Cover Story

The courage to study

Updated: 2011-07-22 10:56

By Wang Chao (China Daily European Weekly)

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The courage to study
  Yao Xi, who graduated from Nottingham Ningbo, says the most valuable thing he learned in college is courage, something he cannot learn from textbooks. [Provided to China Daily]

Yao Xi describes himself with the Chinese phrase "the first to eat crabs" - or to try something potentially risky - when he talks about entering The University of Nottingham Ningbo, China, in 2004 at a time when few were thinking of attending a hybrid joint university.

Before 2004, there were no foreign universities running a full-discipline campus in China and the University of Nottingham was the first to take the plunge in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang province, a prosperous city with thousands of private enterprises. Now there is a growing number of them throughout China, with joint programs or a full-fledged campus from a number of prestigious schools in the West.

After graduating from high school, Yao disagreed with his parents about where to go to college. He wanted to join an aviation or police school, while his parents, who run a clothing company in Zhejiang province, wanted him to become a businessman. Yao conceded and devoted himself to a financial management major.

As a child in a wealthy family, Yao was financially stable to study abroad, but he chose Nottingham Ningbo after touring many of the universities in his home province.

"My friends studied abroad because they intend to live there after graduation; but for me I want to stay in China and expand my family business, so I thought universities in China might be better for me," he says.

In 2004, Nottingham Ningbo had just began its recruiting and during a tour of the campus, Yao's family was impressed by the professors and the open and wide campus. He enrolled immediately.

"We also paid visits to public schools like Zhejiang University, but the environment looked rigid and cold," says Yao, who currently lives in Shanghai.

When Yao came as a freshman, the massive campus was already completed, replete with a beautiful pond, buildings and lawns; however, there were only 260 students in the huge space. Since the school is a 25-minute drive from downtown Ningbo, not too much in the way of entertainment was available.

But these inconveniences only brought the students closer. With no upper-grade students to give suggestions, Yao and his classmates started various fun clubs and recruited students with common interests. Since Yao is a sports fan, he founded a frisbee club and made a bunch of close friends.

"I talked with friends studying in the public university. I think they put too much effort on academic work and too little on team work and communications," he says.

His plan to attend Nottingham Ningbo immediately paid dividends after graduating in 2008: Yao registered a local company that sold sports gear.

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