8 200 km is no obstacle to education! - Полоцкий государственный университет
The master’s degree programme “Theory and Methods of Education and Upbringing (by fields and levels of education) with specialty profile: Pedagogical Psychology” started at Polotsk State University in 2020. 120 master students from China joined the programme. We would like to present a short interview with Peng Jiamin, who came from Zhuhai, a coastal city in the south of China.
This is a story of choice, travelling and first acquaintance with Belarus, Belarusians and Polotsk State University. This is a story of love for the country, region and people.
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Peng Jiamin, a master's student specializing in Theory and Methods of Education and Upbringing
How did you learn about Belarus, about Polotsk State University, about the master's programme?
I found out about Polotsk State University in Belarus from my career planner. A career planner university teacher assists students in their career planning. Many of our undergraduates are particularly susceptible to accept the opinions from their parents and teachers when they choose their university majors because of their age and mental level. After four years of study at university, they find that the majors they have studied have completely deviated from their career plans. Therefore, I really hope that every undergraduate student could carefully analyse his or her interests, personality traits and major direction before making a choice. After all, interest is the key to perseverance.
Why did you decide to come to Polotsk State University to study for a master's degree?
When I decided to do a master's degree, my career planner teacher started to assist me to find a suitable major and various universities abroad for me. One of the options being considered was Polotsk State University. Then I found myself very fortunate that the major in pedagogical psychology was a good match for my career, and even more fortunate that I found myself passing the interview in Polotsk State University.
Since the beginning of 2020, Covid-19 has swept the world. Until now, the global epidemic remains severe. When my plan to study abroad came up against the Covid-19 epidemic, it became the first 'obstacle' for me when I came from China to study in Belarus. Overcoming this obstacle required my confidence. First of all, I have been following the Covid-19 epidemic with great concern and a lot of studies predict that it is not going to go away any time soon and it will probably continue to affect us for 5-10 years.
As we know, global development, although deeply affected by the epidemic will not be halted. Neither my personal career development should be deterred by the epidemic. Secondly, the national policy of free medical care for all citizen in Belarus (including international students) gave me a lot of confidence. Belarus puts a high priority on wellbeing of people and it gives international students a great deal of psychological support. Finally, I was vaccinated with the Chinese vaccine, packed with protective equipment and travelled to Belarus with a strong belief in the fight against the epidemic in China and Belarus.
On the way to Belarus, I was already keen to experience the natural and human environment of Belarus as soon as possible, although I was a little worried about the language barrier, but my desire for something new was greater than my fear.
Why did you choose to study pedagogical psychology?
I am a preschool English teacher. I encounter some doubts in the course of my work. I am very keen to improve my professionalism by deepening my knowledge in pedagogy and psychology. I really feel it will provide more theoretical knowledge for my future work in education.
Where did you study before coming to Belarus? What specialty did you get?
I studied administrative management major at Sun Yat-sen University in China. Sun Yat-sen University was founded in 1924. This university is located in the south of China. Our university is very different from the Polotsk State University; a Chinese university is fenced and gated, whereas Polotsk State University is integrated into the city.
You are studying in an English-language program. How long have you been studying English?
We started learning English in the first grade in primary school and I have been studying English for over twenty years.
What do you like most about Belarus, Polotsk and university?
I am interested in the natural sightseeing in Belarus.
In Polotsk, I think the most beautiful things are the old buildings that were built in last century.
And I really like the study atmosphere at the university. We have many online courses, but when we came to Belarus and wanted to take offline courses, our dean arranged for offline courses. We enjoyed the lively atmosphere of the offline classroom courses and he allowed us to participate in a two-week teaching practice program -a summer English camp for children aged 14-17. Our dean was also very interested in the progress of our master thesis. In addition, he invited us to join additional Russian language courses. As Chinese students, we feel care and love of our dean for the foreign students and we are very grateful for all the help and arrangements made by the teachers.
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Liu Yuanyuan and Peng Jiamin together with children of the summer English camp
What were your first impressions in Belarus?
