Yan (Ceri) Ngai

ceri ngai stood in full gown holding cap in front of a building.

St Cross Humanities Divisional Scholarship

Joining us from: Hong Kong

MSt in Music (Musicology, 2020)  

Music has always been an important part of my life. I started playing the piano at the age of three, and for as long as I can remember, I have been involved in choirs and orchestras of different sorts wherever I go. Yet strangely enough, the idea of pursuing a music degree at university has never crossed my mind – at least not until I started my A-Levels in the UK. Born and raised in Hong Kong, I completed the majority of my secondary education at a local school in the city before moving to the UK for sixth-form. My decision to study abroad was motivated by my long-standing interest in literature; I wanted to do English at University, and the UK was a natural place to start. But here I had my first taste of what it’s like to study music as an academic subject, and it became apparent to me that there were lots of parallels between analysing a text and a musical piece. I enjoyed applying my analytical skills in different settings, and so eventually decided to pursue a degree in music. This led me to my undergraduate studies at Oxford, which I completed in the midst of the pandemic last year.  

My undergraduate studies was an eye-opening experience on many different levels. I was introduced to a wide range of interdisciplinary approaches and found myself particularly drawn towards the ways in which music is experienced in everyday life and the psychology of music more generally. I then decided to explore this area in greater depth through the MSt in Music (Musicology), for which I am currently investigating people’s everyday listening habits and how music listening can be used to promote wellbeing in everyday life. I am interested in how we select music according to our psychological needs (e.g. mood regulation) as well as the situational contexts we find ourselves in – compare the kinds of music you would listen to when you are working in a library, and your playlist before a fun night out with your best friends, for example. The MSt course at Oxford has given me the opportunity to tailor my research to my areas of interest while providing an overview to important issues within musicological scholarship.  

I am extremely grateful and honoured to have been awarded the St Cross Humanities Divisional Scholarship for my graduate studies. The scholarship not only provided the financial support necessary to explore my interests, but also offered reassurance of my academic potential at a personal level. Throughout the year, it has given me the confidence to present my ongoing work on different occasions (including the inaugural St Cross Research Prize Competition!) and to develop new interests along the way. I continue to be fascinated by the intersections between music and psychology, and am thrilled to have received an offer to pursue a Master’s in Psychology next year to dive deeper into the ‘psychology-side’ of things!

Being a member of such a diverse, welcoming and inspiring graduate community like St Cross – especially during the pandemic – has been an integral part of my academic experience at Oxford. I am very excited to see what the future holds as I prepare myself for a career in research.