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Chinese students flock to UK universities

By CECILY LIU in London | China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-03 20:19

Li Leren

Student life offers opportunity to grow as a person

Li Leren hosts a cultural salon at her London flat. Photo provided to China Daily

When Li Leren first visited London in December 2015, she fell in love with the British people's appreciation of the little details that make life beautiful.

"Walking on the streets, I was amazed by how every household decorated their front yard with care. I realized that Britain's rich culture and heritage exists not just in museums, but in the way people live their daily lives," said the 27-year-old, who arrived in London a year later to pursue a PhD at the Royal College of Art.

Li's appreciation of the cultured British life was strengthened by the fact that she had studied for her master's degree in New York and vividly felt the difference between the cultures.

"In London, people can sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee for an entire afternoon, or take a stroll in the park and feed the birds. But in New York, everyone is in a rush," Li reflected. "As my PhD studies focus on the history of design, culturally rich Britain provides a much better environment for my learning."

Li is representative of the growing number of Chinese students in British universities, for whom Britain's culture and heritage are key attractions.

And she feels that the British lifestyle has changed her over time, in the way she dresses, the way she decorates her room, and the way she treats her friends at social gatherings.

Now, when she hosts guests at her flat, instead of ordering pizza as she used to in New York, she prepares fruit and desserts on delicate plates. But Li admits her student life has not always been a smooth journey.

"When I first arrived in London, I felt lonely. I was in a new environment, and the task of making new friends was a challenge," she recalls.

Then, she had a moment of inspiration. She realized that her loneliness was likely being shared by many other Chinese students, and with that in mind, she started a weekly literary salon at her flat for Chinese students.

Li started by inviting classmates. Then, she posted advertising flyers in neighboring universities. Then, through word of mouth, the salon's audience grew so that, within two years, more than 300 people had signed up to her mailing list.

Today, Li never speaks of being lonely. Her life outside the classroom is filled with friends' gatherings and intellectually stimulating conversations.

At each salon meeting, she stands up and introduces the guest speaker of the week. As the friendly hostess, she also moves around the room and makes sure every guest feels welcome and looked after.

Looking back, she marvels at how her UK student life has changed her.

"I feel I became a more confident, outgoing, and thoughtful person. I was able to explore more of the world and also myself."

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