Profile of French alumni n°2 : WANG Zihan, Fonder, VivaLing
Read profile n°1 : Léon GE, Operations Specialist, Google.
Read profile n°3 : Chia Yew Boon, CEO and Founder of Catalyst Advisors
Read profile n°4 : Yvonne Guo, Doctoral student
Read profile n°5 : Tang Hwa Kwee, Journalist
Read profile n°6 : Lim Kah Bin, Programme manager of the French Double Degree Programme at National University of Singapore (NUS)
Read profile n°7 : Zhiheng PNG, Ministry of Finance
Read profile n°8 : Zainudin Nordin, former Member of Parliament and President of the Football Association of Singapore
In order to celebrate the launch of the France Alumni in Singapore platform on 14 January, the Embassy of France invites you to discover each week the profile of a Singaporean student, who has studied in France, regarding his/her journey, career and relationship with France. This week, we meet Wang Zihan, a Chinese based in Singapore for ten years and co-founder of the language learning platform for chilmdren, VivaLing.
Please introduce yourself in a few words
My name is Zihan, I am Chinese but I did my studies at the National University of Singapore and later did engineering studies at the Ecole des Mines in Paris. Now, I am Director of Operations at Vivaling, an online language academy for children which I have co-founded.
Why did you choose to study in France?
For the majority of Asians, France has a romantic image. I am attracted by its culture since I was young : my father had been to France and brought me postcards. I was thus very excited and motivated to do a FDDP (French Double Degree Program) programme at the National University of Singapore (NUS), which allowed me to spend two years and a half in France and to really discover the country and I was lucky to be accepted.
Which differences have you noticed between the Singaporean and French university systems?
I adored studying at Mines in Paris. It is the best "grande école" in France ! The ambience was special. I especially remember two weeks of geology internship in the Alpes and a week of skiing where we went to the slopes in the morning and studied Mathematics in the afternoon. It was very surprising for Asians to discover that one can learn in this manner. I also enjoyed that we can do many internships. For my first internship, I had it in the studio of le l’Oréal in Paris, then I left for the McGill University in Canada for an internship in biology. The great network of the school also enabled us to do exchanges in Madrid or in Amsterdam, to visit the factories of Peugeot Citroën or the european institutions in Brussels. It is extrememly precious and unforgettable. One notable difference is that at Mines, the courses change every week, while in Singapour, we receive the same timetable for the whole semester ! We had the freedom to choose the subjects ourselves among wide-ranging choices. It was very enriching. I think that many opportunities which have been offered to me came from my time at Mines.
Can you tell us about the impact that your experience in France has had on your professional journey and personal life ?
Firstly, the French language has had a big impact on me. My desire to create VivaLing was motivated by my experience in France and my discovery of its culture. I recall my first linguistic exchanges at Grenoble and Vichy, where I lived with French families. The language is for me the key to open the door to different cultures. Besides, learning languages offers you so many choices and possibilities in life ! It is very rich. I also learnt Japanese but French is my preferred language ! Listening to RFI in the MRT in the morning is part of my daily routine. French and the languages are thus a passion for me and it is normal that I want to use it in my profession.
Finally, I think that the French has allowed me to open myself up and to appreciate life. In China and in Singapore, the pace is very fast, people never stop. Personally before this, I studied all the time, without even reflecting why, I was a nerd. France has taught me to take my time and has given me confidence. It is thanks to that that I had the courage to create VivaLing.
Thanks to French culture and scoiety, I have also learnt to step back. We have more freedom. For instance, in China, my parents put a lot of pressure. In France, it is more relaxed.
Professionally, France has had a strong impact, since my partner, Bernard Golstein, is also an alumni of Mines, whom I was able to meet during an event dedicated to this community in Singapore !
Can you tell us about your entrepreneurship experience and VivaLing ?
VivaLing was created in 2014. Basically, we offer an online learning course for kids from 3 to 15 years old. With my partner, we believ like I have said to you that languages is a powerful tool in life on a professional and personal level. Besides, studies have shown that it is easier to learn a language when young since our brains are more receptive and agile for picking up certain sounds and memorising them. We therefore propose a solution to all parents who wish to give their children a powerful tool for their future by teaching them one or more languages. For that, we believe that it is vital that the child dreates a strong link with this new language in order to like learning and progressing in it. Our concept is thus to propose video conference language sessions, individually or in small groups (2-3 enfants), based on a personalised format, and with native coaches who are specialised in teaching children. We interview parents to know the preferences of ach of our students and thus a child who is a fan of Harry Potter can learn vocabulary with images of the universe of the sorcerer. All the sessions are recorded, so that parents can follow their child’s learning and the child can also review on his/her own. The children enjoy playing online games with the help and encouragement of their coach, especially to see if they can answer questions faster than the computer !
We wish to offer excellent training, making use of new technology tools, which allows more flexibility, a high level of personalisation and fun and stimulating learning tools.
Today, we have a very good reputation, with a client satisfaction level of 90%. 90% of our students learn Mandarin and English but we also offer French, Spanish and Dutch...Actually, we have students in 18 countries and we are very proud to be able to help our students become citizens of the world!
Finally, can you tell us about your commitment in the alumni community and your expectations of the future platform ?
I am one of the founders of the alumni association for the FDDP programme and presides over it from now. Our members have exceptional journeys and come out of it very well so we believe that it is important to create the network. we also help youths to get settled and organised in France; and we also guide them after their return in the continuation of their studies. I hope that the France Alumni platform will be a success and will contribute to create a link between francophiles and the French in Singapore !