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Serbia & China: bridging nations together

China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-15 06:43

Filip Filipovic (front left) takes a selfie with other international students at the 2023 Higher Education Expo China in Chongqing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

I arrived in China at an earlier age than most foreign expats typically do. My family and I moved to China right after I finished first grade in Serbia. Suddenly, everything felt so unfamiliar, especially school. I remember one day at lunchtime, I left the classroom with my bag, ready to go home, because back in Serbia, the school day was only half a day long. However, the teacher asked where I was headed, and I replied, "Home. Isn't it time to go?" She kindly explained that school ended at 4:30 pm.

My initial reaction was to seek solace in the bathroom and shed tears upon realizing that I would now have a full school day stretching into the afternoon for the next five years. Little did I know that this extended schedule would continue for 12 years, spanning elementary, middle, and high school.

Looking back on those 12 years, it was all worth it. This rigorous structure taught me the virtues of persistence, diligence, and self-discipline, which have proven to be essential skills in overcoming challenges and acquiring new knowledge throughout my life.

One vivid memory I have is from my third-grade year when we had dictation and recitation exercises every day. One day, I didn't feel like writing anything, so I handed in a blank page. The teacher questioned why I couldn't write what my classmates could. I realized that while I had only been studying Chinese for a year, the teacher held me to the same standards as my peers who had been speaking Chinese since birth. She wanted me to understand that my Chinese level at that time was enough to learn Chinese just like everyone else.

This experience instilled in me a profound sense of acceptance and unity with my new and unfamiliar environment.

Since the time I attended Fudan University in Shanghai, I've been eager to learn any skill that interests me because I know I'm capable of achieving anything as long as I set my mind to it. Even though I wasn't very good at math, I found that I could quickly grasp scientific concepts because I had developed a solid learning ability thanks to the Chinese education system. I know that I have strong self-discipline and can easily immerse myself in my studies, which I consider to be the most valuable asset I've acquired during my upbringing in China.

Since my undergraduate years, I have shifted my focus from merely acquiring knowledge to also embracing social responsibilities. China's concept of "building a community with a shared future for mankind" deeply resonates with me. This idea, which aims to prevent conflict and encourage cooperation through initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative and BRICS cooperation, needs greater global recognition.

As a Serbian youth, I've been working to promote collaboration among young people between our two countries and worldwide. Fudan University organizes the Youth Innovation Competition on Global Governance, which will take place in Hungary this year. I first participated in 2016. This competition seeks to foster innovative solutions and invites students from all around the world to present their solutions to global governance challenges.

My first internship at the Consulate General of the Republic of Serbia in Shanghai allowed me to witness the "ironclad friendship "between China and Serbia firsthand. I saw the strong bonds between our nations, which became even more apparent during my subsequent internship with a media outlet. Throughout these experiences, I actively contributed by creating videos and translating articles, aiming to deepen mutual understanding between Chinese and Serbian audiences.

As a Serbian who grew up in China, I know that the bond between the two nations runs deep. The NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in 1999 had a profound impact on our relationship, bringing us even closer together. I'm grateful for every day I have spent in China. My upbringing here has shaped my identity and perspective on the world. With two homelands, Serbia and China, my goal is to enhance the connections between them.

Written by Filip Filipovic, a 27-year-old Serbian who has lived in China since 2005. He pursued both his bachelor's and master's degrees in international relations at Fudan University and is currently pursuing his PhD studies there.

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