AS Level student wins University of Sheffield creative writing award
York College AS Level student Ruby Wells has won a University of Sheffield award for the quality of her creative writing skills.
Ruby, who studies Art, Sociology, Spanish and English Language and Literature, was one of 10 winners of the 2023 University of Sheffield School of East Asian Studies Essay Competition, which was open to Year 10, 11 and 12 students from across the UK.
Her entry was a touching fictional short story about how a young girl adapts to life in Manchester having moved to the area from Hong Kong during the origins of the city’s Chinatown region in the late 1940s.
As part of her prize, Ruby was invited to participate in a virtual workshop, organised by the University of Sheffield’s School of East Asia Studies and involving academics and current students from the department.
She also received a voucher for £25 that, due to her love of Gothic literature, Ruby has already used to buy The Woman in Black and The Haunting of Hill House books.
Ruby was told about the competition by our Spanish languages teacher Cecilia Palmer, who thought it would be an ideal outlet for her creative writing skills and passion for different cultures.
The competition brief was to write an essay or piece of creative writing between 1,000 and 1,500 words in length on the theme of how East Asia has influenced life in the UK.
Its organisers also pointed out that the prize had three aims:
1 To widen interest in East Asian Studies at university level among students who would not otherwise be exposed to the subject
2 To encourage ambitious and talented secondary school students who are considering applying to university to study East Asian Studies
3 To recognise the achievements of high-calibre students and of those who teach them
On her joy at being named as one of the winners, Ruby said: “It was a lovely surprise. I’ve always loved to write, so it’s really nice to have something to prove that it’s something I could do in the future.
“It’s definitely encouraged me to write more. I love creative writing and this competition also involved a lot of culture.
“I think it’s really inspiring and interesting to learn about different cultures and to write about them and raise awareness. I set my story in Chinatown in Manchester and it’s about a young girl moving there from Hong Kong before it became a renowned place.
“It’s about her development in terms of initially feeling isolated in a new world and culture, to then feeling more accepted and welcomed as she sees Chinatown develop.”
Ruby added, meanwhile, that she enjoys immersing herself in East Asian culture and hopes to one day visit that area of the world, pointing out: “We are influenced every day by East Asia in terms of all the music that’s around like K-pop, as well as all the fashion trends that are about. David Bowie was also inspired by that part of the world in his work.
“It has influenced a lot of pop artists in the UK, and I think Hong Kong is really magical. I also like the countryside there.
“I’ve not visited the country yet or anywhere in East Asia but would love to.”
With an interest in languages to match her passion for literature, Ruby admits that she would like to learn Japanese or Mandarin at some point in the future, while conceding mastering either would be “a challenge”.
Having enjoyed the East Asian Studies workshop, she is also now considering the course as a potential degree option.
She said: “The workshop was really interesting. We learnt about the impact of East Asia on the UK and the opposite in terms of how the UK has impacted East Asia.
“We looked at the influences in terms of areas like make-up and architecture and East Asian Studies is something that really interests me because, with globalisation as it is today, the links between different countries are growing. It’s an area of the world that’s developing quickly and I think it would be really beneficial to learn about that. The languages are really interesting too.”
Languages tutor Cecilia told her class about the competition with Ruby in mind and declared her a worthy recipient of a winners’ prize.
She said: “I’m very proud of Ruby for winning this award and it’s a really well-deserved prize. She is a very independent and dedicated student who is 100 per cent committed in my Spanish lessons.
“She is able to transfer the literature skills she has into different languages and her essays are always outstanding. I mentioned this competition in class knowing that she is so keen on literature.
“She had written the essay just a week later and sent in her entry. She also shared it with me, and I was really impressed.”