"Seeing a thing once for yourself is better than hearing about it a hundred times" (百闻不如一见 bǎi wén bùrú yī jiàn) goes an old Chinese proverb, wisdom that is still valid today, even more so in the age of the Internet.
In view of modern means of communication and the flood of information available online, distances seem smaller than ever. However, the example of an International Master of Business Administration (IMBA) offered by the Emerging Markets Institute (EMI) of the renowned Beijing Normal University (BNU) in China's capital Beijing since 2014 illustrates that it is nevertheless worthwhile to look beyond one’s own horizons and physically venture out into the unknown. This master’s degree, which enables young talents from developing countries from all over the world to study in China for almost a year on scholarship, has attracted a great deal of interest. A total of 182 students from 61 countries have taken part in the IMBA over the past five years, many of whom visited China for the first time on this program.
The aim of the Master's program is to give students, mainly from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, a profound insight into China's modern economy and regional development, and to enable them to explore China's current economic and social development on the basis of case studies and field trips.
And since one's own experience is certainly more reliable than hearsay, excursions to different regions of China, which are exemplary for the country's development speed, form a core component of the study program. A total of two weeks are reserved exclusively for extensive field studies.
At the end of December, the current IMBA participants – 53 students from 31 countries, who began their studies in Beijing in October 2018 – travelled to the central Chinese province of Henan, or more precisely, to the city of Hebi.
China Today accompanied the young talents and asked them why they decided to study in China, what misunderstandings and prejudices there are in their home country about China and its development, and how they experienced the country firsthand with their own eyes.
“In China It’s All about Technology”
Mouloud Boulkradeche, 29, from Algeria
“In Algeria I am working for the government in the field of human resources and I was granted a scholarship to come here to China and study. For me, it is a great adventure to come to this foreign country and the stay gives me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge.
We have a lot of Chinese people in Algeria working mainly in the field of construction. But before I came here, I only knew a few things about this country, for example, that China has a huge population, smart people, and focuses on modern technology. After around three months here in Beijing doing my IMBA at BNU I can only agree: In China it’s all about technology!
The social media app WeChat, for example, was completely new for me, when I arrived. In Algeria we don’t use such a multifunctional application, which also enables users to make cashless mobile payments. I realized that in China it’s not necessary to carry a lot of cash with you, which is really great. I also like the sharing bikes all over the city, which you can pay for via WeChat. They are very convenient.
WeChat is something I would also love to promote in my country, when I go back, not only for private use but also for professional communication. For example, work teams can easily connect via WeChat groups and share their information and materials. In this way, less meetings are necessary. I plan to use WeChat for my work in the future.
All in all, I found here in China more than I was expecting. And in the future I will be a good ambassador of China in Algeria.”
“China Is the Place to Be”
Progress Nyamundanda, 28, from Zimbabwe
“China right now is the big deal, the place to be, rather than any other country in the world, no matter if it comes to business or technology. That is why I came here. With my IMBA from Beijing Normal University, I will be very competitive on the job market, I think.
Today, there are close ties between my home country Zimbabwe, and China. A lot of Chinese people are doing business in my country, so that the people in Zimbabwe know more about China. However, I myself didn’t know much about this country before I came here, only the things one sees on television or the news.
One of my big worries was, whether I would be able to adjust to the food, as I heard a lot of funny stories about Chinese people eating dogs and snakes and other strange things. But I found out, that this isn’t really the case.
I was also a bit worried about the language. For us in Africa, Chinese sounds like something you might never be able to master. Now, that I am here, I found out that if you give yourself time to practice, it is doable to learn the language and communicate in Chinese.”
“China doesn’t Mean Bad Quality”
Bagus Abimanyu, 26, from Indonesia
“I came to China to challenge myself and find new exposure and experiences. Before coming here, I worked as an engineer in oil, gas, and construction companies.
China is one of the leading countries now and very interesting for me, because China and Indonesia share a good relationship. When it comes to technology, China is as good a choice as Europe for studying abroad.
