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Happy Costa Rican discovers China is 'very magical'

By MO JINGXI | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-01-01 10:09

Felipe Mora competes in a highline challenge in Taizhou, Zhejiang province.[Photo provided to China Daily]

For Costa Ricans in Central America, UIBE scholar Felipe Mora's compatriots, China may not be the first-choice destination for higher education, given their motherland's proximity to the fabled United States, but Mora would not settle for anything else. He even disregarded his father's advice and decided he would pursue his master's as well in China.

Mora believes it's always better to choose a path less trodden. He prefers to be off the beaten tracks.

Since he grew up and received early education in both Costa Rica and the US, he is fluent in both Spanish and English. Now, he is determined to master Chinese as well, even as he pursues excellence in both academic areas and pastimes like travel and slacklining (more about that in a bit).

Unlike most of his peers, Mora, now 25, gave up the opportunity to finish his higher education in the US in 2018. Instead, he decided to come to China for further studies.

"Going to the US for college is a good option, but learning a third language will give me more value as a person. And for me, China means more than the language itself, because when you study the language, you study the culture as well," he said.

Mora further said he developed an interest in China through movies when he was a kid. Yet, he couldn't even say "Hello" in Chinese when he landed in China. He mispronounced "xiexie" ("thank you" in Mandarin) as "qieqie" at a restaurant.

"I remember how people were laughing at that time. Then I promised myself that no matter how long it will take to learn this language, I'm going to speak it as fluently as a native Chinese does. That has been my goal ever since."

Soon, language was no longer an obstacle for Mora. A quick learner and hardworking student, he finished the precollege language courses in 2019. He is now in the fourth year of a bachelor's degree in international trade at the University of International Business and Economics or UIBE in Beijing.

Mora said he has been particularly fascinated with the ancient Chinese architecture. Layers of bricks impeccably laid on top of each other always catch his attention.

He holds places like the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace close to his heart. "They take me back in time and make me imagine how they used to be," he said.

He recalled that China has not been a popular destination for education among his compatriots given the geographical distance. The Pacific Ocean separates the two land masses. Some of them, he said, think China is so far away they may never visit it even once in their lifetime.

"They envy me for having the courage to choose to study and live in a country that is so unfamiliar and they are very curious about China," he said.

"They ask me so many questions. How are the people? Are the girls beautiful? When I show them pictures, they think that's amazing and they get really interested in China."

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