This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, which has benefited all member countries and their people. Education plays a key role in connecting members along the Belt and Road. Over the past 10 years, guided by the Education Action Plan for the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s Ministry of Education enhanced connectivity with member countries in education, and promoted people-to-people communication, facilitating China’s education to go global in a more open, confident and proactive way.
Many foreign students and teachers at Hainan University are from countries along the Belt and Road. What is Hainan University like in their eyes? Are their views of Hainan University the same as those of Chinese students and faculty? Let’s find the answer through the experiences of the following four foreign teachers and students.
Hainan University is the “hottest” university in China
“I love Hainan. The climate here is very similar to that in my hometown. On this coconut island surrounded by sea, I feel like I am back to my hometown.” Hebert from El Salvador raved.
Hebert, whose interest of research is on economic shellfish aquaculture, began his postdoctoral research in Hainan University in 2016, and worked as a teacher after completing his postdoctoral work. This is his 7th year in Hainan.
“I like the lush mountains, lucid waters, delicious foods and local culture here in Hainan.” Hebert said. He was deeply attracted by the unique lifestyle, traditional costumes and food culture of Hainan. He said he could find peace of mind in this Island.
“In an organized trip to local villages, we learned how villagers improve their living standards by growing orchids,” he added. With the support and help from Hainan University, many villages have become more affluent. It is the mission and responsibility of the University to help promote the local economic development. That is what Hebert understands about HNU.
Hebert appreciates the vigor of Hainan University. “The most typical impression I get from the students of Hainan University is that they are very fond of sports.” He said he always saw students swimming, running, and playing basketball, soccer, badminton… He added that he had never seen such a vibrant campus before coming to Hainan.
Hebert is optimistic about Hainan University’s research capabilities and prospects. “The University attaches equal importance to both environment protection and local economic development for the healthy development of Hainan Free Trade Port.” Hebert said, the ongoing marine ranching project of the School of Marine Sciences in which he worked would not only protect the marine environment, but also effectively drive the development of the tourism industry in Hainan.
“The two countries have a bright prospect for cooperation, and I hope both countries accept exchange students from each other.” He added. Hebert is doing his part in promoting cooperation in scientific research between Hainan University and universities in El Salvador.
Hainan University is a warm home
“Living in China is not much different from living in Thailand. Hainan is my second home.” Ji Xiaonan, a student from Thailand, said with a smile.
Ji Xiaonan, a postgraduate student majoring in Biomedical Engineering at the School of Biomedical Engineering, said that when he first came to Hainan, his teachers and classmates lent him their hands in making study plans, solving problems in learning and improving his Chinese language skills. With their help, he quickly adapted to the life in Hainan. He now has been admitted by a doctoral program of Hainan University.
“My mentor is very nice and is always ready to respond to my questions regarding my study.” Ji Xiaonan said with reference to his academic mentor. Hainan University is conducting complete credit system reform, college system reform and establishing a collaborative innovation center, providing a strong impetus for its talent cultivation. To designate academic mentor to students is one of the measures to achieve that goal.
“There is a high demand for quality in everything I do and in what I write, so I have to work very hard.” He said. Hainan University sets strict requirements for students. They need to be very efficient in managing their own time to ensure the effectiveness of learning.
“Hainan University will become better and better in the future.” Ji Xiaonan hoped that his research could help solve marine problems. He is currently testing and analyzing seawater samples, hoping to seek ways to improve the seawater quality. It is the University’s goal to cultivate high-quality talent with innovative mind and practical ability, offering ideas and services to the construction of Hainan Free Trade Port.
Walking along Dongpo Lake, Ji Xiaonan feels cozy with the dancing green leaves, sparkling lake surface and flying birds in sight. He likes Dongpo Lake very much because it is a good place to quiet his mind for thinking.
Ji Xiaonan also remembers the Thai songs sung at the Second Athletic Field, the help from teachers and classmates, and the positive results of his academic research, which gives him a sense of belonging in this island.
Hainan University is a bridge for China-Indonesia exchanges and cooperation
“Boys and girls, today we will learn some expressions for a new situational dialogue. Before we do that, let’s review what we have learned in the previous lesson. Can you remember how to say ‘hello’ in Bahasa Indonesia?” Ye Lingling, a teacher from Indonesia, could speak Chinese fluently without noticeable local accent.
