Starting Over at 31: An Unconventional Journey to a BSc

04 Nov 2021

An XJTLU alumnus shares his unconventional journey to a BSc in his 30s and landing a job at Daimler, one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world

In his early 20s, Christopher Champion, a young American, started his bachelors degree in French at Eastern Michigan University. However, unsure of what he wanted from his future career, he dropped out.

At the age of 31, Champion became a student again on the other side of the globe – China.

After three years of hard work, Champion graduated from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s BSc Information and Computing Science programme at the School of Advanced Technology.

Christopher Champion, centre, during his time at XJTLU

Armed with his degree, Champion recently got a job as a Business Developer at Daimler Group Services Berlin, a subsidiary of the Daimler Corporation, which owns renowned car companies such as Mercedes-Benz.

Champion’s current role is assisting in digitalising and automating the HR processes by developing and testing software tools.

“It’s kind of like acting as a liaison between the HR team and the IT team,” he says. “I’m working on robotic process automation, which ties into my degree from XJTLU.”

Champion says his resume is pretty unconventional even by US standards, but he’s learned the power of being patient and not giving up.

“Don’t worry if you need more time than someone else for something,” he says. “Don’t be too hard on yourself; keep at it and usually, life finds a way of working things out.”

The Journey to XJTLU

A few months after leaving university, Champion moved to Germany. There, he learned German and completed a three-year programme on software development because he’d always liked working on computers. After working at a German software company for a while, he thought about going back to university.

“I believe in lifelong education, especially in my field. It’s constantly developing, and you really can’t stop learning,” says Champion.
He first heard about XJTLU from a friend and decided to move to China to pursue his studies in 2017.

“China is one of the most exciting places to study in the technology field,” says Champion. “It’s really at the forefront of innovation in terms of e-commerce and mobile applications.

“With something like mobile payments – it’s just starting in other parts of the world, but it’s kind of old news in China already.

“Like last year, in Suzhou, there was a digital Renminbi trial, and that’s based on blockchain technology.

“What seems like futuristic technology for other countries is just a part of life in China. If you go to the mall, there are virtual reality games available to play. E-commerce platforms like Taobao or Pinduoduo are easy to use and reliable.

“You don’t have to be interested in programming or be a computer scientist to enjoy all of those things. But if you’re interested in research and development, China is a really special place.”

Challenging Yet Rewarding

Champion says the international and multicultural environment and the integration of both Eastern and Western education at XJTLU are huge draws for Chinese and international students.

“For me, it was interesting because it exposed me to Chinese language and Chinese culture, but I was still able to study in my native language, English, and obtain a degree that’s internationally recognised and well regarded,” he adds.

The study environment at XJTLU had many advantages for Champion, but the academic workload could be challenging at times.

“The programme covers a lot of things in a limited time, and the teaching is more self-guided than spoon-fed,” he says.

This independence helped give Champion the confidence to ask more questions and exchange ideas with students and professors.

In addition to self-confidence, he says he also built up his leadership capacity at XJTLU.

“When I was younger, I always shied away from taking on a leadership or an organisational position in a group. That opportunity presented itself a few times at XJTLU, and I got a lot more comfortable in that role because of it,” he says.

“Studying at XJTLU was challenging,” he says. “But if I hadn’t had gone through it, I might not have had the confidence to even apply for my current job.”

By Huan Zhu
Edited by Patricia Pieterse

04 Nov 2021


Becoming a better professional by being a student again
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