Student exchanges new Sino-Angolan ties

Updated: 2015-11-12 09:26

(HK Edition)

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Oil-rich Angola, one of Africa's fastest growing economies, is steadily looking eastward, to secure its economic future. Growing numbers of Angolan students are coming to Hong Kong, to learn about the Chinese language and local culture.

People-to-people exchanges help to lay the foundation for mutual understanding between China and Angola, says Joyce Gourgel, a 19-year-old second-year, Angolan student, majoring in International Business at Yew Chung Community College. Her father, a hotel industry executive, sent her to Hong Kong three years ago, to learn about the social and business culture, and to improve her English and Chinese proficiency.

"It is important for us to open our minds," said Gourgel. "If you want to work in business, you need to broaden the way you think and the best way is by dealing with different peoples."

That can mean learning to speak the language. Gourgel's mother tongue is Portuguese. Her limited English became an obstacle during her first year in Hong Kong.

"I was scared I'd make mistakes, but I learned that the only way for me to improve was by speaking up," said Gourgel. She doesn't need her Portuguese-English dictionary anymore, when she goes out. She's become fluent. She credits friends for the help they gave. Many were Hong Kong natives, but she also has a broad circle of friends from all over the world at her previous school, Delia School of Canada.

She feels she has come a long way toward appreciating other cultures, adding that people she's met also have learned about her own country and culture.

"It is funny. Some of my friends thought it was common to casually run into animals like lions on the streets. Of course, Africa has many animals but they live in reserve parks," said Gourgel.

She found many misunderstandings among her international friends, who still associate the African continent with virulent diseases outbreaks, civil wars and abject poverty. But, she explains, that's because most of them never traveled to Africa. "That is why Chinese parents should consider sending their kids to Africa for exchanges, either for travel or work," said Gourgel.

Gourgel said she has learned much from her own experience. Before coming to China, her image of the country was what she had seen as presented in Jacky Chan movies. "It wasn't until I came to Hong Kong that I realized I was wrong," said Gourgel. "So you have to come and see it."

With increased bilateral cooperation between China and Angola, Gourgel believes learning Chinese is important for Angolan young people. She said some private schools in Angola are considering offering studies in the Chinese language among their programs, along with English. She hopes to open a Chinese center in the Angolan capital of Luanda, where children can learn Mandarin from an early age. She believes by starting young, they will have plenty of time to develop their language skills before graduating and joining the business world.

Gourgel plans to complete her Bachelor's Degree, either in Hong Kong or on the Chinese mainland. "With what I have learnt in China, I can make a contribution to my country," said Gourgel.

 Student exchanges new Sino-Angolan ties

Joyce Gourgel (center), studying International Business in Hong Kong, plans to eventually open a Chinese center in her hometown in Luanda. Edmond tang / China Daily

(HK Edition 11/12/2015 page3)