We have many Chinese people in Indonesia and before I arrived, I already knew that this country has very advanced infrastructure and good manufacturing. However, in my country you can only see the products from China, but don’t know where they actually come from, so I wanted to see for myself.
I also heard that Chinese are very hardworking people, which appeared to be true. For instance I see Chinese students at our campus studying until very late.
Most people in Indonesia have misunderstandings about China. Many think that China only produces items of bad quality, but here I found out that this is not true. You can actually choose, you can find low and high quality products here, it’s all available.
What really surprised me is that China applies many advanced technologies in daily life. Before I came here, I thought that in South East Asia only Japan was so advanced in this respect, but China can definitely compete with the United States or Europe.
Also in respect of tourism, China is not a very famous destination for us Indonesians. We would rather travel to Japan or South Korea. I think, when my fellow Indonesians travel to China, they will be fascinated by this country.
I hope that in the future more people from Indonesia are come to China for studies or traveling. This will definitely change the image of China Indonesians have. Sometimes people shouldn’t just believe what others say, they have to see it themselves.”
“I Like the Chinese’s Patience”
Deng Mareng Akuei Ajou, 29, from South Sudan
“This is already my second trip to China. The first time I was here in 2017 for a training program organized by my country’s government in Wuhan. I was really impressed by the Chinese development from the first moment.
People told me that if I had a Chinese certificate, I would have more opportunities in the future. So I took the chance to take part in the IMBA program in Beijing.
Before I first came to China, I only knew the old China, which I was familiar with from Chinese kung fu movies and Chinese television series. And I must say that I was very fascinated by it. The traditional Chinese culture made me come here and made me eager to learn more about this country.
In South Sudan we say, that if you want to live in China you have to be patient. In my country we are often very impatient and like to rush doing things. Therefore, the Chinese patience is something I really like about this place.
For the future, I hope to build up relationships with Chinese business people and become a businessman one day, who closely cooperates with China.”
“China Is Helping to Build Up Our Country”
Yvonne Akinyi Ochieng, 25, from Kenya
“It is my first time in China and to be honest, I didn’t know much about this country before I came here, although I did some research on the Internet to prepare.
Actually, the people in Kenya now know more and more about China, especially since the start of the Belt and Road Initiative. Today, there is a lot of cooperation between Chinese and Kenyan companies; China is helping to build-up our country.
However, there are many false beliefs about China in Kenya, especially about the Chinese diet. People often say that the Chinese eat dogs and rats as regular dishes, what definitely is not true. I must say, Chinese food is really delicious.
One thing I am impressed about in China is the broad application of modern technologies, especially cashless payment systems. Since I came to China I only used cash twice. The Chinese really integrate new technology in their daily life and are well organized in this regard.
Another thing I really like in China is the public transportation system, for example the Beijing subway. In Kenya, public transportation mostly operates with buses, so you get stuck in traffic easily. Beijing Subway makes getting around really convenient.”
“China Is Clearly Pushing Forward Its Opening-up”
Nnanna Harrison Ogudu, 25, from Nigeria
“I came to China because it is the world’s fastest growing economy. China is number two after the United States today and I think that they will very soon overtake the US.
One thing, that became quite visible for me since I came here in October, is that China is really pushing forward its opening-up, which is a good thing.
Most people in Nigeria still don’t know much about China and there are many prejudices remaining, but I think that will change soon. For instance, some Nigerians think that Chinese people are conniving, not efficient, and produce fake products. Now that I am here, I can say that this is not the case. There is, for example a system of close supervision to avoid problems like that.
In the past, I didn’t know much about China and Chinese culture. During my time in Beijing I have learned a lot, for example about China’s Silk Road Initiative, and I am also really good in eating with chopsticks now.
This year, seven people from Nigeria got a scholarship for the IMBA. I think the program will help to strengthen the connection between the two countries.”