"China is different from what I have imagined and seen before I came here. After five months of first-hand experience in China, I become more interested in Chinese language and culture," said Sangeet Sangroula, correspondent of Republica Daily of Nepal.
Sangroula, with five years of journalism experience, came to China to attend the 10-month long program until December 2017.
"I read a lot about China, but never had a clear understanding though. A sense of curiosity to know how China is able to develop so rapidly and peacefully, and also Chinese culture, society and people was always there with me," said Sangroula, when talking about why he joined the program.
However, Khonesavanh Latsaphao, deputy director of Vientiane Times Newspaper in Laos, attended the program with a clear personal plan -- to become a newsman with global perspective.
"I worked at Vientiane Times Newspaper for almost 20 years. This visit gives me a chance to know more about China and I will share my experiences with our people. Laos is a small country, I really have a lot to learn here," he said.
Knowing little about Chinese language except for greetings like "Ni Hao" (How are you), both Sangroula and Latsaphao had the same difficult days at the first.
"I went to buy milk but ended up buying yogurt when I just arrived in China," recalled Sangroula with big smile.
Latsaphao also shared one of his experiences that he once missed the last train of subway line one at night, and almost couldn't get home because he couldn't express where he exactly lived in to the taxi driver!
However, both of them didn't take these experiences as trouble.
"Challenges are there, but it is part of learning process of Chinese and Chinese culture. As I learn more Chinese here, life is getting better over time," Sangroula said.
Sangroula believes language is the gateway into another culture. Learning language can increase individuals' level of acceptance of another culture and also bridge gaps and misunderstandings.
"After coming to China, I know more about what the Belt and Road Initiative really means, how the initiative is a win-win cooperation platform and what possible opportunities the initiative offers to developing countries like Nepal which is desperate for economic development through infrastructure development and trade diversification,"Sangroula added. In fact, in order to enable them to better adapt to and know Chinese social life, courses in Chinese language have been offered.
"All thanks to our Chinese teachers, I can speak some basic words and sentences now that are essential in our daily lives in China.We learn Chinese once or twice a week, three hours for each time, these courses help a lot," said Aminath Ibrahim, a Maldivian journalist of Avas Online at the program.
As one of the youngest at the program, the 24-year-old has very keen interest about Chinese language and culture.
She believes language is the main tool that can enhance people's inclusiveness, and help people open up to each other to create more exchange opportunities.
"Language is the window. It is very important to know Chinese, or at least to have the idea of what Chinese language is to cooperate with China, especially after the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed," said Aminath.
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