Please permit me some space in your Newspaper to share with readers the incredible experience I had while studying in China.
I am a 24-year-old University of Guyana Student, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations. China is very active in the Diplomatic Arena, and in an attempt to better understand this country and how it chooses to pursue relationships with developed countries and especially developing countries like my own, I decided to attempt learning the Chinese Language, Mandarin.
I enrolled at the Confucius Institute at the University of Guyana, and after a few months wrote the HSK exam (a standardized test of Chinese Language ability). I was pleased to discover that my test scores were sufficient to be offered a one-semester scholarship at Dalian University of Foreign Languages learning Mandarin in the North East part of China.
I traveled to China intending to participate in this programme, but it was also my desire to come to a higher level of understanding of the country that is considered by many to be so deeply important.
The first city in China I visited was the Southern mega city of Guangzhou, home to a population of over 13 million. Coming from Guyana, a country whose population is small, I was in awe at the incredible pace of life and the energy radiating from this city. Just like it says in the news articles, the roads, bridges and rail transportation systems were world class and a pleasure to use while the skyscrapers and skyline were incredible to behold.
The variety of food available was seemingly endless with various Chinese, Indian, Mexican, American and Middle Eastern restaurants to choose from, all at surprisingly cheap prices. My best memory of Guangzhou was the food and here I was convinced that a delicious meal in China is more often found in a smaller restaurant for a cheap price than in a large restaurant for an expensive price.
If you are a first time visitor to China, consider Guangzhou as a city that will give you a warm and savory introduction to China.
I moved on to Shenzhen, a city hosting about 12 million inhabitants. There I was impressed by its expansive metro system, transporting thousands every day in mere minutes to any part of the city. I assure you that China will never disappoint when it comes to its transportation systems.
Shenzhen is famous for its cell phone, computer and other hardware products. I will admit, I was shocked to find out how cheap cell phone parts and accessories truly are when you buy them directly from the factory.
Shenzhen felt different from Guangzhou, and is in fact a much younger city. If you still consider China as a country of factories churning out metal and plastic goods, your conception is woefully outdated. Shenzhen is considered one of the planet’s epicenters of high-tech innovation alongside the Silicon Valley of the United States of America.
It is this city that houses the headquarters of ‘Tencent’, the developers of the app, ‘WeChat’. It was this app that allowed me to live in China for five months without ever needing to handle cash because from paying a bus fare, ordering a meal, buying clothing, paying bills or rent and much more can be done with ease using one’s ‘WeChat’ wallet app.
I encourage Guyanese who are interested in drones, security systems, robotics and telecommunication technology to visit Shenzhen in pursuit of your business or education goals.
Finally, I moved on to Dalian, the city where my host University is located. Cold and beautiful are the two words that stand out in my mind when I think about Dalian, and it was here that I spent the majority of my time in China. I clearly remember opening the door to the floor where my room was located and seeing my roommates for the first time.
They were all students like me who were interested in Chinese language and had traveled from Pakistan, South Korea, Slovenia, Tajikistan and Egypt respectively. In Guyana, being a Chinese language Student, I am considered an oddity of sorts. It is not a common language to study when choosing a second language in Guyana. I also clearly remember walking from my dorm to the classroom on my first day of class, in front of me, a group of Russian students, on my left, a group of Mexican students, on my right a group of Japanese students and behind me, a group of students from Colombia.
In China, being a Chinese language student is not uncommon. It is a pursuit that students throughout the world take very seriously and invest themselves in deeply. I interpret this as an indicator of how truly important improving one’s understanding of China and Chinese people are as part of a wider effort to improve the relationship between one’s home country and China.
But don’t think it was one sided, quite the opposite. In Dalian University of Foreign Languages and no doubt in other Universities throughout China, there are many hundreds of thousands of Chinese students studying the languages and cultures of the world, all in an attempt to step out of China and directly or indirectly improve China’s ties with those countries either by working, studying or doing business activities.
If you are interested in learning Chinese Language, I recommend Dalian University of Foreign languages as a good starting point for this activity.
No matter how distant or foreign China may seem, I urge my fellow Guyanese not to deny the reality, in today’s increasingly globalized world, we are all connected and will be more connected as time passes while China’s international profile becomes more important by the day. The relationship between China and Guyana holds untapped potential for the Educational, Infrastructural, Technological and Social development that Guyana badly needs. The strong magnetism that is exerted by China on University level students at this time will only increase as time passes. I urge my fellow Guyanese to consider China as a destination for further study. I urge aspiring businessmen and women to consider China as a market where you can expand your business activities. I urge Guyana’s leaders to update your knowledge and understanding of China, its leaders and policies in an effort to capitalize on the opportunities available at a State level.
Most Chinese had never heard about Guyana before, but were incredibly interested to know that a country in South America speaks English as its native language, especially as many tens of thousands of students in China pursue studies in English with the aim of traveling, opening businesses or studying abroad.
I urge the Chinese leaders hosted here in Guyana to consider giving Chinese students the opportunity to study the areas of Agriculture and Forestry in Guyana, an unspoiled, mostly untouched environment, which is rare in the world today.
3rd Year International Relations Student – University of Guyana
Chinese Language Student- Dalian University of Foreign Languages
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