities?
When I first arrived on the course, I assumed the other students wouldn’t want to talk to me, but I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to get to know and make friends with them, so I made the effort to talk to them and found that they were lovely people. They didn’t care about my accent or level of English. As long as we were able to understand each other, that was fine.
A simple task, like doing the dishes in a team where everyone had a certain job, showed how dependent we were on each other in order for the process to be successful. I’ve learned how to work with others and gained awareness that everyone is important, having a role to play in the team’s success and the importance of helping them if they are stuck.
Catalyst helped me reflect on why I have become the person I am today. It has improved my self-awareness, built my confidence in interacting with others by taking me out of my comfort zone and it has made me less judgemental. This will help me get on better with colleagues and work more efficiently.
Catalyst raised my awareness of the environment through working on the land, learning how food can be grown in an organic and sustainable way. It also helped me realise the importance of planning and that if you don’t put effort in, you won’t get the results you want.
What were the highlights of the course for you?
Trust - I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else. It gave me the feeling of being free to be myself. It enabled us to explore our weakness, share our stories and inspire each other. In the past, if I was meeting someone for the first time I would be really cautious and afraid of making mistakes. I now feel more trusting, having accepted myself and others for who they are.
If you could change anything about Catalyst, what would it be?
Power sockets, because there aren’t any in the yurts! But, I think not being able to check Facebook was a good thing. I felt really calm because I was able to observe everything through my own eyes and not through my phone. I re-connected with the nature around me. Before attending Catalyst, the reason I wanted to check social media is because I wanted to find something or someone I have something in common with. I had forgotten that the people around me are lovely. Catalyst has helped me realise that if I want to connect with people, just talk to them. It’s that easy!
What was it like staying in a yurt?
Because it’s so dark at night, you can see the stars really clearly. It’s amazing, in the roof of the yurt, there is an opening with a covering. When we lay on our beds at night, we could see the stars and in the morning the sunbeams came through, making the room was really bright. I just wanted to stay there and didn’t want it to end.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve stayed in touch with everyone on the course through Facebook and someone I met on the course came to my home recently. We still have a strong feeling of connection and I think we’ll be friends for life.
Since the course has finished, I have felt strong and powerful. I know who I am and who I want to be in the future. I can see my path more clearly now. I really appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given. I’ve had the best time of my life. The memories are carved in my heart and will be with me for the rest of my life. If I had the chance, I would definitely go back.