Journalist, Shanshan Ai opened a tourism magazine one day in Beijing, China, and saw a heart-shaped island – Tasmania. She was captivated by it.

Shanshan had worked in the news media, for Beijing Evening News, as the Art Editor and Reporter for 11 years, but painting had always been her passion. Her father was an artist, but she had always wanted to become a successful artist in her own right. Seeing the colours of Tasmania inspired her to bravely change her life and fulfill her dream.

Shanshan told a colleague at Beijinh Evening News that she wanted to go to this place, called Tasmania. He didn’t think she was serious.

‘Its not very easy for a Chinese woman of my age to study abroad. I’m single. I’m not married, and I had a great job that I loved. My colleague didn’t realize my true thinking,’ explains Shanshan.

She approached a student recruitment agency and they provided her with a few choices about where she could go to study fine art in Australia. They included an institution in Darwin, and another in Cairns, and luckily, the University of Tasmania (UTAS). She decided on the Master of Fine Art and Design at UTAS.


shan-shan-ai-ivy-w-wombat‘The Tasmanian landscape totally captured my attention. Tasmania has the most pure colour. I can see the true colour of nature here. That’s why I chose this place.
‘I also believe that Australia’s art centre is in the south. There is a more active art culture here.’

So, Shanshan quit her job to come to Tasmania and start a new life as an artist.

‘Some of my friends still think I’m crazy. I quit my job, left my mum, my family, my friends and my dog to come here.’

Despite being on the other side of the world, Shanshan feels totally at home in “Tassie”.

‘Of course, when I first came, I felt nervous about it but UTAS is a very friendly place. The university gave me everything that I needed including emotional support and the things I needed for living and studying. I feel this is a second home.

‘I love nature. I wanted to get out of the big city life. Tasmania has 18 national parks, many islands and reserves. The weather here is very similar to the weather in Beijing, with four distinct seasons. The views are amazing and being a landscape painter, it was the perfect choice. I’m really happy that I live here.’


Shanshan says that the University of Tasmania has given her exactly what she needed to have a brighter future.

‘At first I doubted myself, because to get something that you want, you often have to lose things and give things up. But it’s worth it. I can see that I am progressing in my studies to fulfill my dream. I made the right decision.’

Shanshan has found that the education system at UTAS is very different to that in China.

‘In China, art school is very much focused on technical skill. But here, the teachers and supervisors teach us about ideas and creation. The school is more active, more open-minded and draws on information from different countries all over the world. I think that is how artists should learn.’

Through her degree, Shanshan has volunteered at Hobart’s  international winter solstice festival, Dark MOFO in the House of Mirrors exhibition, and regularly attends workshops and lecturers by artists in residence and visiting lecturers.

‘We have a lot of cultural exchanges at UTAS and visiting scholars from China, Japan, Germany and so on. They give us so many different ideas.

‘The UTAS lecturers are also artists who do amazing work and host their own exhibitions. They are very professional. I want to learn more from them and follow in their footsteps.’

Shanshan has been at the University of Tasmania for 18 months, but she wants to stay here longer and study further.

‘I want to do research into the colour of the landscape here.

‘My father told me there are two things that you cannot forget. One is English and the other is painting. So I am trying to follow his words. My father passed away a long time ago. I want to realize his dream, which is also my dream – to become a successful artist. And now I’m on my way.

‘I encourage anyone who has a dream to be brave and try to realize it. Then you will not feel regret at the end of your life.’


If you want to realise your creative dreams like Shanshan, apply online to enrol in a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours or a Master of Fine Art and Design or enquire now. You too could be on your way to fulfilling your dream.