With excitement and apprehension about our trip, we arrived at Minsk International Airport in Belarus without any problems. The teacher from the foreign affairs office of the Polotsk State University who met us at the airport was very welcoming and we are still very grateful to her for coming in the early morning to assist us and save us a lot of trouble with a language barrier. When we were on the way to Polotsk from Minsk, the beautiful birch forests and idyllic scenery outside the window washed away the hardships of the journey, and then we arrived safely at the university's pre-arranged student accommodation.
At the beginning of my new life in Belarus, I had a minor setback. The day after I arrived in Belarus, on the way to the medical check-up with my agent, I told him repeatedly what foods I was allergic. But the food recommended by my agent for lunch at the university canteen was the buckwheat porridge that caused my severe allergy. Within minutes, I was experiencing allergy symptoms such as difficulty breathing and redness of the skin. I went to the university clinic and a doctor kept telling me, “Don't worry, you'll be fine soon”. When the emergency doctor and nurse from the hospital arrived, they were very friendly and professional, asking me at intervals, "Are you feeling better? Are you still breathing well?” When my symptoms subsided and I arrived at the hospital, the doctors knew that my airway was weak and I was given a separate room. And I was asked to stay overnight in hospital for observation. Then I was fine, I could be back home. I was unfortunate, but I was able to feel the warmth and care of the Belarusians during my illness, and I will always remember their assistance and treatment. After I had recovered, I started to resume my normal life as a foreign student.
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During a walk in Nizhne-Pakrovskaya street (Polotsk)
My dormitory is surrounded by forests and I have a beautiful view from my balcony every day. When I was writing my master thesis on dorm, I would like to enjoy the sightseeing on the balcony with a drink. Living in such a pleasant environment makes me feel very comfortable.
We cook almost every meal ourselves in the dormitory. We were surprised to find products of the highest quality, whether it was meat or dairy products, and the fruit was very sweet and the prices are very affordable. Every day we cook Chinese delicacies using Belarusian ingredients in a variety of ways. It is said that if you miss home, in fact, it is the taste of home that is missing, and indeed, during our first month in Belarus we did not feel so homesick because we ate so well.
When our Dean took us on a tour of Polotsk, we saw that the city had a very harmonious plan with the greenery that public transport was easy to come and go and that people were very polite, which made us fall in love with the city instantly. We were so lucky that our Dean was very passionate about the city of Polotsk and during the tour often shared his unique vision of the sightseeing of the city with us, at the same time he told us about the famous people who had dedicated their youth to the education of the city. We visited the city's art gallery museum where painting was amazing.
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At the art gallery in Polotsk / On the bridge across the Polota river near St. Sophia Cathedral
We did not have only sightseeing of the city, but it was a tour of its cultural heritage to get a sense of history of the city of Polotsk.
Our Dean also invited us to a local restaurant that he thought was very good, and even though we were Chinese, we felt at home in that restaurant. It is clear that Dean has a deep love for this city.
It would be interesting to know the fundamental differences and similarities between our countries and between people. Have you noticed the similarities and differences between the Chinese and Belarusians?
It is obvious what we look very different but both Chinese and Belarusians have the same warm-heartedness.
Although our language communication is not very smooth now. However, the Belarusian people are very patient when communicating with us and look at what we show in the translation software. We will also continue to learn Russian in such a good language environment, which will make more convenient for us here. We have enjoyed our life in Polotsk, and this is due to the kindness and care of the Belarusian people who have been with us and helped us.
Have you noticed the similarities and differences in the lives of undergraduates and young people in general in China and Belarus?
College students are very energetic and youthful like I once was. What surprised me was how sincerely Belarusian university students were in helping the university, whether it was with renovations or assisting students from abroad.
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Master students from China and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities Alexander Kirienko are going for a walk in Polotsk
I would like to conclude by thanking you all again for your help: the hostesses who took care of us and opened and closed the doors for us every day; the doctors at the university and the public hospital who impressed me with their excellent medical skills and warm greetings; the old lady who sold nuts in the shop who was so excited to know that we were Chinese and said: "Friendship between China and Belarus lasts forever"; the Dean of Faculty of Humanities and the teachers really cared about the students provide us with a lot of facilities for our study and life. As international students, we are far from home.
We cannot live in Belarus without the care and love of all the Belarusians who love us.
Thank you very much, I love you all.
Peng Jiamin
Alexander Kirienko
Svetlana Ostapchuk