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02.03.12 Allures of enlightment

Belarus is becoming increasingly popular among the Chinese as a place to obtain higher education

In 2011, about 2,000 Chinese students attended higher educational institutions in Belarus, with 1,500 taught in Minsk. Bilateral agreements regarding education and scientific degrees ensure that qualifications issued in Belarus are recognised in China and vice versa.

Far-reaching prospects
Via joint cultural exchange events and activities, students have been able to share their experience to bring our nations closer. This has further encouraged liaisons, as Victor Buria, the Ambassador of Belarus to China, emphasises. He believes that student exchange projects between our two states are a vital element in strengthening partnerships.
Among Chinese citizens, the most popular higher educational institutions in Minsk are the Belarusian State University, the Belarusian National Academy of Music, Minsk’s State Linguistic University, and the Belarusian National Technical University.
Chinese students also attend higher educational institutions in Vitebsk, Gomel, Mogilev and Grodno, taking a wide range of specialties: from technical to medical. However, the most popular courses are in classical music, singing and dance, computer-generated graphics, design, international law, economics, languages, medicine, architecture, marketing, management, and entrepreneurship.

Common language is no problem
Chinese students arriving in Belarus tend to have better command of the Russian language than other foreign citizens. After finishing their preparatory training, they are capable of entering any higher educational institution countrywide, knowing the language just as well as Belarusian students, asserts Viacheslav Molofeev, Dean of the Preparatory Faculty, at the Belarusian State University. In fact, many Chinese study Russian at school.
Young Ms. Chang Ying recently spent a month learning Belarusian in Minsk, attending classes with Svetlana Yakuba, an assistant professor at the Philology Faculty of the Belarusian State University. Until recently, Chang knew almost nothing about Belarus, but can now read the works of Yanka Kupala in the original and is teaching Belarusian at the Scientific and Technical University of Harbin.

Everyday life matters..
Zhan Yanna Jia came to Minsk a few years ago, taking a room at the Belarusian State University hostel. She’s used to sharing accommodation, as she lived in a hostel while studying in China. In Belarus, Chinese students usually like to live together. The advantage, as Zhan notes, is that they quickly settle in, sharing the same interests, customs, traditions and habits. However, it does little to encourage the speaking of Russian, since it’s easier to chat in Chinese.
Living in Minsk is certainly convenient of course. Zhan tells us, “I cook my meals at the hostel, trying local recipes, as I really like traditional Belarusian dishes. The bread-based soft drink kvass is particularly delicious. I wouldn’t say that I spend much time on entertainments. Sometimes, my husband and I visit exhibitions or go to the circus, but we usually just walk in the park. I’ve long ago gotten used to living in Minsk, but I still sometimes yearn for home when walking along the street.
Even back in 2010, the President of Belarus supported the idea of building a China Town, so students may yet find a piece of their motherland in our capital, making them feel less homesick.

Talent has no ethnicity
Chinese culture has always been popular in Belarus. Even in the 18th century, at Nesvizh Palace, the Radziwills had a hall painted in Chinese style. The frescoes were recently discovered by renovators. Of course, cultural events allow us to share our beloved traditions. In 2011, the National Museum of History hosted an unusual exhibition featuring Chinese students in Minsk, with 26 costumes from across China on display, belonging to various ethnicities (there are 56 in all). The Silk Road exhibition was arranged by the Embassy of China to Belarus and by the Belarusian Fashion Centre, with Chinese students and Belarusian models wearing clothes from the Han and Tang imperial dynasties, alongside present-day clothes.
Chinese students from the Belarusian National Academy of Music performed during the show. In October 2011, Gong Lee, a postgraduate student at the Academy of Music, won the second prize at the 3rd V.S.Popov Moscow Competition for Choir Conductors (no one received the first prize) and was given a special award for the best interpretation of a Russian folk-song.
Inessa Bodyko, Ms. Lee’s creative manager, and the artistic director and choir conductor of the Academy of Music, believes that the Chinese musical students’ ability to shine in Belarus shows that ‘talent will always find its way’. She notes, “Belarus has everything needed to train and develop gifted young people, regardless of ethnic nationality.”

People are all important
Progress has been seen in negotiations between Belarus and China regarding raising the number of university places for Chinese students in Belarus. According to the plan, thousands may receive their training at higher educational institutions here, paying fees and generating export revenue. Clearly, the move is profitable for Belarus, as fees for one year of learning Russian are $1600. The average annual fee for other subjects is about $2000.
Natalya Bulanova, who heads the Foreign Liaisons Office at the Ministry of Education stresses that all specialties are offered to Chinese undergraduates and post-graduates, but numbers are limited due to lack of accommodation. A solution is near at hand, as Presidentr Lukashenko notes, “We’d like to accept more, so are building more hostels for foreign students. Soon, we’ll be able to educate more Chinese students. Importantly, we’ll have ‘our’ Chinese guys in China, who we can rely upon to help us develop contacts, being once taught here. If we arrive in China and hear ‘we were taught in Minsk’ or ‘we studied in Vitebsk’ or ‘we were educated in Belarus’, it’s clearly of significance; people are all important.”
Chinese students don’t just train in the arts, of course. Recently, 25 Chinese miners graduated from Soligorsk Mining and Chemical College, with fees paid by a Chinese company. For several months they gained experience at ‘Belaruskali’.
The Ministry of Education of Belarus is confident that, every year, China will send more talented and gifted young people to receive their higher educational training in Belarus.

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