Science - November 17, 2005

Dutch interested in Chinese universities

Many Chinese students come to the Netherlands to study. Now it looks like the opposite will also happen soon: Dutch students going to China for a course.

An information fair on Chinese universities held at Leiden University on 15 November attracted a few hundred students. Most were of Chinese origin, but there were also considerable numbers of non-Chinese Dutch. ‘It’s going better than we had expected,’ said Shen Naiyeo of Donghua University cheerfully. ‘I brought along 180 brochures, and now I’ve only got about thirty left. Last week we were in Italy, but there was less interest there. It’s much livelier here.’ Donghua University has faculties of textiles, fashion, ICT and management. Of course you can also learn Chinese there.

Not only high-school and university students at the fair. There were also camera teams and journalists from the daily newspapers. China is hot. The fast-growing economy is attracting a lot of interest. A member of staff from Beijing University reckons that he has convinced more than fifteen students to spend some time in China. “Even if it’s only for one year. Then you’ll have learned some Chinese.’ Beijing University is one of the top universities in China, and is number seventeen on the Times world university rankings list.

Madelon Nouwen (22) is planning to go to China in 2007. She got her bachelor’s in oriental languages and communication from the Hogeschool Zuyd and is now doing her bachelor’s in the languages and cultures of China at Leiden University. ‘At school I did five languages. I wanted to do something completely different, and Chinese fits the bill. You have to let go of your western orientation and start thinking from the Chinese cultural perspective. The Chinese never say no, for example. You have to must bear this in mind, also when you are translating. They would rather say that they don’t have time or that they’ll ask someone else.’

Students Jeff Janssen and Nikki Hagg are more interested in going to Shanghai. ‘Beijing is too provincial,’ they assert. They are both second-year students of trade management, focusing on Asia at the HES School of Economics and Business in Amsterdam. ‘The economic climate makes it interesting to do business with China. But even after eighteen months hard work their Chinese is not that good. ‘We spoke English with the people on the stands.’

Leiden University also had a stand at the fair. ‘There are plenty of young people who want to study Chinese, but they don’t want to go immediately to live in China,’ explains a member of staff. ‘That’s why we have information on our courses here.’ The Leiden degree course in languages and cultures of China is a big success: there are 95 first-year students this year. / HOP, SvO

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