My school does not offer Chinese or Japanese.  Can I still apply for East Asian Studies?

Yes.  The course assumes no previous study of the language.  We welcome applications from any student interested in learning one of these fascinating non-European languages.

No, really – are you sure it’s not necessary to take Chinese or Japanese at the GCSE or AS level?

Yes!  Be reassured that previous study is not necessary nor a guarantee of success in the course.  If you are accepted, you will be given a list of things to study during the summer to prepare you for the first year.

How many students do you take each year?

For the past few years, Robinson has taken two to four students a year.  Here are the exact numbers: 2009: 4; 2010: 2; 2011: 2; 2012: 2.

What can I expect at the admissions interview?

Each candidate will have a 15-minute General interview and a 30-minute Subject interview.  The Subject interview will be with the College’s two fellows in the field.  Since East Asian Studies is a very demanding subject, we want to gauge the candidate’s interest and commitment by determining whether they have an understanding of the difficulties in learning an East Asian language and how much they have read – in English – on the subject.  Shortly before the interview, candidates will be given a short passage that will be discussed in the Subject interview.  There will also be a written test.  We are looking talented linguists who also have serious academic interest in a particular aspect of East Asia, be it politics, economy, or culture.

Do you recommend a gap year between school and university?

We have no preference on this issue.  Some students do choose to spend a year in East Asia before starting the course; this can help students make a quicker adjustment in the first year but is not seen as necessary.

How can I learn more about East Asia?

Do more than look up the Wikipedia entries on China and Japan!  Reading newspapers to learn about current events in the region is a start.  There are now a large number of books in English on East Asia, including both academic monographs and works meant for a more general audience.  You should read at least a few books on the subject of your interest – anything from ancient Chinese philosophy and the Tale of Genji to Lu Xun and the Cold War in East Asia – to determine whether East Asian Studies is really suited for you.  You can also watch films and Japanese animation, but you are expected to be able to discuss them in an academic manner and not simply as a fan.

What Do The Students Say About East Asian Studies At Robinson?

Robinson College is a great place to choose if you are looking to study East Asian Studies at Cambridge, providing not only fantastic resources for your studies but also a great life outside of work. The College Library has a good collection of books on East Asia, more than many colleges, and the Faculty and University libraries are very close by. At Robinson, we are lucky to have two members of the East Asian Studies department. It’s invaluable to have Professors who are experts of your chosen subject at your College when you have questions or need a point in the right direction with a particularly difficult problem.  Outside of studying, Robinson has a great atmosphere as a college. It has a very warm, friendly, and relaxed atmosphere, with places to chill out with friends. It is also a modern college, so many of the rules at other, older colleges which may seem slightly old fashioned aren’t present – for example, you may walk, relax and have fun on the grass in the garden to your heart’s content. I can’t recommend Robinson enough - come and see for yourself!

Dan (2009 entry)

Wherever your interests lie within East Asian Studies, and whether you study Chinese or Japanese, you’ll always find support and advice at Robinson, either from lecturers or other students.  In my year, I’m lucky enough to be one of four students in East Asian Studies, which means we’re able to support each other and share ideas on an informal basis outside of lectures. If you’re reading this, I hope you decide to apply to Robinson, and that you’ll enjoy the experience just as much as I have.

Sam R. (2009 entry)

Robinson is a really friendly college with a nice atmosphere, where people love to have fun. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and all year groups are mixed in together which makes it very sociable. Robinson is a great place to study East Asian studies because we have two fellows in the subject. This isn't the case at some colleges, where the Director of Studies is sometimes not a specialist in your subject and therefore probably knows less about your course and what is expected of you.  Its location is really convenient - just a few minutes walk from the Faculty; I have half an hour longer in bed every morning than some students at other colleges! Robinson has arguably the best food of all the colleges and has two formal halls a week - I find they are a nice treat on a Friday after a hard week's work. The food in Formal Hall is even better, and it's more formal and less frequent than at most other colleges, which makes it a bit more special. I didn't apply to Robinson, but I really would encourage people to. I feel extremely lucky that I was pooled and received an offer from Robinson.

Anna (2009 entry)

In terms of staff and students, Robinson College is one of the best places to study Chinese or Japanese. Unlike the majority of other colleges, Robinson has the capacity to support more than just one student in each year group, an invaluable benefit. I am, for example, one of two students of Chinese at Robinson in my year. Together we support each other throughout the year, especially during the exam period, providing a great way of making our lives in college easier and more manageable. Robinson also benefits from having a Director of Studies who is directly involved in the first year course and who is aware of the difficulties and challenges proposed by taking on an East Asian language. If you are reading this, I do hope you consider applying to Robinson College. Apart from these advantages, it is also undoubtedly the friendliest college in Cambridge!

Sam S. (2010 entry)

Updated May 2013