Ye is very pleased to see the progress made by her students. They started from practicing the pronunciation of 26 Latin letters in the alphabet to learning vocabulary, and then simple conversations, and now they can introduce themselves fluently in Bahasa Indonesia.
“I hope to help more Chinese students understand Indonesian culture and become a bridge connecting Indonesia and China.” She said.
As part of cooperation programe between China and Indonesia, Ye Lingling is sent to Hainan and works as a Bahasa Indonesia teacher in Hainan University.
“The first thing that struck me about Hainan University was its ‘hot’.” Unlike Jakarta where spring stays all year round, Hainan is very hot, welcoming Ye Lingling with its “hottest enthusiasm”. She is also impressed by the amazing ecological environment of the University. In her eyes, Hainan University is a paradise full of greenery, coconut trees and chirping birds and cicadas…
“When I first came here I attended an event organized by Hainan University in honor of Su Dongpo. At the event, I met people from all over the world, from which I realize for the first time that Hainan University was truly an international university.” In a class named Chinese Culture, Ye Lingling learned a little bit about Dongpo culture and became a fan of Su Dongpo. She later got a golden opportunity to learn more about Su culture in The First International Forum on Dongpo Culture organized by Hainan University in February 2023.
Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative and the pragmatic cooperation between China and Indonesia, the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway came into operation in 2023 and shortened the time spent in the journey from more than two hours to half an hour, greatly facilitating the travel of Indonesians. Ye Lingling witnessed the changes brought to her country by the cooperation between China and Indonesia. She expressed her hope that she would continue to teach at Hainan University, helping more students to understand Indonesian culture and facilitate the cooperation and exchanges between the two countries.
Hainan University is a culturally melting pot
“Abe, pass me the ball!” On the soccer field, Al-Hamzi Abdullah Qasem Abdullah (Abe), who is from Yemen and now teaches at HNU-ASU Joint International Tourism College, was playing soccer with his colleagues. The soccer team with Abe as one member was composed of teachers of Hainan University. The team sometimes plays against student team or soccer teams from other universities. Sports have helped him make many Chinese friends.
In recent years, Hainan University has been constantly improving its infrastructure development. The Second Athletic Field has been paved with artificial grass turfs and the Multifunction Gym has been officially put into operation. At night, the Second Athletic Field is not only for sports, but also for singing and other entertainment activities. With the rich campus life, Abe feel the vitality of the University.
“I really like the Mid-Autumn Festival when everyone eats moon-cakes.” Abe said. He receives moon-cakes from his Chinese friends every Mid-Autumn Festival. “The students are very nice and often share with me the culture of their hometowns.” He added.
“My students often talk with me about their future career plans. Some prefer to run hotels while others want to manage coffee shops. I think they all have great plans.” Abe’s eyes sparkle every time he talks about his students. In his eyes, his students are full of innovative ideas, and there are great potentials for their future.
“The faculty in NU-ASU Joint International Tourism College comes from over 20 different countries and we all have our own ideas and plans.” Abe said. They often exchange ideas on topics of common interest.
Hainan will soon initiate independent customs operations. It is good news for Abe, whose interest of research is hotel and tourism management. There will be then more foreigners traveling to Hainan, which will bring more topics for his research. He believes that the development of tourism industry in Hainan also needs the support of local people. What Abe has been doing is helping Hainanese people learn more about foreign cultures, thus preparing for a better international free trade port.
“From the year I graduated until now, I’ve actually been living in China for 15 years, even though every year I tell myself I’ll have to go back home next year.” Abe hopes that one day when he returns Yemen, he will be able to use what he learned in China to help build his country into a better one.
Abe has his own understanding of HNU’s motto: All rivers run into sea, all efforts aim for the highest ideals. He believes that Hainan University will bring people from all over the world together and help them work towards a common goal, that is, to promote the construction of Hainan Free Trade Port while achieving self-development. “I sincerely hope that Hainan University will become a more international melting pot for multi-cultures.” He said.