They come to continue their studies in Belarus, having learnt about us in China. What attracts them? What do they find amazing in Belarus? What inspires our post-graduate student guests of the Belarusian State University in their desire to learn more about our country?
We met in a café, opposite the National Academy of Sciences: myself and three post-graduate students from the Belarusian State University. Bao In studies at the Foreign Relations Department, while Chzhan Hunshan and Chzhao Nenzhan are with the Philology Department. All are friendly and eager to chat, though a little nervous.
Why did you decide to study abroad?
Bao: I chose Russian as a speciality long ago and, accordingly, decided to strengthen my knowledge of the subject. Last year, a project of cooperation was launched between our countries; I’ve come here as part of an exchange programme.
Chzhan: I’ve lived in Belarus for six years, and learnt of your country mostly from the Internet. I’ve read that it’s peaceful, having no wars. People live in peace and friendship. This is why I decided to come here.
Chzhao: Like Bao, I’m interested in Russian. The state has allocated money for me to study here. This doesn’t happen often and I’ve decided not to lose the chance.
Did you face any difficulty in adapting to local culture? Belarus differs from China and Minsk isn’t the same as your native cities…
Bao: These aren’t difficulties; just the act of joining a new culture. Of course, our countries differ greatly. I lived in Inner Mongolia, in an autonomous district in Northern China, where the local culture is mixed. Many nationalities reside in China. In my city, half of all residents are from ethnic minorities. The remaining people are Hans — the dominating nationality of China. Of course, Belarus also has many nationalities but all live as a single culture, mostly. In our country, the culture is mixed.
Chzhan: My native city is Xi Chun, in the Hei Long Jiang Province — also in the north of China. I’m a Han — as are most residents of my city. Truly, a certain culture reigns in Belarus and, in our country, there are many cultures without any dominating.
Chzhao: My native town is Antu, in the Jilin Province — not far from the border with Northern Korea and close to Russia. Foreigners are common there: Northern Koreans and Russians. For economic reasons, the city advertises in three languages: Russian, Chinese and Korean. Accordingly, apart from Chinese, I also know some Korean, and am now studying Russian in your country.
Which of Belarus’ two state languages is easier for you to master?
Bao: Until coming here, I’d never been faced with Belarusian: it’s actually not taught anywhere in China. I’ve chosen Russian as my specialty but have tried to master Belarusian since my arrival. As I see it, Belarusian and Russian grammar are similar, and the languages differ in pronunciation only. However, I consider these two languages to be more complicated than English.
Chzhan: Since I began studying at the Philology Department, three years ago, I’ve learnt Belarusian also. I decided to ‘try’ it since all notes in buses and on the metro are in Belarusian. I was surprised, as I could hardly understand anything. Russian and Belarusian differ greatly I think. I read Belarusian quite well now, and can speak a little. However, I know Russian better: Belarusian is truly complicated for me.
Chzhao: I’m here for one year only: not as long as Chzhan. I don’t know Belarusian at all but I think all those who know Russian would understand this language as well.
Bao [smiling]: No, it’s not easier!
Chzhao: I often had to ask for translation during lectures: I failed to understand when teachers spoke Belarusian. I such cases, a Belarusian student neighboured me; I could hardly do without their assistance.
Do you have many Chinese acquaintances wishing to enter Belarusian university?
Bao: No, not many. Only a few people choose Russian as a specialty. Some whom I know now live in Russia, as my native city is situated on the border between China and Russia. Owing to this, I’ve been familiar with some Russian culture since childhood. I’ve met Chinese people who’ve entered Belarusian universities since coming here myself but I didn’t know anyone who did so while studying at school.
Do you plan to return to China after graduation or would you like to stay here?
Bao: I’d love to stay here but we aren’t allowed. According to the agreement, we’re obliged to return to China after finishing our post-gradate studies, to work there for at least two years. We have the right to independently choose our place of residence afterwards. I’ll work in China initially and then decide what to do next.
Chzhan: As soon as I received my diploma, I began searching for a job, as my girlfriend [pointing to Chzhao] entered at that time. I’ll wait until she receives her diploma and then decide what to do.
Chzhao: I have three or four more years here before receiving my diploma. Afterwards, I’d love to find a job here.
Do you love studying in Belarus? What’s good in Belarus for foreign students?
Bao: I adore studying here, as people are kind, literate and polite. Order is everywhere and I seldom see rules broken anywhere, even in queues.
If you have a question, you can easily address a passer-by: everyone is willing to help. On my first day in Minsk, I knew nothing and didn’t understand where I was. I addressed a passer-by but he failed to explain to me where to go. However, another heard my question. He then approached me and explained where to go. This was very kind of him. Many people have helped me here and, accordingly, my friends and I are so grateful to these kind people.
I love your clean city — especially its air. It’s different in China’s developed cities. Overall, Belarus is a good country and I’m happy to study here.
Chzhan: All lecturers are great here. A good student is always much praised. If you oversleep, you’re looked after: ‘Where is Chzhan? Why is he missing? [smiling]. Teachers take care of their students. I also love your doctors. I recently visited a dentist to receive a ceramic crown and the doctor was very attentive: I appreciate such specialists.
Chzhao: I also consider your teachers to be professional and responsible. They pay attention not only to studies but to students’ life and health. When I fell ill, my scientific leader called me daily to ask about my health. She was really worried.