cross borders,

Matthew Yan | UNSW Student and Global Citizen

Culturestride Culturestride Sep 19, 2020 · 6 mins read
Matthew Yan | UNSW Student and Global Citizen
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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself

As you know my name’s Matt, I’m currently in my final year at UNSW studying a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Marketing & Finance. I’ve worked at a couple places now and have a pretty broad breadth of experiences which include multinational corporate strategy, professional services as well as start-up project work. Probably the most rewarding experiences I’ve gained out of these was the opportunity to make an impact which has really confirmed for me, my ambitions to constantly strive towards amazing things.

Aside from that, I absolutely love travelling around Asia and getting to know the various cultures in these regions. I’ve travelled around Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore, and hope to return to China either for work or travel in the near future.

Matthew Yan

Paint a picture for us on your experience growing up

Much of my experience growing up is quite synonymous to many others in Australia. Whilst I am born and raised Australian, my parents are immigrants from China where I’m the first generation to be born here. This meant that my childhood largely consisted of a typical Aussie lifestyle outside of home life in contrast with returning to a very traditional lifestyle back home. It really entrenched in me a deep appreciation for my heritage and its representative values, as well as a recognition of my identity as a Australian-born Chinese person. Whereas growing up I never really understood the gravity of connecting with my heritage, its values have truly shaped the person I’ve become, a main motivator for me now in reconnecting with my culture.

What are your life and career ambitions?

Personally, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity of being presented with several leadership roles throughout my time at uni (despite my prior lack of experience in this area). These experiences have motivated me to pursue a career where I am able to act as a leader who not only creates impact, but also inspires others. Whilst I am young and may not necessarily have a strict career path which entails this ambition, it allows me to always put 100% in each endeavour I pursue. Over the long-term, I hope to be able to start my own company within the mental health space, a cause I truly believe in. Part of this has impelled me to apply for the New Colombo Scholarship, a process which would allow me to travel across Asia working for various technology start-ups and NFP organisations - representing a stepping stone towards this goal. I am currently nominated by UNSW for the NCP scholarship.

Moving away from my career, the traditions and values of family instilled in me from a young age have motivated me to aim for a happy and prosperous family life - as I’m sure many of you reading this would relate. I have realised the importance of maintaining a strong connection with one’s heritage as a form of self-identity which leads me to the goal of instilling this same experience that I had in my children. To do so, I would first need to reconnect with my heritage from a cultural level as well as linguistically, leading me to participate in Culturestride’s program.

What does your culture mean to you and why are you learning your mother tongue?

To me, my culture is a form of self-identity, it allows me to better know who I am. Learning my mother tongue, for me, is essentially a process of turning the love and care that my parents gave me into an appreciation of their backgrounds, their own childhoods and how they were raised, why they are the way they are and how this has shaped who I am. It’s a process of understanding my upbringing, whilst dictating the individual I aspire to be. I have become overly proud of my heritage through my parents and upbringing and learning my mother tongue allows me to reflect this moving forward.

Lately, I had realised that I had become quite disconnected with my culture. Struggling to communicate with family members and not understanding many traditions that were considered common knowledge. This really became a prime motivator for me to begin learning my language so that I could connect with my family on a deeper level. If I am to connect with my future children on a deeper level, I should first learn to do so with my own family.

What has been the most important factor in achieving the success you’ve had?

Whilst I would not particularly ascribe myself to be overtly successful, I think the most important factor which allows me to continually apply myself is the concept of resilience. It’s the idea of taking on each challenge and each barrier with a thirst to continually learn and overcome these experiences. It is to this extent that I view each challenge as a learning opportunity, something to look forward to as a means of growing myself. This allows me especially to recover from setbacks quite quickly. I am a true believer in the sentiment that ‘the road to success is paved with failure’. This idea of not being afraid of failure is pivotal to redefining your approach to success. It’ll allow you to seek opportunities not for being safe or being the conventional route, but simply because you want to give it a shot, or you believe it’s the best path for you. It’ll allow you to stand-out and do exceptional things because of your learnings along that path. This concept has really provided me the constant courage to step outside my comfort zone and try things I never would’ve imagined years ago.

Matthew Yan

What is one piece of advice you’d share to anyone who wants to become more like you?

Finding that state of resilience and courage to tackle failures is not an overnight change. For some, it can take a matter of days, for many it’s a constant challenge to fundamentally change one’s perception of success.

What has worked for me is to try to seek a purpose, greater than one’s self that I felt I could dedicate my life towards. I believe in doing so, no matter how great the challenge it will allow you to persevere through it with a sense of courage, clarity and determination. This doesn’t necessarily mean finding your passion, and I think an important distinction should be made between your purpose and passion.

Passion can be seen as the work or activity you love doing, whether it be coding, making music or investing in the stock market. Finding your passion is difficult, something I’m still actively trying to do. Finding your purpose is intrinsic, many of you will already know deep down what you believe your purpose is. Whether it’s to give a great family life and upbringing to your future children (and that’s okay, there’s plenty of honour in that), or even to become a changemaker who makes a difference in the world.

I think you’ll find that if you have that strong sense of purpose, you’ll have the energy and tenacity to just start learning no matter the area and I’m sure you’ll soon find the area you’re passionate about.

Matthew Yan


This article is an entry into Culturestride’s “Cross Borders” Article Series highlighting inspirational young people who are exploring international culture, language and opportunities.

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Written by Culturestride
Culturestride is creating a more connected and emphathetic world through online language education. Learn Mandarin, Cantonese and English taught by the handpicked teachers across the world.