The first graduates from Cardiff University and Beijing Normal University’s (BNU) joint college have spoken of their pride.
Students on the four-year BA dual degree course in Modern Chinese complete the first and the final years in Wales, and the second and third years in China, with the opportunity to complete an internship during this time.
A range of modules are covered on the collaboratively developed programme, which awards two degrees at the end, with subjects focusing on developing fluency in Chinese, as well as various aspects of China’s culture and history.
Following their graduation from Cardiff University last year, the first cohort graduated from Beijing Normal University earlier this year.
Ola Wielga, 24, from Olsztyn in Poland who now lives in Manchester, said the experience of studying Chinese across the two institutions had been hugely beneficial to her.
She said: "Most universities offer a year abroad, but there’s something unique about studying abroad not only as an exchange student, but actually working towards a degree there. I think it gives you a different sort of immersion in the culture and language, which is important when you’re studying languages.
"Getting to know new people, seeing amazing places, like visiting Inner Mongolia or Xi’an, having local food every day, which I still miss greatly, and learning generally about Chinese culture was fascinating.
"As clichéd as it sounds, I’ve learnt a lot about myself during these few years. There were a lot of challenges we’ve had to deal with, such as Covid-19, but looking back, it feels like a huge achievement. I’m not yet sure where it’ll all take me in a few years, but I do feel like choosing to study Chinese in the UK and in Beijing is something that’s definitely changed my life."
Louise Sheerin, 23, from Doncaster, agreed: "The decision to choose the Modern Chinese programme at Cardiff University was easily made after discovering that the course offered students the opportunity to study in China for two years. There’s been no better way to immerse myself in Chinese language and culture than living and studying in China itself for such an extended period of time.
"Living and studying in Beijing for two years continuously presented fantastic opportunities. Beijing is a bustling international city. The on-campus accommodation was home to international students from all around the world, while it was also easy to meet local Chinese students and become immersed in Chinese university culture.
"Although Beijing is never short of places to discover, it is also a great place to be based for those wishing to discover other parts of China and Asia. Travelling around China was inexpensive and allowed me to feel more and more confident in my language abilities. Beijing Normal University even arranged a trip to Xi’an for all Modern Chinese Cardiff University students.
"I was initially nervous to commit to a programme involving two years in a country so far away from home and with a culture that was so new to me, but my experiences were invaluable."
Course lead Dr Xuan Wang, Dean of BNU-Cardiff Chinese College, said: "I am extremely proud of our first cohort of students who have obtained two degrees and a wealth of experience living and studying in both countries. Navigating two very different educational and cultural systems to create this successful degree programme has been extremely complex, complicated further by COVID-19.
"The achievements of our students not only shows their commitment but also the dedication of the members of staff who have supported them. It also shows the strength of the strategic partnership between Cardiff University and BNU, which has been able to stand up to unprecedented challenges.