China molds Su­danese man’s life

China Daily (Canada) - - PEOPLE - By LI JING and SU QIANG

In 2004, 21- year- old Al­badawe Ab­dalla was among 20 stu­dents who had en­rolled in the Chi­nese pro­gram at the Uni­ver­sity of Khar­toum, the top uni­ver­sity in Su­dan. But Ab­dalla had be­come frus­trated be­cause there were few op­por­tu­ni­ties to use the lan­guage in his coun­try.

He had never even met a Chi­nese per­son.

“I wanted to trans­fer to an English ma­jor, which was the pri­or­ity for most stu­dents in the fac­ulty of arts,” Ab­dalla re­calls.

Af­ter a se­mes­ter, he had be­gun to find the lan­guage and cul­ture more ap­peal­ing, and his de­ci­sion to stick with it led him to study in China and choose the lan­guage as the fo­cus of his ca­reer.

Now 33, Ab­dalla is head of the Chi­nese de­part­ment at the uni­ver­sity, which has more than 300 stu­dents, the largest and the most pop­u­lar de­part­ment in the fac­ulty of arts.

“Each year, only those with the high­est scores can be en­rolled at the col­lege,” he says. “We will set up the cur­ricu­lum for a master’s de­gree soon.”

The fac­ulty at the de­part­ment also has grown from one per­son in 2004 to more than 10, in­clud­ing some from China.

Hao Siyuan, a post­grad­u­ate stu­dent from Bei­jing Lan­guage and Cul­ture Uni­ver­sity, has been a vol­un­teer teacher in the de­part­ment since 2015.

She says un­der Ab­dalla’s lead­er­ship, the de­part­ment has de­vel­oped quickly. “His sched­ule is packed with meet­ings and as­sorted rou­tine stuff, and he is also the most pop­u­lar teacher in the de­part­ment,” Hao says.

“Ab­dalla is very much like the Chi­nese: punc­tual and hard­work­ing, drinks hot wa­ter and likes Chi­nese noo­dles.”

Chi­nese is now an en­grained part of Ab­dalla’s life, although learn­ing the lan­guage started as a big chal­lenge.

“It is the most dif­fi­cult lan­guage be­cause it is too strange to re­mem­ber,” Ab­dalla says.

“I wrote and re­cited char­ac­ters ev­ery day, but I found they were gone to­tally from my mind the sec­ond day,” he re­calls.

Dur­ing his first se­mes­ter, Ab­dalla spent all his spare time mem­o­riz­ing char­ac­ters. “I went to the li­brary first, early in the morn­ing, and re­peat­edly prac­ticed un­til the room’s lights were turned off,” he says.

A friend bought him a cas­sette of Chi­nese songs in China as a gift. “I still re­mem­ber the lyrics,” he says as he starts to croon a hit Chi­nese song of the 1980s.

Back in the early 2000s, there were few ma­te­ri­als for learn­ing Chi­nese in Su­dan, since the in­ter­net was not widely avail­able and there were few Chi­nese there.

“One day I saw a Chi­nese per­son on the way back from school. I called to the bus driver to stop the bus and ran to stop the Chi­nese per­son’s car and asked if I can speak Chi­nese with them,” he re­calls. “Friends called me in­sane. But I re­ally en­joyed it and wanted to in­dulge in the cul­ture.”

In 2007, when Ab­dalla was in his third year of col­lege, he got a chance to at­tend Bei­jing Jiao­tong Uni­ver­sity in China as an ex­change stu­dent.

“From that year on, I saw more job and study op­por­tu­ni­ties emerg­ing in Su­dan for Chi­nese ma­jors,” he says.

Be­fore ar­riv­ing, he was con­cerned about find­ing Mus­lim food, the colder cli­mate and pol­lu­tion in Bei­jing, but every­thing turned out fine, lead­ing him to opt for fur­ther stud­ies

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